Trying to steer clear of 'resolution failure'

At Random

Another year has passed and a new 12 months awaits us. This time of year, many people participate in making New Years Resolutions, a tradition dating back centuries.

Many people make resolutions and, according to several studies, they often deal with the following:

•Improve well-being: lose weight, exercise more, eat better, drink less alcohol, quit smoking, stop biting nails, etc.;

•Improve finances: get out of debt, save money and so on;

•Improve career: get a better job, socialize with co-workers, butter up the boss, etc.;

•Improve education: improve grades, get a better education, learn something new (such as a foreign language or music), study often and so forth;

•Improve self: become more organized, reduce stress, be less grumpy, manage time, be more independent, make more friends, etc.

•Taking a trip; or

•Volunteer to help others, use civic virtue, and give to charity.

Recent research shows that while 52 percent of participants in a resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12 percent actually achieved them. A separate study in 2007 by Richard Wisemen from the University of Bristol showed that 78 percent of those who set New Year resolutions fail.

Men achieved their goal 22 percent more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying “lose weight”), while women succeeded 10 percent more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.

I admit that I have made New Year’s resolutions in the past and have become part of those pathetic statistics. I’m usually all fired up come January but my motivation seems to fizzle out as the novelty of the new year fades.

So this year I have decided to improve my chances of success, and now that I’m equipped with the knowledge of these studies, I think I’m in a better position than January of 2011.  See, last year, I had lofty goals and I failed at most of them that dealt with personal well-being. Eating less sweets, smoking less and being less disorganized involves a lot of hard work — labor I am apparently not cut out for.

But when it came to “outer” goals concerning my job and finances, I fared much better. I had the “improve career” milestone checked off in a mere three weeks after making the annual personal promises when I started working for the Times. I’ve decided to give myself a break on that front this year. I paid off a credit card last year and I’m feeling rather great about that, so maybe I can give myself some slack in that arena as well. 2011 was a tough year packed with the stresses of moving, starting a new job, saving more and spending less and in general being good to myself.

With that in mind, in 2012, I have decided to focus on the self. And thus, I have resolved: to improve  my self by drinking and sleeping more so I’m less grumpy; improve my education by reaching all levels on the new video game I was given for Christmas; improve my well being by taking a trip somewhere and finally using some of that paid time off I’ve earned from my sweet new job. I also resolve to be on Facebook more often, keeping in touch with families and friends and improving my relationships. I made this public by posting it on my Facebook page, thus improving my chances of success by 10 percent.

I don’t know, I’m thinking I might just have two consecutive years of meeting at least some of my New Year’s resolutions. Using these techniques, perhaps we can all make those statistics look a little rosier. Here’s to 2012.