Resolution or Goal?

HAPPY NEW YEAR! What is the first thing that comes to mind when you enter into a new year?  Making New Year’s resolutions? Did you make a new year’s resolution for 2017? 

If you did, according to, you are among 45% of Americans who set New Year’s resolutions in 2015. Of those 45% who set resolutions, 8% were successful at actually achieving their resolution. Of those 8%, only 75% maintained their resolution through the first week, the result of a phenomenon called the New Year’s Effect. Something about the start of a new year gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between December 31 and January 1. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31st.

The objective of a New Years’ Resolution is to make some changes in your life. Resolutions made at New Years are promises to improve your life; a way to make changes in the current way of living and attempt to live a better and fuller life. A resolution requires making a long-term commitment to change and requires putting even more effort to maintaining it. Many people end up setting goals instead of resolutions, which they still break.

Goals and resolutions often go hand-in-hand as setting goals eventually help to maintain your resolution. A goal is a desired result you wish to achieve - a target you want to reach. It is an end-point of where you see yourself after a certain period of time. Make short-term and attainable goals to help maintain the overall resolution. A resolution indicates a determined resolve to achieve a goal.

Different goal strategies will help you achieve your goals. Here are some examples of how to bundle your goals.

Bundling is the idea of tying together two activities--a method for simultaneously tackling two different goals or one goal and one activity. You can tie two goal activities together such as listening to an educational podcast while exercising. Or you can tie a goal you should do but may avoid with an activity you love to do but is not necessary. For example, allow yourself to watch TV ONLY if you exercise during commercials. Bundling consists of several types-but I will focus on temptation bundling and complementary bundling.

 Temptation Bundling involves combining a guilty pleasure with a necessary task. What activities do you really love but distract from what you should be doing?  These guilty pleasures can be applied to the concept of temptation bundling. Social media may be one of your guilty pleasures or one of the habits you need to limit or stop in order to achieve you goals. If you love spending time on social media, allow yourself to indulge only after you have completed an important goal oriented task. For instance, allow yourself 15 minutes of social media for every half hour of studying or doing chores. Set a 15 minute timer on your phone before using social media.

The second bundling strategy is complementary bundling, which means the two activities complement each other like peanut butter and jelly. Peanut butter and jelly are two items more enjoyable together than they would be separately. One complementary bundling example is watching your favorite TV show or listening to your favorite music only while exercising at home or the gym. You might enjoy your workout more while enjoying your TV show or music more when you do them together.

 Both bundling techniques involve strategies to help you achieve your goals.

A different strategy is the Start/Stop Goal Concept. Instead of creating a goal around a habit you want to break, focus on a goal to help you start a new habit. For example, create a goal to get in the habit of eating healthy. As you research healthy foods, try out new recipes and feel the positive effects of eating healthier, the habit of eating healthy will replace or crowd out your desire to eat junk food.

Another strategy is the Fresh Start Goal Concept. Just like the New Years’ Effect, you can take advantage of the “fresh start effect” throughout the year. If this is the thought process at the beginning of a new year, then there should be lots of other cycles that show patterns such as Fresh Starts that happen at the beginning of a new week, new month, holidays and birthdays. These calendar landmarks regulate the passage of time, creating many new mental accounting periods, which transfer past imperfections to a previous period, compel people to take a big-picture view of their lives, and thus motivate aspirational behaviors.

Google analytics’ data over an eight-year period for searches such as diet had most hits on the fresh start days.  Gym attendance increases on the same calendar benchmarks. This demarcation of time is when you feel your past is behind you and a new you is ahead.

Excuses often distract you from your goals such as, “I don’t have time” or “I don’t have willpower.” Successfully achieving your goals depends on adopting habits that allow you to achieve your goals or stopping habits that prevent you from achieving your goals. One habit to adopt may be rising earlier in the morning. This will give you more time to achieve your goals. One habit to stop is the amount of time spent on social media (Facebook, Instagram, browsing).

Willpower is not enough so you need accountability. Creating a positive habit requires self-control, and self-control is often in short supply. Fortunately, there are many tools to help you acquire new habits. I call them habit hacks. Some people call these tools “commitment devices.” Set reminders on your phone, tell someone your goals or get an accountability partner and take advantage of fresh start dates. Do not rely on mere willpower, sometimes it just is not enough.

Scrap the excuses using the goal strategies so you can achieve your resolution. Start now with who you are and where you are. It is never too late to begin according to the Chinese Proverb: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.