This post is being published on February 1—that’s one month after New Year’s Day! And millions and millions of people, at some point over the past month, abandoned their new year’s resolutions. They set goals for themselves and quickly jumped ship. Sticking to new year’s resolutions, or any goal, isn’t easy, of course. And these people are far from alone.
In fact, a study published in 2021 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that 64% of people abandon their resolutions within a month. That means that two-thirds of those who set goals for the new year couldn’t stick to it for even four weeks.
Here’s more: Research analyzing 800 million user-logged activities in 2019, found that January 19 is the day that most people give up on their New Year’s resolution. It’s called “Quitter’s Day.” Another study, from researchers at the University of Scranton, found that 23% of people give up on their resolution after just one week.
Why it’s so hard to set your goals, and see them through?
There’s no getting around it: Setting a goal, devising a strategy, and seeing that goal through is difficult. That’s why so many people give up on their resolutions, after all.
And on an individual level, there can be a myriad of reasons why we don’t follow through on our goals. Things come up, life gets in the way—you never know what’s going to happen that will throw you off of your rhythm.
For example, say you set a goal for yourself to get to the gym every day. You go for a week straight—but then a blizzard hits, and you can’t get there. Okay, no big deal, you can work out at home. But the next week, you miss two days; maybe you had to go to work earlier than expected, or you weren’t feeling well.
All of a sudden, there are cracks in the foundation, and your goal is getting away from you. At that point, you have a choice: You can focus and get back on track, perhaps by making some plans to work out in the event you can’t get to the gym, or, you can give up—you’ve already missed days anyway, right?
How to set and achieve your goals: A realistic approach
So, what can you do to make sure you stick to your goals and your strategy? It’ll vary from person to person, but generally speaking, you’ll need to start by making sure you’re invested in achieving your goals. You need to have some skin in the game, and actually care about whether or not you fail.
Because if you don’t care if you succeed, you’re not going to succeed!
Aside from that, you can always try partnering up with someone else who has a goal in mind: An accountability partner! Find someone that you can lean on, and who can help motivate you.
You can also try the “R.I.C.H. goals” framework: “Reachable, Individual, Controllable, and Happy.” While we generally talk about this framework in terms of financial goals, it can be used for just about anything.
- Reachable: Make sure your goal is actually achievable. You’re probably not going to grow wings and fly to the moon, for instance, so don’t have something like that be your goal. Instead, focus on something you can do: “I will lose ten pounds by May.” Or, “I will save $5,000 by the end of next year.” Be realistic!
- Individual: Be selfish! Focus on what you really want, and become invested in it. This is YOUR goal, after all, and you’re the only person you can truly count on to see it through.
- Controllable: Consider what you can control, and how that may affect your ability to reach your goals. It’s a very Stoic approach—focus on what you can control, and don’t worry about anything else. You can control whether or not you go to the gym 99% of the time, so don’t worry about the other 1%!
- Happy: Your goal should be something you truly want. Achieving it should make you happy. Otherwise, there’s no reason to do it. If your goal is “collect every Super Nintendo game ever produced,” and you don’t even like video games, then why do it at all? You’ll probably fail.
Remember, it’s up to you—and only you—to see your goals through. You may wander off the path, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. You can find your way back, refocus, and pick up where you left off!
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