Secrets to Setting a Successful New Year’s Resolution

According to, the average success rate of a New Year’s resolution is 8 percent.

Wow, that does not seem like good odds.

What are those 8 percent of successful resolution setters doing?

Obviously, it differs from the rest of us.

They can teach us—if we will listen.

Here are 6 ways to help you in achieving your New Year’s resolution.

1) Be explicit about your New Year’s resolution.  

Did you know that “people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions”?

So take your time and be deliberate about setting it.

Work on the wording; let it seep into your soul.

Do not simply restate a wish from last year, “Umm, I think I will lose some weight.”

Why do you want to lose weight?

If it is only to impress someone, or because you think it is fashionable, you will fail.

Consider something more direct and well-thought out.

  • “I’m going to Hawaii in June and I want to look great when I go.” 
  • “I want to complete a 5K with a personal best by the end of the year.” 
  • “I need to be prepared to take over my boss’ job if she should decide to retire early no later than July.” 

Write it out and rework the wording until you create something that sings in your heart.

 2) Be as specific as possible. 

Too many folks fail because they cannot clearly see the target.

What is your personal best 5K time?

How will you decide what your target going to be?

What does looking great in Hawaii look like?

Be realistic but stretch yourself to make the goal seem just out of reach.

Set deadlines for several phases of growth toward that goal.

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If you don’t, you will procrastinate all year thinking there will be time next week.

What exactly do you need to be good at in order to be considered for a promotion?

Who do you need to connect with in order to even have your name on the table?  

I remember the scary moment when I sat down with my boss.

I told him I wanted his job and asked what and who I needed to know to get there someday.

Somehow, I remember saying it, but I do not know how I pulled it off.

Rather than be offended, he began setting me up with appointments to meet people in other portions of the organization so that I could become familiar with the big picture.

He encouraged me to read certain books and introduced me to others who could teach me other leadership skills.

It was an exciting season in my life.

Today, I am in his seat with a different organization and using much of what I learned there.

 3) Set yourself up for success.

Don’t wait until January to buy that book, sign up for that program, or go to the gym.

Do that before the year begins.

Create a board that shows what life might be like when you accomplish your dream.

An Army Cadet friend of mine bought rank from Lieutenant all the way to General and kept them on a board in his car.

What will your incentive be?

Create rewards or punishments for yourself (e.g. if I can win a 5K by June I will reward myself with a new pair of shoes.

If I cannot win that 5K in June I will donate money to that political party that makes me sick).

Research what it will take to pull off your New Year’s resolution.

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This will help you keep it realistic and on track.

 4) Realize it won’t be easy – but it will be worth it.

I know you see others who are doing what you want to do and it looks easy.

I hate to be the one to break their secret: but it wasn’t easy when they started.

Consider something as simple as driving.

For most of us, we were once very poor drivers and terrified of getting behind the wheel.

But with practice, it is now easy.

Your New Year’s resolution will feel the same.

While you will have easy and hard days in your quest, ultimately, you will wonder what the big deal was.

I think about multiplication tables and how much I struggled in elementary school just to know basic math.

In the end, when I was doing college algebra, I wondered what the big deal was back when I was struggling.

 5) Tell others of your New Year’s resolution.

In 2009, I decided I would run 40 miles for my 40th birthday, that was just two years away at that point.

Once I started telling people, they would first look at me like I was crazy.

But ultimately, people began talking it up to others.

By the time 2011 dawned, I knew I had to do it, so my training went into overdrive.

I read books on ultra running.

I ran and experimented with diet and assorted exercise routines.

In September, as I took off, I remember that around mile 5, one of my best friends was there to cheer me on.

Along the way, my kids rode their bikes for large portions, encouraging me to keep going.

Even family from far away began texting and messaging my wife to pass on encouragement.

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I pulled it off because I was not alone.

I pulled it off because I did not want all of those people to see me fail.

 6) Accept NO excuses.

A common skill that all humans seem to excel in is making excuses.

We can have lots of reasons for our failures.

If only my parents did…” or “If only I was only three inches taller…” Maybe your excuses are more creative.

But we all have them when we fall short.

The challenge then, is to say when you fail, that you did not do what you said you were going to do.

Take responsibility for napping on the job.

Admit that you did not work as hard as you said you would.

Confess that maybe your goal of giving up sleep for all of 2017 was unrealistic.

Regardless of how you word it, it is your fault.

Do not blame your friends or family.

You failed.

Unless, of course, if you succeed.

You can only do that though if you forsake all excuses.

There will be obstacles.

You may have to run in the rain or the snow.

You may have to stay up late studying leadership or pass on the second helping of pumpkin pie.

This New Year’s resolution thing is tough – and you won’t always think that it is important.

But do not allow any excuse to hold you back.

Maybe you can drive that percentage up this year.

Imagine how your life will be different and it will surely come to pass.

I intend to be among the even smaller percentage that overshoots their wildest New Year’s resolution this year.

Will YOU join me?

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