According to a 2007 study by Richard Wisemen, 78% of New Year's resolutions will fail.
Want to make sure that you are in the successful minority? We suggest that you play it S.M.A.R.T.
A big contributing factor to the failure to meet any goal is the lack of proper goal setting from the beginning. SMART goals - that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely, have been used by individuals and businesses for decades as a roadmap to successful achievement.
To make your resolution a SMART one, make sure that it is...
Among the most common New Year's resolutions is weight loss. However, resolving to "lose weight" is incredibly vague. Turning that vague resolution into a goal by adding parameters such as "eat healthier foods and exercise in order to lose 10 pounds before my high school reunion" provides a more specific action to work toward.
If a goal is specific, then the measurable results should be clear. It is important to know exactly how you will know if the goal has been met, and even more, to have ways to measure success along the way. For example, when recovering from an injury, full function of the injured limb is the ultimate goal, but healthcare professionals will look for incremental milestones - range of motion, strength, endurance, etc. - along the way.
In order to measure your goal, you need to know where you started, and how you will know if you are done. Back to the weight-loss example, you need to not only know your goal weight, but your starting weight, and monitor changes as you progress. Having a measurable goal with milestones by which to track progress will put you on the path to success.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with reaching for the stars, but to ensure successful completion of a goal, it should be realistic...challenging, but, doable. For instance, if you've never been much of a reader, resolving to get through the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series is maybe not the most attainable goal. Consider something like, "I'm going to try to set aside an hour per week to read, and read the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones.
If you're not personally invested in your resolution, you're not likely to stick with it. Your goal should address something that you care about personally, so that you are more driven to ensure a successful outcome. For example, a resolution to "Find a pool and swim a mile per week" may not be nearly as relevant and personal to you as, "Start a regular walking regiment so I can walk my kids to school next fall."
Goals should have a deadline or they'll have a tendency to loom forever. For a New Year's resolution/goal, it's usually assumed that December 31 is the deadline. The trouble with that, however, is that in January, the end of the year seems so far away and the next thing you know, it's November and you haven't even gotten started. Setting deadlines for your incremental measurements can help with this. Or, toss out the yearly parameter all together and set a deadline of June 1...you'll reap the reward of successful completion that much sooner!
Lastly, as an added measure, it helps to have support and accountability. If you share your goal with others, and have them help to hold you accountable (maybe chose someone who has a similar goal) you'll have additional momentum to propel your success.
Happy 2012! If you're open, share your goals for the year in the comments, and any ideas you have for making sure they are met with success.