How to follow through on New Years Resolutions

By Jay Dee, Contributing Writer

Well, another January is upon is, and that means a new round of New Years resolutions for many.  In 2013, it is estimated that 40% of Americans made New Years resolutions.  Of those who made resolutions, 8% kept them.  Shocked?  I was!  8%!  That’s much higher than I expected!  Who are these super-human people?

Keep New Years Resolutions

In the last few months, I’ve taken on a new challenge.  I’ve decided to be trained as a Christian Life Coach.  Now, some of you are probably asking, “What on earth is a Christian Life Coach?!”  The simplest answer I’ve been able to find/piece together so far is this:

Christian Life Coaches come along side regular people to find out who/where they are, who/where they want to be and how they are going to get there, with the goal of meeting their God-given purpose and potential, to turn them into extraordinary people.

Now, I could write a whole post on that sentence alone, but I’m not going to here.  Part of my studies is to learn a lot about the process of change.  Why do we change?  How do we change?  What tools are effective for change?  What is the process one goes through during change?  Again, fuel for many posts.  But this month, we’re talking about New Beginnings, and a big part of New Beginnings is making resolutions, of wanting to change.  So, I thought I’d share a quick little bit of research I’ve come across in my studies that may be of interest.  It’s a scale to predict what your probability of actually completing a goal, of sticking to a resolution is.  It also can tell you how to increase your chances and what the next step in committing to this goal is.

Hear/see/think of a resolution

This is stage one, you come across an idea for change.  Sometimes it’s about finding out WHY you need to change, like stepping on a scale.  Maybe you hear an idea for change on the news, or a friend tells you.  Maybe you read it on a blog, like this one, or in a book.  Maybe it just pops unto your head, or is inspired by a sermon.  Whatever the method, you have just interacted with it on a very basic level.  Your chance of actually implementing this new concept is about 10%.  And it’s not really surprising is it?  I mean, how many good ideas for change do you hear and decide “I’d love to do that, but I just don’t have time”?  Most likely fairly often if your frequenting blogs about improving your marriage.  But, maybe you come across one you really like, and you think you could actually do it.  Then we move on to…

Make it your resolution

Stage two, decide WHAT your resolution will be, you say “I’m going to do that”, or “That’s my resolution this year”, or “I’m going to start going to the gym”.  Whatever the goal, resolution, you decide you want to do it, you want to make the change, you are going to be this new person.    Your chances of actually doing it have just jumped up to 25%.

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

-Joshua 24:15

This is making a commitment to do something, but after you have made the commitment, you have really only just begun.

Set a time

Stage three, you set a time, WHEN are you going to do this thing?  If you’ve ever heard of SMART goals (and if you haven’t, please look them up), this is the “timely” or “time bound” (T).  You set a time to do it.  “I’m going to hit the gym on Tuesdays, starting next week.”  or “Starting today, I’m going to watch my tongue.”  Or “Every Friday night, I’m going to initiate sex“.  Now your resolution starts to take shape, it becomes a real thing instead of an abstract concept.

Congratulations, your chance of keeping your resolution has just increased to 40%.

Make a plan

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

-Luke 14:28-33

This would be the “specific” (S) in SMART goals.  What exactly are you going to do and HOW are you doing to do it?  If you are going to go to the gym, do you need to block off time, get a babysitter, tell your spouse, buy gym clothes, what needs to happen to make sure it happens. Make a plan that is executable, then low and behold, you’ve just hit a 50% chance of actually following through with it.  Hit or miss, toss a coin.  Let’s see if we can improve this.

Make a commitment to a person

Ever made a New Years resolution and then not wanted to tell anyone what it was?  Most likely, that’s because you really didn’t want to do it, or you had already decided you were probably going to fail.  Turns, if you like the idea, decide to do it, set a time, make a plan, and then TELL SOMEONE, commit to them, you chances go up to 65%.  Now, 65% is not bad.  It’s better than half.  This starts to answer the question of WHO is going to be involved, but we need to flesh it out a bit more.

Make accountability appointments with a person about implementing this goal

Now, this is where you really see a difference.  Turns out, if you have someone holding you accountable on a regular basis, your chance of actually keeping your resolution jumps to 95%!  Now, it’s not just about telling someone, it’s about doing it with someone WHO will keep you accountable.  This is why running groups have a huge impact, why people go to the gym with friends, why small groups really work for focusing your life on God, and why married people have a higher chance at success in business.  They all have partners that are with them helping to keep them on track, and you don’t actually need someone to do it with you, you just need someone who cares enough to ask how your doing, to remind you of the WHY, who knows the WHAT, then WHEN and the HOW and can keep you on track.

Because often we start off really good, and eventually we forget that we had a plan, we forget that we had a time, and we forget why we’re doing it.  But to have someone there to stand by you and say “Remember the WHY?  That’s your motivation!” or to ask “Did you go to the gym today?  It’s Tuesday after all, that was your plan.”, and to do it in a compassionate way that cares about your goals, because you care about them, not nagging you because you aren’t living up to their standard.

My recommendation to you

So, now you know what you have to do right?  Let me break it down:

  1. Find out why you want to change
  2. Decide what you are going to do
  3. Decide when to do it
  4. Decide how to do it
  5. Tell your spouse, your best friend, whomever.
  6. Find someone who will meet with in planned regular intervals to ask you “How are you doing with your goal?”

Of course, if your goal has to do with improving your marriage, spouses make an excellent accountability partner, if you let them.  It takes swallowing your pride to tell your spouse “Let me know when I’m failing.”

And for those who are looking for an accountability partner to help you meet your goals, subscribe to my blog, I’m planning to give away a couple free coaching spaces in the next couple of months to help people meet their New Years resolutions.

Your Turn

What’s your New Year’s resolution?  What steps are you taking to ensure you keep them?  Let us know in the comments below.


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