So, how are those New Year’s resolutions working out for you?

If you’ve already thrown in the towel, you aren’t alone. A study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. And it makes no difference whether your resolutions were health-related, personal, professional, educational or financial.

So what was is the magic secret of the 12% of “resolution-keepers?” Experts contend the reasons are varied, but these tips will provide the 88% of “resolution abandoners” a better chance.

  1. Thoughtful, Deliberate and Simple: Resolutions are the result of thoughtful personal reflection, and an express desire and intention to make change. They represent a vision or aspiration. Keep them simple: Making excessive or complicated resolutions can dilute your focus, and thus your chances for success. Why not limit it to three? After all, a resolution is a wish, and there seems to be precedent for the “three-wish” limit. Keep them specific but overarching, to allow plenty of paths to success. For example, you might resolve to: 1) improve health; 2) improve financial security; and 3) improve your fundraising skills (a worthy resolution for any year, I say…).
  2. Break it Down and Strategize: This is where many of us lose our resolve, and our resolutions remain just wishes, or dreams. Unless you have a genie in a bottle granting your wishes, you will need to plan a strategy. Break it down into a series of strategic actions that will deliver the change or desired outcome. For your first resolution, you might include these actions: 1) Walk, jog, or run for 30 minutes, 3 times a week; 2) refrain from sugary caffeinated soft drinks; and 3) Quit smoking.  Just keep them realistic. If one of your strategies is to “run a marathon” to improve your health, and you are not already a distance runner, it’s not likely to be a very realistic strategy. Don’t set yourself up for that.
  3. Commit It To Writing: As the saying goes, “a written goal is half achieved.” Yet most people don’t bother to write down their goals; a big mistake and yet another path to resolution failure! Writing your resolutions down reinforces your commitment and intention, motivating  you to take strategic action. Regular review will help you overcome any resistance or waffling. For example, if one of your financial security goals was to save 20% of your income for retirement, reviewing the importance of this strategy might help avoid any compromising, such as “20% works every month, except during the holidays when I need that extra cash.”
  4. Remain Optimistic: Remind yourself of your desire to keep these resolutions, and don’t stop believing that you can succeed. Celebrate any benchmarks (e.g., you ran for 30 minutes this week, as opposed to walking). If you experience a temporary setback or “moment of weakness,” try not to beat yourself up. Instead, stay strong and positive. Keep trying. The path to success sometimes includes many failures. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, learn from your mistakes and re-commit yourself.
  5. The Value of Self-Awareness: If you are aware that you are not a naturally optimistic person, staying optimistic will require additional effort. Be ready for that, and for the possibility of heightened stress. If you know of places or people that might impede your progress, avoid them. For example, if you are trying to quit smoking, and seeing others smoke triggers you, you are better off to stay away from your smoking friends for awhile, yes?
  6. Find a Supportive Ally. Share your resolutions, and the importance of them, with at least one trusted friend or confidante. This “resolution-buddy” is someone you can check-in with, which increases your chances of success. Pick someone who has achieved what you aspire to (a buddy who has already quit smoking, understands the nuances of finance, or has taken advanced courses in Fundraising).

But what if you are still having trouble keeping your resolutions? What if you are making the same resolutions year-after-year and repeatedly failing? What other options are available to you? Would having a coach help?!

When All Else Fails: Call in the Big Guns. Coaches are available for a wide variety of purposes and circumstances. To achieve fitness goals, you might consider engaging a personal trainer and/or nutritionist. To help master a new subject, you might hire a tutor. For work/life balance issues, you may benefit from an Executive Coach, who can help you achieve other professional and/or personal goals.

Executive Coaching is a remarkably powerful tool designed to improve performance. Coaches help their clients to clarify personal and/or professional vision and goals, and the actions needed to achieve them. Participants typically experience improved performance, better decision-making ability, and increased likelihood that they will adopt and maintain new and healthier behaviors. While the coaching relationship is in no way to be construed as therapy, it has been shown to be an effective method of promoting growth and changing behavior. Your coach provides feedback and challenges you to overcome obstacles, to achieve success. 

Although resolutions can be made (or broken) at any time of year, employing the tips above can dramatically increase your chances of making enduring, positive changes.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you’d like to learn more about the benefits of Executive Coaching.

Finlay Consulting Services is a New York City-based fundraising and philanthropy consulting practice specializing in Strategic Fundraising and Grant-Making, Executive Leadership Coaching, Board Engagement, Board Governance, Board Diversity, Planned Giving Programs, Donor Communications, Capacity Building Forums, Retreats, and Interim Development Leadership Engagements.