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New Year’s Resolutions Help Even If You Don’t Keep Them

This article was written by in Personal Development. 14 comments.


As the year draws to a close, I plan to take some time to evaluate the progression of my life, including my finances, against my goals and resolutions for 2011. I reached some goals while missing others. There are many reasons people don’t keep new year’s resolutions, and I’m not any different.

In one recent survey, only 15 percent of those who made resolutions have kept them. Other studies have presented even more startling numbers, claiming a resolution success rate of only 8 percent. I even found one researcher claiming only 3 percent of resolutions survive the first month of the year. The statistics get even worse for people who follow self-help advice promising to improve resolution-keeping through visualization (for example, hanging a pair of jeans you’d like to fit on your door or keeping a photograph of a vacation spot you’d like to afford on your dresser) or through sheer willpower.

Furthermore, only about half of all Americans even bother to make new year’s resolutions. Given the negative media surrounding failure, with a word like “doomed” making prominent appearances, that makes sense. Why spend the time thinking about how to improve your life if chances are good you’ll fail?

Beating the odds and succeeding at keeping your new year’s resolutions comes down to setting the right goals from the beginning, focusing on fewer aspects of your life, and not using the new year as a one-night stand for resolutions. The failure rate doesn’t concern me, though; I’m more concerned with the half of the population that doesn’t take the time to look at how they can improve their lives and the world around them. It’s unacceptable to me that the fear of failure is preventing people from thinking about the future.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” according to a popular translation of Socrates. A tortured philosopher’s nearly-final words from the textbooks of history are relevant today. (According to Plato, Socrates’ last words were, “Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt?” Those words could inspire a different discussion about personal finances.) The end of one year and the start of another is a convenient time to self-reflect. Did you live your life according to your values and pursue the things that inspire you? Is the world a better place after 365 days?

These questions go beyond goals and resolutions, but they can inspire both as well as a renewed dedication to living your life a certain way in the new year and beyond. Set some goals and resolutions, not just the typical positive changes like paying off debt, losing weight, and quitting smoking, but others that are tied more to who you are. That might even include some goals that can’t be measured. That goes against typical goal-setting advice, but with new year’s resolutions, it doesn’t have to be a matter of reaching your goal or failing. Just the process of thinking — and if you’re so inclined, writing down — your thoughts about the ideal “you” can improve your life and the lives of those around you.

The root of making resolutions that stick is looking deep into your own life to determine who you are at your core, and if that person is approaching the person you’d like to be. No resolution can be successful, or for that success to matter, without being that meaningful. The end of one year and the start of the next is a good time to begin this process, but don’t set self-reflection aside for just the one day.

Published or updated December 23, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar wylerassociate ♦162 (Cent)

good post flexo. My new year’s resolutions are similar to many others: losing weight, getting out of debt, investing more. It gets harder to keep those resolutions and promises you make to yourself to change.

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avatar qixx ♦1,890 (Half-Dollar)

The hatd part of keeping these resolutions is a lack of plan and tracking. If you way 1 pound less at any time during the year then you’ve accomplished “lose weight”. Since most people do not create a plan for their goals and don’t track them they don’t know if they accomplish them. I bet more people meet their resolutions than know they do.

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avatar Anonymous

I think this is the awesome thing about blogging: you have your 2011 goals documented for you (and all of us) to look back on and see how you did! For me personally, I feel like 2011 was the first time in my life that I truly woke up to my possibilities, stopped worrying and started doing and moving forward. As Walter White says with conviction on Breaking Bad, “I am AWAKE.” 2011 began the path of change for me, 2012 is about staying on course and developing my writing, creative and business pursuits!

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

Agreed. Writing down your goals then evaluating actual progress against those goals is the best way to achieve what you’re working toward. Your blog is very inspriational and I’ve learned so much about all things financial, even though I work in the industry. Your blog is often the first place I learn about breaking financial news. Congrats on accomplishing so much this year, Flexo. I look forward to a very educational and inspriational 2012!

BTW – I’m trying to make my resolutions reasonable this year; 1) establish a workout routine that I can stick to; 2) do all that I can to max out 401(k) contributions, and finally; 3) make time to take a meaningful vacation with my spouse and kids.

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avatar TakeitEZ ♦549 (Dime)

I have three goals..

1) Improve physical health
2) Increase quality family time
3) Change of career

I will be starting a journal to keep track of these goals as well as creating small steps in each one to assist me in realistically achieving these goals.

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avatar qixx ♦1,890 (Half-Dollar)

One suggestion for your journal. Be more descriptive in writing these goals including descriptions. ie What does “quality family time” mean to you and the goal. Does it have to be more time or will just an increase of quality over the same amount of time work.

Good job on planning a journal for tracking,

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avatar Little House

I seem to make resolutions that produce partial progress throughout the year. This year, I’m trying to make them more reasonable so that I can increase that progress to at least 80%!

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avatar krantcents

Holding yourself accountable for your resolutions or goals helps make you successful. First, you need to write down your resolutions to make them real, then set up a plan to accomplish them. Last, hold yourself accountable and monitor your progress. Adjust your effort and you are more than likely to achieve more results.

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avatar Ceecee ♦53 (Newbie)

I think I’ll try to do smaller resolutions this year. Those broad and grandiose ones are too hard to measure and to stick with. If I say “eat healthier,” it seems hard to manage. If I resolve to switch to only brown rice, that seems easy.

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avatar Steven J Fromm

Not sure about resolutions but taking a fearless moral inventory seems to be something that should be visited quite often. Also, one’s gratitude list would seem to be something to resolve to do more frequently. Finally, with a recent death to a family member, looking at one’s life trying to find the ultimate purpose of our existence seems to be worth thinking about.

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avatar Maggie@SquarePennies

Flexo, this is so true. They say that those who eventually quit smoking for good had to try and fail quite a few times first. It’s essential to keep trying!

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avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

I do make New Year’s resolutions and usually carry through with some of them. Last year I resolved to be less negative and feel that I really got a handle on that. But each year I say I will be healthier and end the year in the same place I started. This year I will follow through with that because I am going to set one small goal for myself. To exercise for ten minutes a day and then expand on that. I am also going to get a new job and I have a plan of action for that. But if I never try then I will never succeed.

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avatar Financial God

Happy New Year, Flexo! In my view, it is the journey that is important and the progress that we make along the way. Aiming for 100% and hitting 85% is much, much better than aiming for 25% and hitting 25%.

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avatar Anonymous

I lost well over a $1000 dollars in fees dealing with BOA! I knew this class action suit would happen one day as I stated to a manager at a BOA location in Chicago. Although I won’t ever get my money back I lost in the scam that targeted people such as myself; I’m just glad it’s hitting Bank of America in their pockets like they did mine!

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