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Making successful resolutions

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Forty-five percent of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions and an additional 17 percent occasionally make New Year’s resolutions according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.  With so many of us resolving to lose weight, get organized and save more money (the top three resolutions for 2014), you’d expect to find a leaner, healthier, wealthier society.  The problem is that only about 8 percent of us actually achieve success in our goals (although almost 50 percent claim some success) and nearly a quarter of us say we never succeed and always fail.  This would suggest that we shouldn’t make resolutions at all since we fail so spectacularly but people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t make resolutions.  One other thing that’s interesting is that successful New Year resolutions aren’t achieved with age.  Only 14 percent of those over 50 achieve their goals while almost 40 percent of 20-somethings achieve theirs.  So what makes the difference between those who experience success and those who don’t?

Successful people make a plan and that plan is written down.  As previously stated, you’re 10 times more likely to achieve success if you make a resolution than if you don’t make a plan.  That seems like a no-brainer but very few of us march through life without hoping to be more successful or wealthier or have more friends.  The ones that actually sit down and declare those goals on paper or to friends are far more likely to achieve them.  Planning increases our efficiency, helps us to organize the steps we need to take and gets us going in the right direction.  By its very process, planning helps us to determine the level of importance we place on our goals.  Once you feel the plan is working for you, take another look at it to see if you need to fine-tune it.  Equally as important, writing that plan down daily helps keep you focused on why you are doing what you are doing.

Keep goals simple.  Simple goals are easier to focus on.  Staying clear and focused makes it easier to achieve them.  If your goal is complex, break it down into smaller steps that will make the larger goal less daunting.

The change must be significant to you.  If you don’t care about it, you’ll lose your focus and your enthusiasm for achieving the goal.

Make the outcome measurable.  If the plan is to lose weight, how much weight do you plan to lose?  Having something measurable makes it something you can break down to more attainable sizes.  If you want to lose 20 pounds over the course of the year, will you lose it at slightly less than two pounds a month, or five pounds a quarter?  Maybe you think you can drop the first 15 pounds in the first half of the year but think it will take six months to finish off the last five pounds.  If your goal is instead to save more money, what does that mean to you?  Will you save enough to go on vacation this year or put an extra 1 percent away in a retirement account?  You need to be able to know if you are reaching your goal.

Make sure your goals are consistent with your values.  Conflict is good for many things but a conflict between what you believe is important and what you think you have to do to achieve a goal will prevent you from being happy with your success even if you manage to succeed at a goal.

Hire a professional.  There’s something about paying actual money towards achieving a goal that forces you to reassess whether it’s really that important and if it’s really that important whatever professional you hire will help you to stay focused.  In addition, professionals, whether we’re talking about financial professionals, trainers, teachers or some other professionals know things you don’t know that will help you find the easiest or the best or the most rewarding way to do something without forcing you to do it by trial and error.

Keep believing.  If goals were easy to achieve, we wouldn’t call them goals, we’d call them a to-do list.  Give yourself some slack and realize that no one else gets to grade you on your performance.  You know how hard it was to achieve each milestone so if you have to add an extra milestone or shift the goal a bit to make it achievable, so be it.  Expect obstacles and address them when they happen.  Then go back to working on your goals.

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