According to a recent study, 52% of the population make New Year’s Resolutions each year; however, only 12% keep them.
Math Challenge: A classroom of 28 boys and 32 girls takes a math test on a Tuesday. On Thursday, 14 different boys and 17 girls take the same test in that same classroom. Those who took the test on Tuesday scored 9% higher than the Thursday test-takers. But overall, girls scored 3% better than their male counterparts.
Question: If you brought home a 12% on the test, would your parents give you a medal?
If an annual calender date helps you make a commitment to improve your life, go for it. And mean it. Stick to it. But don’t beat yourself up if you fail. Making improvements isn’t about a calendar date; it’s about evaluating your life, identifying the things that need alignment in your life, and planning how you will live moving forward. And that’s not something that should be reserved for a once-a-year happening.
A most important consideration involves self-honesty about what you’re setting out to accomplish. Do you really want to MAKE PROGRESS, or do you intend to MIMIC PROGRESS?
When I was a child, I was told I needed to eat all of the peas on my plate before I could have dessert. I had no desire to make progress by popping peas in my mouth. I did, though, have a desire to create the illusion of progress. I spread the pile of peas across the surface of the plate in hopes of creating white-space, a little smoke-and-mirrors trick my older siblings taught me. To the casual observer, the huge pile of peas seemed to shrink; the actual number of peas on my plate remained constant. I mimicked progress without making progress. (And no, my efforts did not fool my parents. Thirty-five years later, my parents still have that plate of peas in their refrigerator for me to eat, along with a thirty-five year old brownie).
Assuming your behavior change doesn’t involve your own personal pea consumption, maybe these are more in keeping with what you are striving to accomplish:
Weight loss. Making progress involves adjusting your diet and increasing your exercise. Mimicking progress involves fad diets and diet pills.
Kicking a drug addiction. Making progress includes evaluating why you feel the need for drugs, seeking a support group, asking others to hold you accountable, and getting the monkey off your back one day at a time. Mimicking progress includes switching from drugs to alcohol.
Balancing family and work commitments. Making progress means establishing boundaries between the two parts of your life, allowing you to be 100% present when you are with your family but also 100% present when you are on your job. Mimicking progress means less behavior change yet increased guilt about your neglected family when you’re at work and guilt about your neglected work duties when you are at home.
The truth about shortcuts is that they rarely are. They “cut” out essential steps, that part is true. However, just because something nets a short-term gain or loss doesn’t mean the result will last over time. Shortcuts are rarely “short” and they don’t necessarily take us where we want to end up. Sometimes they get us more lost, wasting the precious commodity of our time and perhaps discouraging us from being willing to try and try again.
What’s the one area of your life in which you most want to find increased happiness? Make progress, don’t mimic it. Understand the end result you want to achieve, but first take the time to ask yourself how to make any changes a part of who you are. Otherwise, when next New Year’s comes around, you’ll be making the same old lame resolutions you made this year.