Psychologists agree that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February (that’s this week, if you’re keeping track). And the social fitness network Strava is even more pessimistic: Their research, analyzing more than 31.5 million online global activities, proclaims that the fateful time is a full month earlier than that.
The good news is that you can rethink your resolutions — and beat the odds — in the nick of time. How? Start by asking yourself five critical questions:
1. Do my New Year’s resolutions take past failures into account?
Odds are some of your resolutions are do-overs. You know the ones — the things you didn’t stick with in past years. But here’s the rub: if you’re simply restating those resolutions without truly addressing why they didn’t succeed previously, you’re bound to face the same pitfalls and fail once again.
2. Do my New Year’s resolutions focus on outcomes or actions?
Your end goals are meaningless if you’re not crystal clear on how you’re going to achieve them. For instance, “Lose 15 pounds” is all well and good. But “I will forego fried foods five days a week” is an unambiguous, actionable commitment. The same thing goes for “Be more present” versus “I will silence my smartphone when spending quality time with family, friends, and coworkers.” Or “Get a new job” versus “I will network on LinkedIn for 15 minutes every day.” You get the picture.
3. Are my New Year’s resolutions mere aspirations or concrete priorities?
You’d probably like to achieve all sorts of things. But the rubber meets the road when your resolutions go from half-baked hopes to genuine ‘go big or go home’ commitments. To make your resolutions a priority, put them in writing and program any related tasks into your schedule. You can also ask a trusted friend or colleague to hold you accountable or, in some cases, even seek out a formal mentor or adviser.
4. Do my New Year’s resolutions come from a place of ‘should’ or real desire?
To do anything just because you should is a non-starter. More often than not, the motivation is external in nature, whether a societal pressure or a wish put upon you by others. Set yourself up for success by basing your resolutions on real, internally driven desires. A little fire in the belly can go a long way when it comes to making your best intentions stick.
5. Do my New Year’s resolutions outweigh any risks?
Perhaps some of your resolutions will require more risks than you’re actually willing and able to take. For example, networking within your industry to nail a better job may be discovered by your present employer — an economic gamble that could harm you and your family. On the other hand, foregoing those fried foods five days a week certainly outweighs ‘risking’ your instant gratification to be healthier and live longer. Keep this dynamic in mind to be more realistic about your goals.
So start now to rethink your resolutions. In the nick of time, you can beat the odds — and have a happier and more productive New Year. (And it’s never too late to start.)
Originally published at Elephant Journal.