Goal Processing: The Fallacy of the New Year's Resolution

It is May 1. 122 days into 2008. Question: How are you doing on your new year's resolutions? If you are like most people, probably lousy. The reason why is because, by definition, the new year's resolution system is faulty. Most new year's resolutions are about changing behavior and you don't change behavior yearly. You change behavior daily. You just decide right now to do something or to not do something. What most new year's resolutions lack is the specific language necessary to invoke specific, daily behavior change. Of course, even with more specific language you still have to do the work to make the change.

Americans' Top Ten New Year's Resolutions

1. Spend more time with family
2. Start exercising
3. Lose weight
4. Stop smoking
5. Stop drinking
6. Enjoy life more
7. Learn something new
8. Get out of debt
9. Help others
10. Get organized

These are dreams, not goals. And certainly not "resolutions." Here is what they are missing.

1. A specific target (I will lose 10 pounds...).
2. A deadline shorter than a year (in two months...).
3. An action list (by replacing a stop to McDonalds with a stop to Subway, only eating half my meals, starting the day with a healthy breakfast, drinking more water, walking 30-minutes per day, etc...).
4. A compelling reason (because my cholesterol is 30 points too high...).
5. An accountability partner to help (and I will ask my best friend to hold me accountable to my plan).

This is also a great strategy to use with any resolution you set, new year's or otherwise.

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