The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, so wrote Scottish poet Robert Burns.
As the year draws to a close, this is the time where new year’s resolutions are generally made.
In your life, how many New Year’s resolutions have you made?
What percentage of the time did you succeed in making them a reality?
If your best laid plans for 2022 were not met, don’t be disheartened. Most people can attest to the fact that making resolutions is far easier than keeping them.
Psychologist John Norcross discovered that less than 10% of resolutions are actually achieved.
In the same Norcross study, 23% of people abandon their resolution after one week. Only 19% of people are able to stick to it.
So, what’s the solution to this?
So, why do New Year’s resolutions usually fail by February? Before you start making your best-laid plans for the new year, let’s examine why New Year resolutions don’t work.
Here are 6 reasons why you might still fall flat on your face:
Successful resolutions equate to established habits. Every success in life is the result of a habit.
Making new habits or modifying old ones is at the heart of most New Year’s resolutions. According to the author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, a new habit takes two to eight months to develop.
So, to break an undesired habit, you must replace it with a good habit that performs the same function. If you are trying to resist eating a doughnut for breakfast, start your day with a healthy meal instead.
Your best laid plan will not materialize if they are not aligned with your mindset. A mindset is a set of beliefs that influence how you perceive the world and yourself.
It has an impact on how you think, feel, and act in any situation.
According to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, your brain will rewire itself when you change your thinking patterns. When you make a change in your thinking, it will create a change in your behaviors and actions.
Your new way of thinking will create new neural pathways. This, in turn, creates the habitual behaviors that spark the desired changes.
You have to be ready to change your life if your habit changes are going to stick. When your heart is not ready for it, pledging to go on a diet won’t help you get in shape.
Changing for the better is rarely an easy task. It takes a significant investment of time, effort, and emotion.
For you to experience change, you must comprehend the 3 elements of behavioral change:
i) The Readiness to Change – are you ready to make a long-term change?
ii) The Factors Resisting Change – is there anything holding you back from making a change?
iii) The Probability of Setback – what can cause you to revert to your old habits?
Social scientists have an explanation for why we fail to keep our resolutions. Psychologists Janet Polivy and Peter Herman called it the “false hope syndrome.”
In their journal article, ‘The False-Hope Syndrome: Unfulfilled Expectations of Self-Change,’ they quoted that:
“When unreasonable expectations for self-change are not met, people are likely to feel frustrated and despondent, and to give up trying to change…”
Unrealistic expectations can crush any lofty goals you may have. As a result, despair, disillusionment, and a sense of failure set in.
A New Year’s resolution is often made to be short-term, specific and time-bound. If you are unable to achieve these goals within a stipulated time, you will get discouraged and give up.
Rather than setting these short-term goals and focusing on them, first ask yourself:
“What is the process that might bring me to this goal?”
Instead of focusing on the goal, concentrate on the process. According to the author of Atomic Habits, James Clear:
“New goals don’t deliver new results. New lifestyles do. And a lifestyle is a process, not an outcome. For this reason, all of your energy should go into building better habits, not chasing better results.”
Trying to make too many major changes in your life is usually a formula for disaster.
If you are always in your den all day watching TV, the mere thought of running a marathon may seem daunting. The objectives appear to be too lofty, and you won’t have a clue where to begin.
It’s critical to maintain your objectives grounded in reality. Breaking down your goals into micro goals will make them more effective.
The most difficult part of accomplishing anything is getting started. And small goals make that easier. So, begin your marathon training by going for a 20-minute walk every morning.
Now that you have an idea of why New Year’s resolutions don’t work, here’s how you solve this…
Nobody would devote a significant amount of time to formulating and writing out plans that are not going to work. What if the key to making big life changes isn’t found in a New Year’s resolution?
Perhaps you have been looking at this the wrong way. Keep in mind that this is not a race to the finish line.
Thus, it is possible that your goals might extend beyond the lifespan of a New Year’s resolution.
Let’s figure out how to create a plan that will help to enhance your life and how to get there. Here are two proven strategies for your best-laid plans:
New Year’s resolutions are about setting goals and working toward them so that you get better in life. Having goals is like climbing a mountain with the dream of reaching the peak.
With a system, you’re a diligent climber who enjoys the process of ascending the mountain one step at a time.
So, how is a system different from a goal?
Scott Adams, the author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big offers a simple explanation:
“If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.”
Goals are objectives you wish to reach. They keep you focused on the future because they give you a sign of where you want to go.
Systems help you stay present in the moment. They’re the methods and techniques you’ll use to get there.
Adams warns against the flaws of goals:
“… losing ten pounds is a goal (that most people can’t maintain), whereas learning to eat right is a system that substitutes knowledge for willpower.”
When you have your system in place, you can almost eliminate the need for self-motivation. And all your best-laid plans will likely come to fruition.
So, what is the secret to generating a successful system?
According to Adams, “A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run.”
Adams has already provided us with a hint on how to create an effective system. When he mentioned “regular basis,” he is telling you that consistency is the key to success.
When you do something on a regular basis, you are forming habits out of your consistent behaviors.
A system is a series of habits that guides you toward your desired outcome. If your desire is to lose 50 pounds to get in shape, your system is a specific meal plan to lose weight.
When you create a system, you have a set of actions that is easy to duplicate. With a system, learning a new language may hinge on repeating two new foreign phrases a day.
What makes systems so effective is its consistency. It helps you create habitual behaviors that get ingrained in you. You can building a system in 3 easy steps:
Deciding on what you want is the key to attaining anything. This sounds simple. But it isn’t.
One way to figure out what you want to accomplish is to think about what ignites your passion. Passion is when you pursue something you love while also contributing to a greater cause.
When pondering “what do I want to accomplish,” you can also think about what gives you a sense of purpose.
Put it in writing. This helps you to clarify your thoughts and gives you a stronger ability to focus on your wants.
Some habits can start chain reactions and have the power to transform your life. These are keystone habits. In his book, The power of Habit, Charles Duhigg defined them as:
“Small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.”
One good example of a keystone habit, as described in Duhigg’s book, is exercise:
“When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work.”
You must continue to improve your system in order for it to remain effective. As a result, you must continue to make changes as needed.
Assess your development on a regular basis. This ensures that your system is efficient. And that you remain focused.
Have a buddy who will hold you accountable and who you will need to report your progress to. Knowing that you are accountable provides you with the desire to keep on track.
When you are being monitored by others, you’re more likely to follow through on a commitment.
Most plans don’t stick because it clashes with your values and internal view of self. Positive affirmations that you do not believe in would not work either.
In the long run it may even be harmful to your self-esteem and can be demoralizing.
One way to make your best-laid plans effective is to build it around a personal mission statement. This may take days (or weeks) to complete, depending on how determined you are to come up with one.
A personal mission statement is a proclamation of who you are. It is a sign of what you believe in, what you stand for and what you intend to do in the world.
Think of it as a compass that keeps you focused on achieving your objectives.
A New Year’s resolution provides you a myopic picture of your actions over the next 12 months. It might work for two weeks before they vanish into obscurity.
But your personal mission statement is a deliberate call to action. It encourages you to think about your purpose.
So how do you begin creating a personal mission statement?
In Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s classic text on living a fulfilled life – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – placed the second of the seven habits as “Begin with the End in Mind.”
Habit 2 is about creating a reality which begins in your mind because all things are created twice. The initial creation is mental, and it starts with a thought.
The physical manifestation, often known as the result or end product, is the second stage.
If you are unable to envision what you want in life, you will be in a “life by default” position. This is where you go along with the crowd and live a mediocre life.
Habit 2 begins with a personal mission statement. Covey suggests that you visualize attending a funeral (your own). And observe what your family, friends, colleagues, other attendees say of you.
The reason is because you need to begin with the end in mind so that you can plan your personal mission statement.
Yes. That End. The very End. Of your life.
Beginning at the end helps you to gain a better understanding of where you are now. And the steps you need to take to get you to the direction you are heading.
You create your mission statement based on your personal, moral, and ethical values.
Most people are too immersed in the busy-ness of life. They are too busy chasing larger wages, greater social status and material possessions.
This immersion with the ‘chase’ keeps us too busy to notice what matters in our lives. A personal mission statement will keep your life in check and align you with what matters to you in your life.
Take the first step toward a fulfilling life of liberty and happiness this New Year. Instead of writing a New Year’s resolution, develop your personal mission statement.
This is the most effective method for putting together your best-laid plans. Combine this with your success system. It would definitely will keep you focused on your goals for a significant duration.
The two strategies that bring you closer to your desired outcome are:
Your personal mission statement has the power to direct your thoughts and actions every day. Thus, it will definitely last longer than the set, tried, and even forgotten New Year’s resolutions.
Systems are everyday habits that assist you in improving or progressing in the direction you desire. They may not have a defined outcome or goal. But they help you to move forward in the direction of your dreams and aspirations.
Now, combine your personal mission statement with the system you have developed. You will discover that you will be able to fulfil your goals with ease.
Year after year.