Photo: Daniel Mohr

Photo: Daniel Mohr

Now that we are well into January’s back nine, how are you doing with your grand resolutions, that bright shiny new life that you envisioned for yourself? If you are like most people, you started out strong, determined, and excited but may have recently fallen off the proverbial wagon, perhaps feeling a bit let down, and possibly a bit defeated.

Not to worry! Buck up! Change is hard, but you are still in the game. In fact, studies show that January lapse rates are the same for people who successfully change their behaviors and reach their goals as for those who don’t. The difference is, the successful ones pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get back after it with even more resolve. They don’t quit.

Yes, it’s true, most people’s resolutions fall by the wayside. Twenty-five percent have folded by the end of the first week and attrition picks off more with each passing day. Only 40% are successful after 6 months. But don’t let that discourage you. People who make resolutions are 10 times more successful than people who want to change and have the same level of motivation, but don’t make resolutions – only 4% of them are successful.

Want to ensure that you are a part of the 40% instead of the 4? Here are a couple of key things you can do to dramatically improve your chances for success and make sure you are in that winning group.

Be Realistic

Big lofty goals are great. They are inspiring. Everyone should have them. But attempting black diamond run on your first day learning to ski is not likely to end with a success that you can build on.

Break down your goal into small steps that you know you can achieve. If your goal is to lose fifty pounds, start with 5. Willpower is like a muscle. You can build yours up and make it stronger, but like a muscle, you can only use it so many times before it becomes fatigued and needs to recharge. Every small success makes you stronger and capable of more.

Stay on Track

If you can’t measure your goal, how will you know if you’ve achieved it? Does “I want to make more money” mean $25 or $25,000? Those two goals will likely require very different strategies and steps.

Make sure you have a well-defined, measurable goal and track your progress! Whether you use a diary, mark up a calendar, use a spreadsheet, or notch the bedpost (not recommended), make sure you are regularly tracking your progress – daily if possible. This will help you keep your goals top-of-mind, build your confidence, and show you immediately when you need to redouble your efforts.

Buddy Up

Accountability is critical to goal achievement. Unfortunately, holding yourself accountable can be a difficult task. Disappointing someone else oftentimes holds much more emotional weight than when we disappoint ourselves.

One simple step you can take that will significantly improve your results is to be accountable to someone beside yourself. Find a friend, a co-worker, or family member with whom you can exchange goals. Set a regular weekly time to check on each other’s progress – how you performed in the previous week, what your plans are for the coming week, and how you are progressing towards your ultimate goal.

One Per Customer

As previously mentioned, we have only a limited amount of willpower. If you spread it out across two, three, or four goals, your willpower is spread thin and your chances of success are reduced for all of your goals. Take on only one goal at a time unless they are related.

For example, if your goals are to lose five pounds and exercise four days a week, those tie together nicely. On the other hand, if your goals are to lose five pounds and quit smoking, you’ll have a much better chance of being successful if you take them on one at a time.

Do Unto Yourself

Change is hard, but just by setting those goals you have set yourself apart and the changes have already started. Believe me, I know, it never happens fast enough, but be gentle, supportive and forgiving with yourself as you navigate the ups and downs. Watch that self-talk! If a family member or friend stumbled, you wouldn’t call them a worthless loser, would you? If so, you might think about adding just one more resolution…

So stay strong, stay focused, don’t quit, and resolve to make this your best year ever.