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Why New Years Resolutions fail and how strategic planning can help

AUTHOR: Chelsea Frank
DATE: 26 January 2024

As the calendar flips to January and we draw near to the month's end, many of us find ourselves caught up in the tradition of making New Year's resolutions. It's an age-old practice, fueled by the desire for self-improvement and the promise of a fresh start. Yet, despite our best intentions, research shows that the majority of resolutions fall by the wayside within a few weeks. So, why do so many of our well-intentioned goals end in disappointment? And more importantly, how can we break this cycle of failure?

Why do New Year's resolutions often fail to stick? One common issue is the lack of specificity. We set vague goals like "More gym time in 202x" or "get in shape," without a clear plan of action. Without concrete steps to follow, it's easy to lose motivation and momentum.

Another challenge is unrealistic expectations. We set lofty goals without considering the time, effort, and resources required to achieve them. When we inevitably fall short of these unrealistic standards, we feel discouraged and may give up altogether.

Additionally, many resolutions focus on outcomes rather than behaviors. We fixate on the end result, like reaching a certain weight or earning a promotion, without considering the daily habits and actions needed to get there. As a result, we struggle to make meaningful progress.

How can we set ourselves up  for success and avoid the pitfalls of traditional resolutions? The answer lies in strategic planning. Rather than relying on sheer willpower or vague aspirations, strategic planning provides a roadmap for achieving our goals.

At its core, strategic planning involves setting clear, achievable objectives and outlining the steps needed to reach them. It's about breaking down big goals into smaller, actionable tasks, and creating a timeline to track progress along the way. The Erickson Coaching International team have set up a few downloadables and printables to help you stay organised this year. These can be found in our resource centre. 

One key aspect of strategic planning is setting SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. By applying these criteria, we ensure that our goals are well-defined and within reach. For example, instead of saying "get in shape," a SMART goal might be "run a 5K race in six months."

Another essential component of strategic planning is identifying potential obstacles and developing strategies to overcome them. By anticipating challenges in advance, we can proactively address them and stay on course towards our objectives.

Strategic planning encourages accountability and reflection. By regularly reviewing our progress and adjusting our plans as needed, we can stay focused and motivated, even when faced with setbacks.

How can you apply strategic planning to your own goals and aspirations? Start by taking a step back and reflecting on what you truly want to achieve. Then, break down your goals into smaller, manageable tasks, and create a timeline for completing them.

Next, identify any potential obstacles or barriers that may stand in your way. Whether it's lack of time, resources, or support, brainstorm strategies for overcoming these challenges and staying on track.

Finally, don't forget to celebrate your progress along the way. Each small victory brings you one step closer to your ultimate goal, so take the time to acknowledge and appreciate your achievements.

While New Year's resolutions may be a time-honored tradition, they often fall short of delivering lasting change. By planning, we can set ourselves up for success and turn our aspirations into reality.