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Should You Make a New Year’s Resolution?

Strategies and goals

New Year’s resolutions have a long history, reportedly stretching back to the ancient Romans in their worship of the double-faced god Janus and even a couple of millenia earlier to the ancient Babylonians. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good idea for you or me, though. If you’re already working hard on one goal, for instance, adding another goal can drain enough of your time and attention that both goals fail, the old and the new.

In an experiment tracking 3,000 people in 2007, only 12% actually succeeded with their goals. If you want to be part of that 12%–and you’re already way ahead of the game by reading articles like this–don’t proceed unless you know that the resolution and the timing are right.

New Year’s can be an ideal time to start work on a new goal. As we’re getting into the time of year when planning for a New Year’s resolution makes the most sense, I’d like to talk about why New Year’s resolutions can work, what gets in the way, and how to tell whether or not to make one in the first place.

To resolve or not?
Resolutions can be harmful if we go about them in a bad way or drain effort from a goal already being pursued. When considering making one:

  • Only focus on one large goal at a time. I know it’s hard to put aside some things we really want to accomplish while focusing on one particular goal, but changing habits (which is what we need to do to achieve goals) requires not only a good approach but also plenty of time and attention–too much for it to be possible for most of us to transform in two or more ways at once.
  • Only proceed if you know what you want and what to do to get it. Having unclear goals or lacking a plan will usually result in failure, which is disheartening and not very constructive. If you know what you want but not how to get it, do some research. You can start on this site, The Willpower Engine, where you can find hundreds of free articles on changing habits and pursuing goals, or by talking to or reading about someone who has done what you want to achieve, or by finding a good group to join.

I’ll continue with this series on New Year’s resolutions in upcoming articles by looking at  the special advantages of making a resolution at the New Year, some cautions, and a way to inventory your goals and dreams so as to go forward in the best possible way.

You might also be interested in some related posts:

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