In an oft-referenced survey, researchers at the University of Scranton stated that just eight percent of adults in the United States keep their New Year’s resolutions. The survey was published in 2013 but still maintains prominence in articles written to discourage people from making resolutions. The articles, with headlines like “Why New Year’s Resolutions Are Bad For You”, “New Year’s Resolutions Are The Worst” and “Resolve To Make Zero New Year’s Resolutions This Year”, reference the eight percent — often as a deterrent — with a reminder that although one might make resolutions, “what’s the point if you are not going to follow through anyway?”
Perhaps those who write about the topic are simply put off by the act of goal setting. Or, more plausibly, it might be that a contrarian stance on the issue is what will get the highest number of readers. This increases the publication’s bottom line, helping them in the race to attract advertisers to the site.
Even after recognizing and setting aside the contrarian nature of such articles, the statistic still stands —well researched and peer reviewed.
This might raise questions about the purpose of setting goals at all. But another study provides some insight.
This study, published by the Dominican University of California, found that those eight percent who achieved their goals did so by following a specific formula.
The steps below do not guarantee inclusion in the eight percent of successful resolution-setters, but it can serve as a guide map for setting and following resolutions.
Step One — Commit to Action: Instead of just writing down a goal, the person setting the goal must also commit to an action. This might include filling out a survey to guide the individual, adding tangible action commitments, or providing a “how-to” for the goal being set. This is when the commitment is made, typically on paper, to achieve the goal.
Step Two — Accountability to Peers: The goal setter reaches out to a roommate, family member, friend or other trusted individual to let them know about the goals being set. The individual setting the goal gives a printed and digital copy of their commitment to this trusted individual, thereby making the goal setter more accountable.
Step Three — Continual Updates: The goal setter updates the friend or family member at least weekly, keeping them focused on steps one and two above, and increasing overall likelihood of achieving their goals.
It is the start of a new semester and a new year. It’s never too late to set resolutions or goals, and it’s never too late to become accountable to oneself and to a trusted friend on the progress toward that goal. The hot-takes and counterpoints written every year about goals are a sorry attempt to dissuade people from improving themselves and their surroundings. So ignore the contrarians, set the goals, follow the aforementioned steps, and become one of the eight percent!