Part one of three in the “Live Your Resolutions” series.
Statistics show that 40 percent of Americans make resolutions of some kind each New Year, some of the most popular being to lose weight, exercise more, reduce debt, quit smoking, get organized, and enjoy life more. It is easy to resolve to alter habits or acquire new ones, but it isn’t as easy to see these resolutions come to fruition.
A University of Scranton study showed that just eight percent of people who make resolutions actually achieve the change they sought. The question is what makes some people successful in achieving their goals, while others fail?
Author and blogger Robert Kanaat researched the art and importance of goal setting on his blog, “Wanderlust Worker.” He cited a study conducted by Harvard researchers in 1979 on the graduating class of Harvard Business School. The study showed that 84 percent of the class had no set goals, while 13 percent established written goals but no plan to achieve them, and three percent of the class had both written goals and action plans to achieve them.
After 10 years, the students who had set goals were earning twice as much as those without set goals, and the three percent with goals and action plans were making 10 times as much as their classmates.
In looking at New Year’s resolutions and the reported eight percent of Americans succeeding in what they resolved, Kanaat looked at a study by Statistic Brain that showed that only 46 percent of Americans making New Year’s resolutions made it past six months in pursuit of their goals.
Kanaat said that to be successful in reaching your goals, one needed to make a very specific goal, create strong reasons to achieve the goal, develop an in-depth plan of action, follow that plan of action, and determine how to measure those results.
Traci McLendon of Kilmichael, a certified health coach, said most people set New Year’s resolutions too high and can’t maintain the work needed to achieve them.
“Some plans are not maintainable plans,” McLendon said. “They set these high expectations and can’t achieve them. You need to set small incremental goals to reach your overall goal.”
McLendon is a certified health coach and graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. In her interaction with patients in her previous medical positions, she said saw the value of pursuing a preventative approach to health and wellness.
Her focus on health and wellness began when she was introduced to Arbonne, a health, wellness and beauty company in 2008. She currently leads virtual 30-Day wellness programs for individuals across the country.
McLendon said people need to set realistic goals, think about pitfalls, and plan ahead. She said in setting a goal to lose weight, exercise more, or get healthy, people should take some time and “think, pray, and meditate” on what they want to achieve.
“Think about what you want to achieve,” McLendon said. “Ask yourself, ‘By this time next year, what do you want to achieve?’ Give yourself time. Talk to an expert or someone who’s done it before.”
McLendon said it is smart to make a plan for the year, the month, and each day. She said it is best to build on small goals over time.
“Establish a goal and start slowly,” McLendon said. “Pick something sensible. [If you want to start exercising] make a goal to walk 15 minutes a day. Anyone can do that, and then build up.”
And, just as the Harvard study found, McLendon said written goals, accompanied by a plan of action is a key to success.
“If you are doing the same plan that didn’t work last year, I would look at doing something else,” she said.
In addition, she said, especially in working to achieve better health, the “why” is just as important as the “how” in achieving a goal. A person’s reason for wanting to make a change should be clear and monumental enough to inspire a person to inspire success.
“Determine your ‘why,’” McLendon said. “Your ‘why’ needs to be big enough to keep you going. You need to believe in what you are doing. If you fall off the track, you have to get back on it.”
McLendon also said to look for pitfalls and self-sabotage and find ways to prevent them.
“Find accountability partners or look for family support,” she said. “Establish a community of people [working toward the same goal]. Find a mentor.”
McLendon said it is important to plan for success by making sure you have the necessary tools in place before moving forward – healthy foods stocked in your kitchen, proper equipment for your fitness plan, and so on.
McLendon also encouraged immersing yourself in an environment supporting your set goals.
“Find a devotion that supports your goals,” McLendon said. “Take the time for self-care. You need to claim it for yourself. Take time for yourself.”
McLendon recommended several devotion books focused on health transformations – Fit For My King: His Princess Diet Plan and Devotional by Sherri Sheppard, An Appetite for God by Dr. Linda Jeffreys, and God’s Power to Change Your Life by Rick Warren.
McLendon said it is important to be realistic, especially with diet and exercise. She said to not start a plan without giving thought to the length of the commitment and possible bumps in the road.
“Life is not all or nothing,” McLendon said. “Remember that it took nine or 10 months or longer to get where you are now, so you must give yourself time [to reach your goals].