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Here We Go Again

Are you one of the over 130 million Americans that set New Year’s Resolutions?  If so, it’s likely that you’ve failed with them in the past.  How do I know this?  Because 92% of those that set resolutions, fail.  And, by-the-way, that same statistic holds true for goal setting in general.

The end of the year is a great time to take stock and determine the areas that we would like to improve.  January rolls around and millions make commitments to lose weight, be a better spouse or parent, to quit smoking, get a new job, stick to the budget, the list goes on.

And then there’s February.

What happens?  Why do we start with such high expectations and experience a 92% failure rate?

Research shows that the high rate of failure has a few core causes.  First, we tend to set huge, unrealistic, high-effort goals that fast become too much work. In addition, most people don’t have enough patience to wait for results – which occur only after we have put in a great deal of effort.  Many of us set resolutions and goals that we don’t really believe we can achieve.  We don’t see ourselves as fit, or good at relationships, or fiscally responsible.  Finally, we unrealistically think that if we make one change in one area of our life, everything else we don’t like about ourselves will change too, and when that doesn’t happen we often abandon our resolution.

So, what do the 8%’ers do?

To start with they set goals that are meaningful to them.  If they want something badly enough, they tend to focus more on the pleasure of the outcome instead of the dis-comfort of the actions.

They focus.  They don’t overload on a list of resolutions or goals, or a drastic change, instead they keep their New Year’s Resolution simple and attainable.

They plan. They set a time limit for the goal and prioritize the steps to reach the goal.

They chart their progress.  They are sure to recognize daily success and to celebrate it.

They don’t get stumped.  If they make a mistake and stumble, they don’t beat themselves up, instead they shake it off and get back on track – fast.

They think about their thinking.  They think about their new actions and the thinking that supports them.  If you think you can hit your goals, you dramatically increase the chances for success.

They peer up.  Having a peer to partner with that is pursuing the same resolution greatly increases the chances of sticking with the change over the long-haul.

Clearly, they approach goals and resolutions in a very intentional way.

Let’s do it different this year.  Forget about New Year’s Resolutions and annual goals.  I want to share with you a very different approach.  In my work with my clients over the years, I have found that there are 5 Key Steps that create momentum and will have you crushing your goals and accomplishing more than you ever thought possible.


  1. Connect with The Why. Nothing great is ever accomplished without a powerful “Why.” Discomfort is one of the biggest reasons people don’t act on their commitments for very long.  In order to fully commit to something, you will need a clear and personally compelling reason.  Without a strong desire, you will struggle when the implementation gets difficult.  With that compelling desire however, “insurmountable” obstacles are seen as challenges to be met.  Successful commitment is the product of caring about something more than your own comfort.  The end result that you are striving to achieve needs to be meaningful enough to get you through the hard times and keep you on track.
  2. Identify the “Keystone” Action and Focus on It. Once you have an intense desire to accomplish something, you then need to identify the core actions that will produce the result you’re after.  Often you can come up with a laundry list of things that you could do, but that just leads to diffusion and discouragement.  In most cases there are a few core activities that account for the majority of the result, and in some cases, there is one, perhaps two, primary activities that ultimately produce the result.  It is critical that you identify the one or two “Keystone” actions and focus on them.
  3. Count the Costs. Commitments require sacrifice.  Too often we fail to fully consider the costs before committing.  Costs are the hardships that you will have to endure to consistently take the action needed to accomplish your goal.  Costs can include time, money, risk, uncertainty, loss of comfort, etc.  Identifying the costs up front allows you to consciously choose whether or not you are willing to pay that price.  It is extremely helpful when you are in the middle of one of the costs to recognize that you anticipated this, and decided it was all worth it.  By counting the costs beforehand, you avoid those mental debates that you get into that always seem to end in you breaking your resolution.
  4. Engage in Peer Support. If you decide to go it alone you are stacking the odds against yourself.  Peer support can increase your odds of sticking with your actions by nearly 80%!  Find two or three other people that are striving to accomplish something meaningful and create a peer group.  Meet weekly for 15-30 minutes to discuss how you are doing with your actions (your execution) and with your goal.  Challenge one another.  Provide feedback and suggestions.  And most importantly, encourage one another.  With a peer group your odds of success greatly increase.
  5. Focus on 12 Week Year Cycles. Forget annual resolutions and goals.  Twelve months is just too long of time frame.  It creates an illusion that there is lots of time, which often results in procrastination, discouragement and failure.  With 12 week goals and resolutions the deadline is near enough to keep you moving.  In addition, you build momentum and can sense the progress you’re making.  Committing to something for 12 weeks is easier and much less overwhelming than an annual commitment.  Learn to treat every 12 weeks as the year and you will find yourself acting with more intention and consistency.

If you apply these simple 5 steps to your resolutions and your goals, I think you’ll find yourself accomplishing more in 12 weeks than most do in 12 months.