Will you be making New Year's resolutions in a few days? If so, then you'll want to read on IF you want to have a realistic shot at making those resolutions stick. I blogged about this last year, but with so many new readers and so many people making New Year's resolutions I thought it would be good to revisit this topic.
If you Google “New Year's resolution” you’ll find it’s generally defined as a commitment someone makes to do something, or stop doing something, in order to better his/her life in some way. Here are some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions people make:
- Spend more time with family
- Lose weight
- Start exercising
- Quite smoking
- Quit drinking
- Get organized
- Get out of debt
In one study, 52% of people making resolutions were confident of achieving them yet only 12% actually did so. The list above is admirable so why are these goals so hard to follow through on for the vast majority of people? There are probably as many reasons as there are resolutions but we don't need to spend time on them because you've probably heard just about all of them...and perhaps even used a few yourselves! As I did last year, what I’ll do is share an approach that might help you PAVE the way for success in the New Year.
When I write or talk about the principles of influence it's typically to help people get others to say “Yes!” to them. But that’s not what I’m going to share in this post. In the study of persuasion there’s a powerful motivator of behavior known as "consistency." This principle says that people feel compelled to act in ways that are consistent with their beliefs and values as well as what they've said or done in the past. When we act in consistent ways we feel better about ourselves and people perceive us in a more favorable light which adds to our authority.
What I want to do is give you a way to tap into the principle of consistency that will motivate you to follow through on your New Year's resolutions. Almost all resolutions involve forming or breaking habits so that means you have to start doing something regularly or stop doing something you’re currently doing. In either case the goal is to improve your life.
We are going to take a look at consistency as it pertains to you and four simple ways to strengthen its use. These simple ideas will PAVE the way to your success because they'll increase the odds that you’ll follow through on your New Year’s resolutions.
Public – Any time you make a public statement, whether verbally or in writing, you’re putting yourself on the line. The mere fact that another person knows your intention and might ask you how you’re coming along with your commitment is quite often enough motivation for people to follow through. Recommendation #1 - Share with another person or group of people, your New Year’s resolution and ask them to hold you accountable.
Active – You have to actively do something. Merely thinking about a resolution but keeping it to yourself will lead to the same results as people who don’t make resolutions. In other words, nothing will change. This came to light in a study with a group of students who wanted to improve their grades. One group was asked to write their goals down, one group kept their goals in their heads and the last group had no specifics whatsoever. As you can imagine, the group with the written goals succeed, with nearly 90% of students increasing by a full letter grade! With the other two groups the results were almost identical. In each group fewer than 1 in 6 students improved a full letter grade. It’s worth noting, they were all given the same study materials. Recommendation #2 - Make sure you have to take some active step. It could be as simple as buying a book to help you learn more about the change you want to make.
Voluntary – This has to be YOUR goal, not someone else’s goal for you. If you’re trying to do something, like quite smoking, lose weight, or get in shape, it’s not likely your motivation will last if someone told you to do it. The goal has to come from you because if it’s forced on you it's not likely your desire will last long. Samuel Butler said it best when he wrote, “He who complies against his will is of the same opinion still.” Recommendation #3 - Make sure it's something you want to do.
Effortful – It was noted above that you have to actively do something. In other words, making the commitment should require some effort on your part. In fact, the more effort, the more likely you are to succeed. Something as simple as writing down your resolution can make a difference, even if you don’t share it with anyone. But, taking the time to share it also fulfills the public requirement which gives you more bang for the buck! Dr. Robert Cialdini puts it this way, “People live up to what they write down.” Recommendation #4 - Commit pen to paper and you’ll increase your chance for success significantly.
None of what I just shared is new but I'm willing to bet many of you have not taken many, if any, of the four steps listed above. Sometimes all it takes is to see things in a new and different light for it to resonate. If you've been one to make resolutions in the past and fail, then give this different approach a try. If you fail again you’re no worse off but this change in approach might just work for you. Good luck and Happy New Year to all of you!
By the way, my resolution, goal if you will, for 2011 is to drop some weight. I've not watched my diet lately and I've gotten our of shape so I'll make a public, active, voluntary, effortful commitment to get down from 215 lbs to 195 lbs by April 20th. Anyone care to publicly jump in with me on some goal? If so just add your comment below.
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.