New year´s resolutions are hard to stick to. An old article I read in The Guardian stated that most people who make resolutions are doomed to failure. The following statistics from an article by Stephen Shapiro, one of the foremost authorities on innovation culture, collaboration, and open innovation are also depressing.
Only 8% of people are always successful in achieving their resolutions. 19% achieve their resolutions every other year. 49% have infrequent success. 24% (one in four people) NEVER succeed and have failed on every resolution every year. That means that 3 out of 4 people almost never succeed.
He suggests instead of looking forward to what you want, spend time reflecting on what you have and if you do set a resolution, set a “theme-based” resolution rather than a “goal-based” resolution. This will increase your level of happiness AND participation in the coming year.
- What kind of New Year’s Resolutions do you typically set (money, health, self-improvement, or relationship-oriented)?
- Why do you set these particular resolutions?
- What do you hope to gain by achieving these resolutions?
- What will you do to be more successful (than the typical person)?
- Do you believe you will be happier in a year if you are successful in achieving your resolutions? If so, be aware that this is rarely the case – your attitude is more important than the results.
- And finally, what could you do to improve your level of happiness TODAY, rather than believing your happiness lies in the future?
Here is his advice:
1. Choose a broad theme rather than specific measurable goal. “When most people set New Year’s Resolutions, they have specific, measurable results that they want to achieve,” says Shapiro. “Lose 15 pounds. Run a marathon. Quit smoking. In doing so, you become myopically focused and shut down other, more potentially exciting, possibilities from appearing in your life.”
Rather than resolutions, he says; choose one or two words to describe your next year. It serves as a theme for the year rather than a specific goal. “For a colleague of mine, this year is about ‘service,” says Shapiro, “serving others in whatever way she can to make a contribution. For another person, this year is about ‘flow,’ making the year effortless. For a friend who is going through a divorce and change of career, his theme is ‘new beginnings’”
2. Choose an expansive and empowering theme. Says Shapiro: “Choose a theme that is expansive, gets your juices flowing, has you excited, and moves you into action. Can’t think of a theme? How about passion, peace, love, friendship, travel, or self-expression? Or maybe new horizons, adventure, or mind expansion might be a good start. Don’t worry if you haven’t named your aspiration yet –it may come out of your theme. Rather than sitting around trying to figure out your passion, choose a direction that will enable you to experience it. If all else fails and you still can’t figure out what your passion is, then make ‘finding your passion’ your theme.
3. Ask yourself: Why? What is the one word you want to use to describe your next year? A good place to start is with your traditional resolutions. Then ask yourself why. Want to lose weight? Look at the reasons why. Do you want to be healthier? Do you want to have more confidence? If so, instead of dieting, ‘health’ or ‘confidence’ may be good themes.
4. Remind yourself of your theme. “This is a simple compass setting,” says Shapiro. “It does not dictate a specific outcome and does not imply a particular path or plan. Write your theme on a Post-It Note and stick it on your computer screen. Write it on your bathroom mirror. Put it anywhere as a quick reminder to what you are about at this moment in time. Resolutions are things to do. Themes are a way to be.”
5. Remain open to new possibilities and to changes in direction at any point in the future. Finally, concludes Shapiro: “Themes are not set in stone. If the theme you chose is not working, feel free to change it. Themes are designed to help you experience life more fully. You should never feel constrained or limited.”
A variation on the same theme (LOL) appears in Pete Quily´s Adult ADHD Coach blog. He decided to use the theme idea as a coaching tool for a client. He wrote “I had an intuition that a theme for the year might be more useful for him than several specific goals and I asked him what he thought about having a specific theme for the year (based on his situation and desires) and he was quite responsive to that. It worked well on another client and I decided to try it myself.
From a coaching point of view I thought this might work for most people.
- A theme is much bigger than a specific goal.
- It can include many related goals under its umbrella.
It allows you to look at the whole year from a specific perspective. When you decide what you’ll do for the week, you examine those decisions in part through the lens of your theme. What can you do this week that will bring your closer in line with your theme? Move toward more deliberate creation in your life. It’s an orientation, a holistic point of view, something that can encompass many areas of your life.
Quily also suggests keeping the theme simple, ideally a single concept, or at most 2 related or complementary concepts. The fewer words the better. Two is ideal, and much easier to remember than 15, and easier to use as a mantra.
“It is process oriented. You are moving towards something. You can set specific individual goals during the year under the overall framework of your theme, but you don’t attach a numeric target to your theme. This reduces your disappointment and subsequent de-motivation if you don’t do well on your theme for a particular week. Regularly examine your life from the viewpoint of moving towards your yearly theme. You need to set related goals on a regular weekly and monthly basis that move you closer to your theme, and reward yourself when you reach those goals.” He suggests scheduling in the reward first.
Your theme can also be used as a decision making tool. When making an important decision (when appropriate and related), include your New Year’s theme as one of the factors in making the decision. “Does this decision move me closer to my yearly theme?”He concludes “Ideally setting and regularly working towards personal meaningful goals year round is the best way to go. A yearly theme can turbo charge that process, it’s not for everyone, but it may be right for you.”
I´m going to give it a try – my chosen New Year’s theme is deliberate creation!