The Shocking Truth About New Year’s Resolutions

How To Become Wealthy

You’ve read too many articles on this topic.

You’ve had too many discussions around it.

You are probably thinking: “Let’s just get on with life and somehow life will kind of sort itself out” .

Well, if you are thinking along those lines, I’m not surprised. Statistically, according to Clinical Psychology research conducted by the University of Scranton, approximately 55% of society doesn’t bother with New Year’s resolutions.

Why?

Well, in my opinion it isn’t rocket science because statistics also suggest that a pathetic 8% of people that set resolutions at the beginning of each year, actually succeed.

As a result, we now face this shocking truth: 92% of society possibly considers themselves as failures. Consequently, they have given up on even attempting to try again.

But the reality is this: if you are serious about making a success of your life, setting resolutions is not optional.

Let’s back track a bit and gain some perspective. The word “resolution” comes from the word “resolve”.

Wikipedia defines “resolve” as follows:

  • Settle firmly or find a solution to (a problem or contentious matter)
  • Decide firmly on a course of action
  • A firm determination to do something

From this definition, it is quite clear that resolutions are not meant to be easy. If they were, you would not see adjectives such as “firm” and “determination”.

So the natural remedy to failed resolutions is to reflect, take charge of your procrastination and come up with some solutions that will help you achieve resolutions that you’ve put on hold for a while.

New Year's Resolutions

In this article I am going to do exactly that.

In doing so, I am going to highlight:

  • 8 key reasons why most people don’t achieve their resolutions
  • Solutions that can assist you to pro-actively prevent the failure

For emphasis and clarity, I am going to use the example of a resolution I took in 2009 to complete at least one Comrades Marathon.

8 key reasons 92% of society fails to achieve their New Year’s resolutions:

1. Our goals are too self-centred

The operative word is “too”. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to develop yourself into a better person. But New Year’s resolutions that are completely self-serving and scream “me, me, me and me” won’t stand the test of time.

Solutions:

  • Develop a purpose statement as a foundation for your resolutions. A purpose is nothing more than resolving to “solve as many problems as possible”. If you look at the definition of “resolve” you will find the words “find a solution” in the description given by Wikipedia
  • Become a problem solver by identifying and using your gifts and talents

Note the “your” in the last four words of the previous sentence. It is only natural that when you flourish, the “you” will shine. However, the “you” is not the focus. The focus is others.

In 2007, I developed the following purpose statement:

Share knowledge with motivated individuals on the power of living a life of abundance. In doing so, I endeavour to create awareness and provide a wealth of solutions on achieving ultimate life balance in our mental, physical, spiritual and social/emotional make-up

Over the years, I have tweaked it a bit. Currently, it reads as follows:

Share knowledge with motivated individuals on the power of living a life that is centred around loving GOD and loving His people. In doing so, I endavour to create awareness around living a life of abundance by providing a wealth of solutions on achieving ultimate life balance in our spiritual, mental, physical, relational and financial make-up

EVERYTHING that I do, and I mean everything, is based on this purpose statement. Every decision I take is tested against this purpose statement.

My decision to complete the Comrades Marathon was an extension of my purpose statement.

2. We are too casual

It is fascinating that we spend more time planning our weekends, leave and holidays than we do planning the success of our lives.

The attitude towards our resolutions needs to change.

After all, you are CEO of your life right?

Well, I know I am. As such, I have resolved to approach my life as a CEO – with resolve, purpose and direction.

As a result, my New Year’s resolutions are not drafted on the 5th of January, after the year has started. My resolutions are not a quick splash of a few meaningless sentences that took me all of 10 minutes to draft.

here’s nothing casual about my approach to resolutions and the amount of dedication I put into drafting them.

Why?

Because I have “decided on a course of action plan for my life” (remember this from the Wikipedia definition above?).

Solutions:

  • Start thinking about your New Year’s resolutions from late November the previous year
  • Use your purpose statement as a foundation
  • Dedicate some time, one or two  full days in December, to thinking long and hard about your plans for the next year

One or two full days spent on thinking about the following 365 days of your life is invaluable.

3. We want immediate gratification

The results from the resolutions you make, often take a while to materialize.  Whilst on the other hand, the obstacles that stop you from achieving the resolutions yield immediate gratification.

It took two and half years, from January 2009 to May 2011, for me to successfully complete my first Comrades Marathon. During that time, I had to battle the obstacles of late night parties, junk food and alcohol – just to name a few.

It was much easier to go partying on a Friday night and have fun (immediate gratification) than it was to wake up at 5am on a Saturday morning and go for a 10km run in preparation for Comrades Marathon (long-term gratification).

It was much easier to chill with friends, have whiskey and get nice and tipsy (immediate gratification) than it was to stay alcohol free so I could train for Comrades (long-term gratification).

It was much easier to eat pizzas, burgers and pudding (immediate gratification) than it was to change my diet and start eating food that would help me stay fit when training for Comrades (long-term gratification)

Do you get my drift?

I had reached a point where I was tired of being the 92% that fails. I had reached a point where I was tired of unproductive self-talk like: “I know what I need to do, but I’ll do it later”.

To deal with my procrastination, I simply had to adopt a long-term view to my resolutions.

Solutions:

  • Set resolutions that will benefit you over the long term

4. We don’t live fully in the present

One of the biggest challenges you will encounter is balancing your long term resolutions with leading a fulfilled life in the now.

How on earth do you keep yourself motivated over the many months or even years whilst you wait for your resolutions to yield results?

How on earth did I keep myself motivated everyday whilst I waited for that defining moment in my life when I crossed the finish line at the 2011 Comrades Marathon?

Solutions:

  • Break your long term goals into medium and short term goals
  • List benefits of your resolutions
  • Visualize the benefits every time you feel frustrated or want to give up
  • Celebrate short term achievements

The ultimate resolution was completing Comrades. To get there required a progressive training plan:

  • Starting with walks (short term)
  • Running on the treadmill for 5 minutes (short term)
  • Running shorter 5km and 10km runs (short term)
  • Running half marathons (medium term)
  • Running marathons (medium to long term)
  • Running ultra-marathons (long term)

After all the above short and medium term achievements, eventually I was ready to participate in the Comrades.

From the above, I listed a number of potential benefits. I made sure to add the “why” to my benefits.

Here are a few of those:

  • Weight loss so I can look good and feel confident
  • Eradication of asthma (a disease that had kept me hostage for over 2 decades) so I can get healthier
  • Mental fitness so I can make better decisions regarding my life
  • Increased self-esteem so I can pursue my life goals with confidence
  • Self-discipline so I can achieve my life goals more effectively and efficiently
  • Get healthier so I can live longer and enjoy the rewards of my hard work in life
  • Self-confidence so I can relate to people better and believe in myself

There are a few things to highlight.

Firstly, do you see how the shorter goals allowed me to live fully in the “now”? I didn’t have to wait for two and half years to get fulfillment.

As an example, the weight loss was almost immediate. It took me 2 weeks of short runs to start losing a kilo here and there.

Secondly, do you see how the potential benefits (what I wanted to achieve) empowered my resolution? Not only did I leave the resolution at the “what”, I included the “why”. In fact, it has often been said that the “why” is more important than the “what”. Yet, so many of our resolutions lack a “why”.

I could have easily listed my benefits as weight loss, eradication of asthma, mental fitness, etc. But, I went on to add the why because the “why” is the fuel I would need on days when I felt tired or frustrated.

Ultimately, if you follow this process correctly, you’ll start to see a pattern develop. You’ll begin to trace a number of trends. As you proceed to join the dots, you’ll be amazed at how your life purpose will begin to stare you in the face.

In conclusion, I want to encourage you to celebrate your short and medium term achievements.

I made sure that I celebrated all my milestones – however small they were.

Every kilo lost was a reason to celebrate. Every weekend spent alcohol-free was a reason to celebrate. I began to celebrate my mental sharpness, clarity of thoughts and progressive positive change in my life.

Ultimately, every week and every month, I would find a reason to celebrate my achievements.

It is vital to live a fulfilled life in the present. Don’t wait for the ultimate goal to manifest before you celebrate. Adopt an approach that actively seeks to find ways to celebrate and appreciate the small things and small achievements in your life.

It will do you a world of good.

5. We love being busy and popular

The craze of social media has the potential of setting you on a meaningless path. We have become social media groupies that are driven by how many “friends”, “likes”, “comments” and “followers” we can get.

I found the following post by Tyrese Gibson (a celebrity with a whopping 22 million followers) very appropriate:

Identity

Clearly, despite the 22 million followers, he realizes the importance of distinguishing between what is authentic and fake. He also realizes the false sense of power popularity and social media can have on our lives.

There’s nothing wrong with having a social space where you can interact with people, share ideas, learn, have some fun and celebrate.

But there is a huge problem when that space becomes your basis of validation.

If you use social media as your platform for validation, you will become very busy, popular but unproductive! Eventually you’ll even lose your identity.

You’ll come across so many ideas and “opportunities” – careers and or business. You will begin to chase all these opportunities and find yourself losing track of your own resolutions.

Ultimately, you’ll become frustrated and confused with this hectic, yet unproductive life.

Solutions:

  • Prioritize your resolutions
  • Keep it simple: you don’t have to achieve all your resolutions in one year
  • Go for opportunities if they are in line with your Purpose (do you now see the value of spending time on your purpose statement?
  • Use social media with perspective

You may have 15 goals over a 10 year period. Set resolutions that will assist you to achieve one or two of those goals per year.

I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve realized that “less is more”. The less activities and resolutions you have over a 12 month period, the better placed you are to focus and achieve more.

Don’t be fooled by “busyness”. It doesn’t always equate to productivity.

6. Every day life gets in the way

So you’ve set your resolutions. You are ready to rock n roll in the new year. And then bam, every day life happens.

You get distracted:

  • Just as you were on your way to gym, your best friend invites you for drinks
  • Just as you start to alcohol detox, you get to a braai and they offer you the most exclusive whiskey
  • You’ve resolved to spend more time with your spouse, but some crazy reason the work just seems to keep piling
  • You’ve decided to quit smoking, but the smoke breaks at work are going no where fast
  • In the 2nd week of January, two weeks into your “save money” resolution, your group of friends find a holiday special at a 60% discount
  • You’ve decided to study this year, but your favourite and addictive tv programme is going now where
  • You want to eventually quit your job and start your business but the bills just keep slapping you back into your comfort zone

Does the above sound familiar?

You start to get frustrated. It begins to feel like there just isn’t enough time. And before you know it, the year has ended and you’ve achieved nothing.

In fact, Statistic Brain published the following statistics:

New Years Resolution

Isn’t it fascinating that some people don’t get through the first week?

By the end of the first half of the year, more than half the people have dropped their resolutions.

Given the above statistics, I’m going to spend a bit of time on the solutions because it is obvious that the everyday distractions of life are a very tricky aspect to deal with.

The reality is that you don’t set resolutions in a vacuum. Just because you’ve decided to get serious about life does not mean life’s distractions will stop.

Solutions:

  • Distinguish between important and urgent activities and then live your life according to important activities
  • Break your resolutions down to daily activities. If you can’t fit your resolutions into daily activities, you won’t achieve them
  • Schedule your week in advance, according to importance and not urgency
  • Find an activity that allows you to reflect at least 4 times a week. If you can reflect every day, great!
  • List and regularly visualize the benefits of your resolutions so you can transcend from “feel good” mode to “commitment” mode

To overcome the distractions of life requires a pro-active strategy.

There’s just too much happening in modern day society for you to succeed without a pro-active strategy.

This cliché is perhaps the best analogy: if you don’t make time for your health (important activity), you will have to make time for the doctor when you are sick (urgent activity).

The same is true for your spirituality, finances and relationships. If you don’t make time for important activities in your daily, weekly and monthly activities, they will one day force you to give them your urgent attention. Often times, when you are forced to do something, that activity is already into “burn out fire” or “urgency” mode.

The thing about urgent activities is this: they keep you very busy. You end spending so much time and energy just to burn out a fire you could have avoided. That’s half the story though. Although burning out a fire gives results, the results are no where close to the results you would have yielded had you avoided the fire in the first place.

Let’s go back to the health analysis.

If you dedicate 30 minutes per day towards exercise and try to eat healthy food as much as possible, you’ll avoid:

  • Unnecessary medical bills
  • Taking sick leave regularly
  • Overly sleeping because you are fatigued
  • Taking poor decisions because you are mentally unfit

Now, imagine the chaos of visiting the doctor regularly, sick leave, unnecessary over-sleeping and poor decisions. Combine all of those over a lengthy period of time and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you will get into trouble at some point.

And yet, that chaos can be avoided with a mere 30 minutes of physical activity per day.

The above example is only on one aspect of your life: health.

You can use the above example and apply it to your spirituality, relationships and finances.

Imagine how a mere 30 minute budgeting exercise per month can save you a life time of financial frustration.

Ultimately, you need to realize that the cumulative “burn out fire” effects are massive.

They will drain you. They will frustrate you. Eventually they will squeeze every ounce of energy that fuels your resolutions.

Do you now see the value of shifting from “urgency” to “importance” mode?

Resolutions require commitment. But it isn’t easy because the day-to-day distractions have a “feel good”, immediate gratification power over your life. That’s why it is so important to list and regularly visualize the benefits of your resolutions.

I can’t begin to list the benefits of completing the Comrades Marathon. Yes, it wasn’t easy but I always knew deep inside that the benefits out-weighed the “feel good” daily distractions by far!

I suggest you adopt a similar attitude.

7. We are private about goals that we fear most

There’s a bit of irony in this. Whilst seeking validation from others, especially through social media, is not healthy, keeping your resolutions private is also unhealthy.

When you set out to achieve a goal, it is so much easier to back track when you have no one asking:

  • how is the progress on your running?
  • how is that new business launch going?
  • how is the studying going?

Solutions:

  • Go public with your resolutions
  • Involve the necessary role players

Sharing is power. You don’t have to share all your resolutions with everyone.

Some of the very delicate resolutions you will share with people close to you whom you trust. Others you will be free to share with everyone – family, friends and ‘friends’ on social media.

In some instances, it’s wise to shut the heck up when it comes to the details of your progress. Some of those intricacies are for your consumption alone.

“But I fear public failure” you might say.

Fair enough. You might have the fear of failing publicly. I’ll deal with the issue of failure in the next point. But, it’s suffice to say, I’m comfortable with telling ten people and have nine laugh when I fail and have that 1 that will encourage me continuously until I eventually succeed.

What’s better?

Keeping completely hush and never succeeding? Or going public and have one person out ten contribute to the complete turnaround in your life?

Apart from having accountability, sharing allows you to involve the necessary role players.

The resolutions you set are yours. But, can I kindly remind you that from the onset I highlighted that one of the reasons we don’t achieve our resolutions is that “our goals are too self-centred”. Involving others gets you resources (be it monetary, ideas from others’ input, etc) you could not possibly amass on your own.

Tap into the power of involving others and you’ll be incredibly surprised at the mileage you can get in achieving your resolutions.

When I set out to complete my first Comrades Marathon, my family, friends and entire social media community knew about my resolution and goal. I splashed it out for all to see.

Naturally, I was met with some resistance, especially because I was asthmatic. Some nay-sayers thought: “yeah, whatever dude!”

However, there were those like my dad, younger sister and best friend who supported me from day one in more ways than one. In addition, I managed to join a running club and needless to say I have never looked backwards.

That type of support is priceless!

Share and involve others. After all, your ultimate objective is that of solving problems. Involving others enables you to solve problems more effectively.

8. We have limited perspective on failure

If your resolutions are solid, they will be tested!

Solid? Let me expand on that briefly.

The very first thing I highlighted was purpose. I mentioned that shallow, self-serving, “me, me, me and me” resolutions will not stand the test of time.

Failure is bound to make you reflect on the motives behind your resolutions.

Moving on though – now that we’ve established that 92% of people fail to achieve their resolutions each year, how about we attempt to twist things a bit.

Is failure really failure based on one year of your life? My immediate answer to this is a resounding “no”.

I have resolutions that I am yet to achieve. Some are 2 years old whilst others are as old as 5 years.

For me, failure is temporary. I consider nothing as failure until I give up.

Solutions:

  • Anticipate and expect challenges
  • Reduce the “what the hell effect”
  • Carry your resolutions over from one year to the next
  • Compete against yourself
  • Re-assess your resolutions against your purpose

I’ve already mentioned that to me, failure is temporary. This is an attitude I’ve always maintained and continue to maintain.

To do this though, I’ve got a few things that I do to manage my failure.

The first is that I anticipate and expect challenges. No resolution is easy. If it was easy, the success rate would not be as dismal as 8%.

For me, expecting challenges enables me to assess them and learn from them. That way, I am able to deal with challenges and temporary failures. Dealing with your challenges is important because it reduces the “what the hell effect”.

Have you ever experienced that “what the hell” moment? That moment when you feel so defeated you actually stop giving a damn. If you have, you’ll know how frustrating it is.

Another smart way of dealing with your failure is to simply carry your resolutions over into the next year.

So what if I haven’t achieved one my resolutions in 2014. I’ll give it a bash in 2015. With some reflection, assessment and thought, I am going to attempt to achieve my goal. This time though, with a different approach. That’s the important thing. The goal can remain the same, but the approach has to be different.

I have also found that setting resolutions should be about achieving your purpose as best as you can. And the best way to do this is to compete against YOU. Forget what everyone else is doing. Yes – learn from others. Yes – share your goals with others. But, stop competing with others.

Competing against myself is probably one of the greatest teachings I’ve taken from the Comrades Marathon.

On race day, you need to focus on your race. You might feel like a bit of an idiot when an overweight athlete passes you with ease. But the reality is this: you don’t know how much training that athlete has got in that body. You don’t know how much mileage that athlete has in those legs. You don’t what supplements that athlete is on and most importantly, you don’t know whether that athlete will even finish the race.

Competing with an athlete simply because they don’t look like they are fit to pass you is just a recipe for disaster.

Sadly, I’ve seen too many people compete with others for no reason whatsoever. In fact, it’s one of the silliest things you can do – compete with someone who is often not even aware that you are competing with them.

Focus on your purpose! It’s one of the best ways to deal with temporary failure.

Ultimately, temporary failure should take you back to your purpose. Temporary failure is an opportunity for you to re-assess your resolution against your purpose. Perhaps there’s a mis-alignment. And, yes, sometimes there are goals and resolutions that actually need to be dropped. Completely so. Never to be revisited again.

In conclusion, the Comrades Marathon is a gruelling experience. The training and the actual race day are incredibly challenging. In fact, the event is dubbed “The Ultimate Human Race” for a very good reason.

I have participated in it three times and successfully completed it on each occasion. It has taught me so much about setting and achieving resolutions. Many (if not all) of the solutions I have provided in this article are principles. In other words, they will apply in any situation.

Quick recap:

  • Obstacle 1: Self-centred goals
    • Solutions:
      • Develop a purpose and a purpose statement
      • Become a problem solver by identifying and using your gifts and talents
  • Obstacle 2Casual Approach
    • Solutions:
      • Start thinking about your New Year’s resolutions from late November the previous year
      • Use your purpose statement as a foundation
      • Dedicate one or two days in December to thinking about your plans for following year
  • Obstacle 3: Seeking immediate gratification
    • Solution:
      • Set resolutions that will benefit you over the long term
  • Obstacle 4: Not living fully in the present
    • Solutions:
      • Break your long term goals into medium and short term goals
      • List benefits of your resolutions
      • Visualize the benefits every time you feel frustrated or want to give up
      • Celebrate short term achievements
  • Obstacle 5: Busyness and false popularity
    • Solutions:
      • Prioritize your resolutions
      • Keep it simple: you don’t have to achieve all your resolutions in one year
      • Go for opportunities if they are in line with your Purpose (do you now see the value of spending time on your purpose statement?
      • Use social media with perspective
  • Obstacle 6: Distractions of every day life 
    • Solutions:
      • Distinguish between important and urgent activities and then live your life according to important activities
      • Break your resolutions down to daily activities. If you can’t fit your resolutions into daily activities, you won’t achieve them
      • Schedule your week in advance, according to importance and not urgency
      • Find an activity that allows you to reflect at least 4 times a week.
      • List and regularly visualize the benefits of your resolutions so you can transcend from “feel good” mode to “commitment” mode
  • Obstacle 7: Keeping your goals private
    • Solutions:
      • Go public with your resolutions
      • Involve the necessary role players
  • Obstacle 8: Limited perspective on failure
    • Solutions:
      • Anticipate and expect challenges
      • Reduce the “what the hell effect”
      • Carry your resolutions over from one year to the next
      • Compete against yourself
      • Re-assess your resolutions against your purpose

I really hope you will apply them. I wish you all of the very best for 2015 and every other year as you set out to “Run A Fulfilling Life Race”.

God Bless!

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