January is ending and, according to most surveys and research available, so will your motivation to continue with your New Year’s resolutions. You’re not alone. Come February, nearly eighty percent of people with New Year resolutions would have given up on their goals. Whether it’s to exercise more regularly or to declutter your room, it’s hard to stay motivated and positive as the holiday season ends and the daily grind picks up.
At PEPWorldwide Asia, we don’t believe in simply giving up. What those statistics and figures also indicate is that for every eight people who fail to continue with their New Year resolutions, two actually go on, which increases their chances of success.
Here are five questions you should ask yourself that might help you belong to that smaller group of successful resolution-makers who actually achieve their goals:
Why are you making the resolutions in the first place?
Reasons behind actions determine motivation. Being honest with yourself about this one question can mean the difference between success and failure. You can have the same resolutions as the next person but if the reasons behind them do not motivate you enough, then you are going to have problems sustaining your actions.
Take exercise and health resolutions. Someone might decide to exercise more just so they could fit into their old pair of jeans. Fair enough. A second person might decide to take up cross-fit because, well, everyone seemed to be doing cross-fit. Sure. A third person might decide to eat more broccoli and start lifting weights because they realised they needed to stay healthy enough in the long-term in order to support their school-aged children.
Out of these three, the third person is most likely to stay motivated for the long term, not just because the stakes are high, but because their reasons involve those that matter most to them. Their reason for their resolution is much likely to fuel their motivation.
The second person might come to like cross-fit but what if “everyone else” decides to move on to pilates? What if “everyone” began to jump on the bandwagon of some other new fitness trend? Motivation based on trends or society’s expectations tend to dissipate rather quickly, especially if there is limited or no personal stake involved.
The first person, funnily enough, might actually pull-off his or her resolutions as well, even if it’s only until those jeans fit again. After all, the self can be a powerful motivator as well, depending on your personality. The key is to be honest with yourself to determine who your resolution ultimately matters to and why.
Where can you see and measure your progress?
Losing just enough weight to fit into a specific pair of jeans may not sound like a particularly important goal but it is a clear, measurable one!
It’s not enough to have a goal that you are motivated to achieve; how you keep track of progress also matters. It tells you whether you are meeting your targets, or whether you maybe need to shift the goalposts a little. Being able to see your progress acts as a powerful motivator and the beauty of this is that how you measure your progress is completely up to you!
If your measure of success is that you’re running twice a week, then running twice a week fulfils your goals! If your measure of success is to lose, say, 2 kg by the end of January, then off to the weighing machine you go!
Ultimately, your measure of progress has to be something quantifiable, something you can count and keep track of. That’s why vague resolution like “I will be more organized” tend to fall to the wayside; try something like “I will clear my desk at the end of every day” instead, which is something more concrete that you can see and, therefore, measure.
What can you do to prepare yourself?
If your resolutions involve working out and running more, then you’re going to have a difficult time if you don’t have running shoes. Of course, we’ve all heard about how people splurge on yoga packages, or gym memberships, or professional hiking gear, only for those very things to shame them when they start collecting dust but this isn’t about forcing yourself to use something because you’ve already paid for it. This is about ensuring that you’re willing to invest in that which would enable you to commit yourself to your goals.
The most important investment for the modern, busy professional? It isn’t money, as many might believe. It’s time.
If you’re going to resolve to go for a walk every evening, you had better be prepared to make time for walks in the evenings. If you know you have trouble getting up early in the morning, you’re only looking for failure if your resolution is to go for morning jogs in the park. If your schedule is so packed to the point where you don’t have forty-five minutes to yourself each day for your own goals, you’re going to have to take a step back and reprioritise. Are your resolutions worth enough to you to invest your time in them?
If they are, then something has got to give. If your schedule is overwhelmingly packed, there are ways to take back control.
Kerry Gleeson, founder, author and CEO of the Institute for Business Technology as well as the progenitor of the PEP program, recommends keeping a time log for a few weeks. As you go about your schedule, keep track, on a piece of paper or your phone, the tasks that you do and the time it takes to complete it. Over time, you will be able to observe exactly how your time is being spent and what you can do to make time for yourself.
How much change can you take?
At PEPWorldwide Asia, we often work with clients who understand the need for change but who, because of a variety of reasons, require a certain measure of guidance and a special brand of expertise only we are able to provide to apply those changes. Thus, whether you are a business hoping to be more productive and profitable, or an individual hoping to cultivate healthier life habits, the very act of making a New Year resolution indicates, at the very least, a recognition that there is some room for improvement.
A resolution also means a desire for that improvement to occur. What we now need to pay attention to are the specific changes that must occur for that improvement to happen, and what kind of changes, big or small, you are prepared to take.
If your resolutions require big, drastic changes to your current lifestyle, you have a lower chance of actually succeeding. Research has shown that small, incremental changes that occur over lengthier periods of time are much more likely to succeed. So instead of going to the gym three times a week for two-hour sessions when you’ve not been to the gym in the past couple of years, start by maybe going once a week for a few weeks, and gradually increase it to two and three.
Remember that you actually have a whole year to build up towards achieving your goals.
When should you expect to see results?
When we make resolutions, we often have an ideal picture in our minds of how those resolutions would manifest in our lives. Someone resolving to eat healthier and exercise more might envision a fitter, trimmer body for themselves. Professionals hoping to be more productive at work might be imagining industry awards or meeting their sales targets, maybe even a promotion.
Therefore, be clear and honest with yourself. Do you want a specific change in your life? Or do you want to see a specific result?
The reality is that even if you do make the necessary changes and stick to them for weeks or even months, the ideal result that you imagine might not come to pass immediately, if at all. This isn’t just about making sure that your goals are realistic, it’s about recognising that the ideal results we imagine are often the result of years of persistence and hard work for other people.
So while many people often give themselves achievable goals or realistic targets, they often forget to give themselves a realistic time-frame. They often end up discouraged after a few weeks as a consequence of not seeing their ideal results when in fact they have already changed for the better, even momentarily.
Most New Year resolutions fail. However, at least two in ten people actually continue to pursue their targets after February, and of these people, there are those who do eventually meet their goals.
Why not you?
Gleeson, Kerry. The Personal Efficiency Program How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed and Win Back Control of Your Work! 4th ed., Wiley, 2009.
About the Contributor:
Hidhir Razak is a Master of Arts graduate from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where he specialised in English and Creative Writing. A reader, writer, and researcher by training, his creative works have appeared in numerous anthologies and collections in Singapore while his articles have appeared on The Middle Ground, Yahoo Singapore, and Poetry.sg. Currently the Corporate Relations Manager of PEPWorldwide Asia, Hidhir is an ardent believer of the power of storytelling and its unique ability to bring people and communities together.
Angeline V. Teo is the President and Chief Consultant of PEPWorldwide (Asia) Pte. Ltd. She is also an International Speaker, certified Master PEP Consultant, Executive Coach and Author. Above all, she is a caring Mother of two, a loving Wife, filial Daughter and avid Spa and Vacation addict!