Are You Part of the Top 8%? 5 Tips to Create 3 Successful Resolutions for the Year

By Patrick Thean

dateTue, Jan 14, 2014 @ 09:30 AM

“It’s a new year, that means a blank slate, a new beginning! Last year is behind me and this year is ahead of me.” Jack tells me exuberantly.

I asked, “And that means… ?”

Jack continues, “And that means that I get to decide what I will do differently.” Jack continues to share with me his resolutions for the new year. And there were 8, a balance of business and personal improvements. 

  1. The most successful CEOs have a strong morning ritual. I am going to get up 90 minutes earlier and get into the following routine:
    • 10 minutes to pray and meditate
    • 10 minutes to consider and prioritize my day
    • 40 minutes to exercise and shower
    • 30 minutes to have breakfast and leave for the office
  2. Anger is dead. I am not going to get angry and yell at people.
  3. Stop giving my team answers. Start listening and asking questions.
  4. Think like an outside investor and allow my team to manage the company.
  5. Work on myself. Get more self aware. Spend 1 hour every week to reflect and learn from the week that just ended.
  6. Eat better, and coupled with the exercise I will do every morning, lose 20 pounds this year.
  7. Attend my children’s events.
  8. Be a more attentive husband. Listen to my wife for at least 30 minutes a day.
  9. Buy a new iPad. (Just kidding!)Gazelles Systems blog - 3 Successful New Years Resolutions

He said the 9th one to make me laugh as he knows what an Apple fan boy I am.   The question is … how likely is Jack to succeed? Let’s start with some facts from research. My daughter, Joy, said to me “I googled it… so it must be true!”  So, I googled for some facts and here’s what I found:

  •'s_resolution:  Success Rate = 12% (Failure rate = 88%)
    • "A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail,[7] despite the fact that 52% of the study's participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying 'lose weight'), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.[8] Quoting Frank Ra (author of the new year's resolution book 'A course in happiness' [9]): 'Resolutions are more sustainable when shared, both in terms of with whom you share the benefits of your resolution, and with whom you share the path of maintaining your resolution. Peer-support makes a difference in success rate with new year's resolutions.' It is also noted that talking with a counselor about setting goals and new year resolutions can help you keep those resolutions.”
    • There are lots of good stats on this page. Here are a couple that I would like to highlight:
    • % of Americans who usually make New Year’s resolutions = 45%
    • % of people who are successful in achieving their resolution = 8% (wow - worse than Wikipedia’s data!)
    • % people in their 20s who achieve their resolutions = 34%
    • % people in their 50s+ who achieve their resolutions = 14%

Based on these statistics, Jack has a high probability of not maintaining his resolutions for the year. Ironically, except for #9 (the fake one). He can go out right now and buy that iPad and be done!   Here’s what I coached Jack to consider when setting his resolutions for the year:  

1. Are you writing aspirations to inspire yourself or goals to achieve? 

Both aspirations and goals are great. What’s not great is mistaking an aspiration for a goal, then getting discouraged when you fail. For example: “Anger is dead. I am not going to get angry and yell at people.” If that is an aspiration, that’s good. But if it’s a goal, then there is a good chance that Jack will get angry at least once during the year and feel discouraged that he failed to not be angry. Instead of writing “Anger is dead.” consider writing the actual action or change in behavior you would like to achieve. For example, “Pause and stop escalating discussions when I feel anger beginning to build."  

2. Are these goals or behavior changes? 

A goal would be “Lose 20 pounds.” A behavior change would be “Wake up 90 minutes earlier every day and exercise for 30-40 minutes.” If you lost 20 pounds without waking up to exercise, would that still be a successful resolution? Decide if you want a goal or a behavior change. Often times, it does take behavioral change to achieve a goal. And if you achieved an improvement or change in behavior but fell short of the goal, did you achieve your resolution for the year? Get clear. Clarity is the precursor to being focused.  

3. Is 8 too many? Are you asking yourself to make too many changes? 

Change is hard. Often times change does not happen until the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing. We are creatures of habit held back by inertia. Less is more. Stop at 3.   Seventy-five percent of people can’t maintain their resolutions past the first week of the year. That means 25% of you reading this blog have already failed with your resolutions! That’s ok. Let’s de-suck ourselves early in the year and get successful!  Sixty-four percent only last one month. And only 8% to 12% actually succeed. Now that we are starting the second week of the year, it’s time to take a second crack at this and write resolutions that will truly make a difference for you this year. Here are some tips and ideas to consider as you re-consider and write resolutions that will put you at the head of the class - the 8% to 12% that maintain your resolutions for the full year, and maybe even beyond the year.  

5 Tips to Create 3 Successful Resolutions  

1. What. What do you really want? 

Do you want to create a new habit, set a goal, or work towards an aspiration? Begin with the end in mind. Get clear on what you want.  

2. What can 3 do for you? 

There is only so much change that one can achieve successfully. The more resolutions you have, the higher your probability of failing. Less is more. Choose and be successful with 3. 

3. Red-Yellow-Green for clarity and success. 

Understand upfront what success looks like. Use Red-Yellow-Green success criteria. Let me demonstrate with Jack’s new morning ritual habit.

  • Green = Success that is achievable. Jack could say “Green is to do the routine 4 days out of 7 every week.”
  • Red = Failure. At this level, Jack will be disappointed. Red could be “2 days a week or less.”
  • Yellow = between Red and Green. In this case, it's “3 days a week.”
  • SuperGreen = Stretch Goal. This would be as good as it gets. When asked, Jack replied “6 days a week. I can take a break once a week from this routine.”

Red-Yellow-Green helped Jack gain clarity on what he could really do with this behavior change. He has now set himself up for success.  

4. Consider a question to consider.

Often times the right question leads us to the right answers. Questions also help you to be open and curious. Consider taking ONE question, wrestle with it, play with it and think on it for the year. Some ideas for you to consider as questions:

  • How do I double my capabilities?
  • What is the single most important thing for our company to focus on this year, and how do I stay focused on it?
  • What’s in my blindspot that I can’t see, and as a leader I must discover and overcome it to reach my full potential? (Note: You probably don’t know or can’t see your blindspot, that’s why it’s called a blindspot. And you might even violently disagree with the kind and courageous person who might be willing to take the risk to share with you what he or she thinks your blindspot might be.)

5. What’s your Rhythm? 

How regularly and frequently should you visit with your resolutions and take stock of your progress? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? I would suggest weekly, as it gives you enough time to see how you are doing, and it also gives you 50 opportunities for the rest of the year to learn make adjustments to maintain or achieve your resolutions.  

6. Dashboard it! 

I know I said 5 Tips. Five was Green, six is SuperGreen! This 6th tip is for the crazy ones - the extreme guys and gals who really really want this. Do you really really want this? If you do, then join the crazy ones. Put your resolutions on a dashboard, display it publicly. Allow transparency and others to keep you accountable to doing your resolutions. After all, it's not the writing of resolutions that gives you success. Rather, it's the doing of resolutions that gives you success!  

The best is yet to be. I wish you all a successful, wonderful and awesome 2014. Thank you for reading my blog. Write back. Let me know if this helps you to kick off a great year!


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Patrick Thean


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images