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The Sandy Spring Way

Making the Most of New Year’s Resolutions

January 7th, 2015 | By Sandy Spring Bank

By Sandi Maxey, Senior Vice President, Learning & Professional Development Manager

New Year'sI love New Year’s! There’s something magical and hopeful about the prospect of a fresh start. New Year’s offers us a natural opportunity to reflect on the blessings of the previous year as well as to put past mistakes behind us. It’s no wonder so many of us will indulge in the tradition of making a New Year’s Resolution in the hopes of getting the year off to a great start.

In 2014, The University of Scranton conducted a research study to measure American behaviors related to New Year’s Resolutions. The study collected data about what we resolve to do and how successful we are at doing it.

Here’s a list of the Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions from their research:

  1. Lose weight.
  2. Get organized.
  3. Spend less, save more.
  4. Enjoy life to the fullest.
  5. Stay fit and healthy.
  6. Learn something exciting.
  7. Quit smoking.
  8. Help others in their dreams.
  9. Fall in love.
  10. Spend more time with family.

These probably sound pretty familiar to you. I know they do to me. I’ve made (and broken) most of them at one time or another. At some point in our lives, all of us want to improve our physical, emotional, or financial health. But how many of us are actually successful? Here’s what the study reported about our likelihood to make resolutions and achieve them:

  • Percent of Americans who usually make resolutions – 45%
  • Percent of Americans who infrequently make resolutions – 17%
  • Percent of Americans who absolutely never make resolutions – 38%
  • Percent of Americans who are successful in achieving their resolutions – 8%

Does it surprise you that upwards of 60% of us Americans start the year with the best of intentions to improve some aspect of our lives, yet only 8% of us will actually be successful? In fact, if you stopped reading the research report at this point, you could make a convincing argument that making a New Year’s Resolution is a colossal waste of time.

So, why bother to make a resolution at all? As with all research, it turns out the raw data doesn’t tell the complete story. The study found that people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than those people who don’t explicitly make resolutions. Think about that. You improve your odds of success ten-fold just by verbalizing a clear and specific goal.

Failure can also be a great teacher. My vast experience with failing at New Year’s Resolutions has taught me great lessons. Here are my “Lessons Learned” for greater success at achieving New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Complete this sentence, “I will know I have been successful when…” As soon as I learned that success means something different for me than it does for someone else, I stopped being a “failure by comparison.”
  • Create an action plan to achieve the goal. Knowing “how” you are going to achieve success is almost as important as defining what success is.
  • Follow your own path. For me, life without a little bit of chocolate each day isn’t worth much. Don’t deny yourself the little things that bring you joy (in moderation, of course.)
  • Break the goal down into smaller tasks or steps. One reason resolutions fail is because the original goal is lofty and can be overwhelming.
  • Make yourself accountable to someone else. Let’s face it, all of us are more motivated to achieve something when someone else is checking up on us. Want to improve your fitness? Hire a personal trainer. Looking to save a retirement nest egg? Consult a professional financial advisor.
  • Don’t let small setbacks derail you. One day off the diet (or two or three) doesn’t mean you are a failure. Take a deep breath and get back on track.

Before you decide not to make a resolution this year because you haven’t been successful in the past, consider the research. Take your New Year’s Resolution past the stage of “good intentions” by being explicit, developing an action plan, and enlisting the right help. Come next New Year’s, you won’t have any regrets.


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