You Hold the Key to Success This Year

By Damian Hill

Originally published on Advocate.com January 01 2012 1:05 AM ET

The start of the calendar year is a natural time for people to look inward, evaluate the year that has just passed, and consider changes they would like to make in their lives. If you make new year’s resolutions, you are not alone. Some figures put the number of people who make New Year’s resolutions at nearly 50% of the adult population.

People who commit to positive changes are as much as ten times more likely to achieve their goals than those who do not make any resolutions at all. A 2005 study shed some light onto the nature of why this might be. People who make resolutions are more likely to believe they have the power to change. This is in contrast to others who consider their circumstances as being more "fixed" — or those who believe they lack the power to change.

On the less-than-positive side, surveys suggest that as many as 75% of those who make resolutions fail to keep them. Why is that? And what are some strategies you can take to make sure your new year is a success?

There are a number of potential reasons why people fail to keep their resolutions. It is easy during a time of introspection to think about who or what we could have been if we had made different choices along the way. Some psychologists refer to these ghosts as "lost possible selves." While self-evaluation can be beneficial, fixating on past regrets can lead to unhealthy mood changes and unproductive behaviors.

In many cases, though, the resolution was just too broad or set in a way that was too impractical to achieve in the particular time frame. For example, setting a resolution of "I'm going to stop wasting money" is very different from setting a resolution of "I’m going to save X number of dollars more per month than I did last year."

It is much healthier to concentrate on attainable goals than to set the bar too high. Notice the differences in the example above. A specific, smaller target spread throughout the year is easier to attain than a broad target without any structure. You have also built in a specific means of measuring your success. When you can measure small successes, you are more likely to be encouraged to continue your progress.

You might also consider breaking your resolutions into different categories as well as smaller goals. If your resolutions are non-specific, like “I am going to be healthier this year,” you might be thinking of an overall picture that actually includes more than one level of health — i.e., eating habits, exercise habits, emotional health, spiritual health, financial health, etc. What are some smaller, attainable goals you can set for yourself in each of those categories?

Most importantly, believe that you have the power to make these changes. If you believe in yourself and your goals — and your goals are specific and measurable — you will be well on your way to successfully achieving your new year’s resolutions.