Almost that time…

Got any resolutions for 2015?

Ok, I know, you’re looking at me right now and saying, “what the actual heck, Joe, it’s only a day after Christmas and you’re already on this?”


Look, it’s just not my way to not have a plan. I Learned a long time ago that a goal without a plan is just a wish. Planning takes time, and thought. It’s not something you can do in an instant. I’ve got goals, for 2015, and another thing I’ve learned about goal-setting is that sharing your goals makes them real. When you put them out there they take on a more concrete nature. It also gives the folks who know you the best an opportunity to help you see bits you might have missed in the planning phase.

Here are the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions (as in, these are the most frequently made resolutions):

1) Lose Weight
2) Get Organized
3) Spend Less, Save More
4) Enjoy Life to the Fullest
5) Staying Fit and Healthy
6) Learn Something Exciting
7) Quit Smoking
8) Help Others in Their Dreams
9) Fall in Love
10) Spend More Time With Family

Not a lot of stunning surprises here. Here’s the thing – the percentage of people who make resolutions and are successful at keeping them/achieving their goals each year is about 8%. That means that 92% of people who make New Year’s resolutions either fail at them or abandon them.

As for why this happens, there’s a couple of typical reasons. The easiest to spot is that they had no plan for getting from point A to point B. If I say “I’m going to lose weight” unless I follow that up with a specific goal of how much weight I want to lose and a plan for exactly what I’m going to do in order to reach that goal then the odds of succeeding are pretty close to zero.

But I’m willing to bet that the single biggest reason why people fail to keep their resolutions and achieve their goals is that they try to bite off way more than they can actually chew. Matthew Inman said it way better than I could in his book The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances because he said it with comics, but I will attempt to get the gist of it.

Don’t try to change a bunch of habits at once.

Let’s say you want to lose weight, quit smoking, spend less money and get organized.

1) Losing weight requires behavioral changes. You will need to work on increasing your level of physical activity, eating properly (and this alone can be a massive undertaking if we’re talking about altering habits you’ve had since you were a chid), learning to manage stress and not seek comfort in food, get enough sleep and understand what external and internal triggers cause you to overeat or make poor nutritional choices. To put it bluntly – losing weight/improving your physical fitness takes work and it can be very hard.

2) Quitting smoking means defeating an addiction. It is very, very hard. It’s going to make you feel really, really uncomfortable and miserable until your body and mind adjust to the absence of nicotine.

3) Spending less money requires you to be thoughtful and mindful of your financial situation all the time. There are tons of systems you can adopt that will help this (Dave Ramsey’s system springs to mind) but none of them are easy to adopt. Like the other items above, this requires you to alter possibly long-standing behaviors learned and adopted since childhood. Not easy.

4) Getting organized means setting priorities. It means making hard choices about what is and isn’t important in your life. Stuff will have to be gotten rid of. Things that take up space (both physical and psychic) will have to be put somewhere else and a system for dealing with things on a regular basis that you can stick with will have to be adopted. Again, this is a lot of work.

As Matthew Inman put it so well, “When you combine these goals into a single four-legged beast, all it takes is one of those legs to buckle and everything crashes down. It is a brittle way of eliciting change.”

Maybe you do need to do all of these things, but trying to do them all at once is going to make it unlikely that you will accomplish all of them, and in all likelihood failure or set-backs on one resolution will demoralize you and cause you to abandon them all. Pick one habit you NEED to change and go for it.

I know what you’re saying, “Joe, I need to do all of the five things on my list of resolutions!!!!” Ok, breathe. I get it. I really do, but I’m sticking to my guns here. Take your list and look at it for a while and see if any of these things are related to each other. Maybe you never exercise because you’re disorganized and time gets away from you every day. That makes getting organized a priority. It also means if you accomplish that goal you’ll be part of the way there towards another. See if you can find interdependent relationships between your goals and figure out which ones need to happen to clear the path for the others.

Pick something, and make a plan.

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