New Year Resolutions: Should You Take Them, Leave Them or Push Them To The Max?

Nothing like a brand new year to spur you into committing to a whole raft of ambitious aims, goals and ideals otherwise known as ‘resolutions’…especially after the year that has been.

But, judging by the reported resulted across the years – or should that be non-results – it’s actually a bit of a shaky idea. And hardly one of your best. Or is it? With few exceptions, there’s not a more divisive topic that emerges each year at around this time.

On the one hand, we have a group of people who are thrilled with the prospect of a New Year, as a date from which to mark their own personal new beginnings, new self, new opportunities.

These are the individuals who will attend seminars on goals, eagerly download the latest in complex goal setting templates and wade into their new ‘life-changing’ regimes with extraordinary gusto. Let’s call them Group One: “the Resolutionists”

Group Two, on the other hand, are the ‘Nay-sayers”.

For whatever reasons – and some of them appear well proven – they are firmly convinced that resolutions to change behaviours at New Year to create enduring new patterns of life, are simply so much hogwash. Bad time; bad idea: don’t bother.

Google ‘resolutions’ and you’ll find a raft of purportedly documented studies that suggest that somewhere between 80% and 88% of all NY resolutions made, are doomed to failure within a very short time. Some suggest that fewer than 8% survive to see the light of day six months down the track.

That’s a lot of failed resolutions. Millions and millions of them. And not too many that make it to the end.

So, who’s right?

And the answer appears to be – neither of them.

Running coach Robbie Britton is typical of those who are very much on the be-very-wary-of-new-year-resolutions team.

He draws clear parallels between athletic goal setting and making similar commitments in business and personal life.  He says: “New Year Resolutions are made, and broken, every January. Can anyone even remember the lofty ideals they set themselves last year? 5k PB? Learn a new language? Give up drinking? Get better sleep? Why do we make promises we can’t or won’t keep and call it a tradition?”

“Dreaming big is a wonderful idea” he continues “but when it comes to New Year resolutions, it’s the wrong place to start. It can be easy to try and take on too many new ideas that you just won’t have the energy to see through.”

And of course, this is what happens to so many over-ambitious people whose plans for change don’t see the end of January.

Robbie suggests the term “marginal gains” might be a useful one to keep in mind when planning a better year ahead. It seems that if you find – and invest in – little improvements, baby-steps as it were, your resolutions may have a better chance.

So, his first tip is to set little targets, aim small and actually give yourself a fair chance to achieve the determinations you set for yourself. His second tip is to get help or support. Find someone who is prepared to get in behind you and give you a little push when you start to falter.

But personally speaking, I was rather taken with his third tip which was to “avoid all public gyms in January.” He claims these gyms actually make 98% of their profit in the month of January when they are “full of people mainly taking selfies and not actually sweating”.

Then, there are the believers…

Fiercely on the side of the New Year planners is a cancer survivor writing at Designed for Awesome who believes that things left to chance, where there is no goal, no planning, and no preparation  “are very likely to achieve little and create many problems.” That’s hardly new: we all know the old chestnut about plan to fail and fail to plan.

In support of her pro-new-year-resolution stance, she says: “Facing a new chapter in life, be it a new year or a new beginning of some sort, is like taking a flight. You want to decide on your destination and plan ahead to make sure things will be as you want when you get there.

“It’s amazing,” she continues: “to realize how many people start a new chapter in life without any planning. They don’t set any goals and just let life set its course. They don’t accomplish much and get unhappy and frustrated living below their potential”.

All of this of course, reaches into far deeper philosophical issues that simply making yourself a few promises you hope to keep to celebrate the dawning of a new calendar year.

What it boils down to is that resolutions to change personal behaviours at New Year are very much an individual choice, as is the extent to which you invest. Take it seriously; have a bit of fun, ignore it completely – or pursue these dreams so tenaciously that they do change your life as you know it now! It’s up to you.

However – and this is The Big One – Business aims and goals rule!

The same element of take it or leave it does not apply to goal setting in your business life where planning ahead sets your compass for success.

The New Year  – or perhaps more accurately the holiday break from regular work – is an ideal time to review and refresh your ambitions and aims, goals, dreams and to take another look at the unfolding of the year just passed. This is also an opportunity to reflect on your accomplishments and efforts for the year, and perhaps update your resume. Windsor Group’s Executive Consultant, Jane Fisher, has provided some great insights and tips on how to best refine your resume in this webinar recording.

It is common for many people to also take this chance to step back and assess where they are in their current job and whether it’s actually where they want to be!