Did you set any New Year's resolutions this year ? How about other life, career or fitness goals ? Did you vow that this time was going to be different ?
A 2014 study by the University of Scranton found that somewhere between 45% and 62% of adults set New Year’s Resolutions, and although 75% will last the first week, only 46% will still be going strong by the end of June.
Regardless of whether individuals set significant life, career or business goals, or simply resolve to lose weight and get fit, they do so for a reason - a reason that really matters to them. So why, if these reasons are so important, do 25% of people give up within the first week ?
One view is that many people start well and make positive changes for a few days, but then the ‘Real World’ kicks in and they have a bad day. Whilst most see this for what it is - just one bad day - and carry on with their new goals on the next day, some people see this as a sign that they will never be able to make a lasting change, and so they simply give up on their new goal.
In his excellent book ‘The Slight Edge’, one of the principles that Jeff Olson argues is that it is the small decisions and actions that we take on a daily basis that compound over time to put us on either a positive or negative track. The problem we face is that whilst the difference in effort between making the small positive change and sticking with the small negative habit is only minor, it is still easier to stay on the negative track. Olson also believes that there is no such thing as standing still - we are either moving positively forward, or negatively downward. Doing nothing is a negative action.
So what does this mean for anyone working towards a goal or resolution ? I would argue that if we see each day as an opportunity to take a positive or negative step towards our goals, then looking at the bigger picture will help us to see that one bad day today doesn’t stop us from making long-term positive change - so long as we return to positive actions tomorrow.
The greatest potential for positive change comes from ‘sticking to the plan’ and making positive changes every single day. However, the good news is that having a couple of bad days during a month in which we are largely taking positive actions still leads to an overwhelmingly positive outcome when compared to simply giving up after that first bad day....