About half of US adults make new year’s resolutions, yet only 8% are successful in achieving them. Mechanics such as specificity, clarity, and reasonableness of the goal are usually blamed for failure (e.g., “losing weight” isn’t specific enough or “getting a 50% pay raise” is unrealistic). And while mechanics do play a role, a lot of success also rides on mindset.
Research shows that most goals center around self-improvement – health, finances, career – all worthwhile pursuits, but only if you fully accept yourself first. If the quest for change stems from comparing yourself to others or trying to live up to someone else’s ideals, chances are you’ll be in the 92% who fail to attain their new year’s resolution. You’ll also feel miserable.
Another common barrier to success is the need for instant gratification and the expectation that your problems will disappear as a result of achieving your goal. Change is rarely linear, often slow, and not always rewarded externally, which is why come mid-February, the lines at the gym are long gone (just over 60% are still cranking after one month).
While a shift in mindset seems relatively simple as compared to countless hours of cardio to drop a size or relentless coupon clipping to pay off debt, it’s surprisingly more difficult than most anticipate. After years of constant repetition, our brains are hard wired to trust what we’ve always believed to be true, even if those beliefs no longer serve us. For example:
We can be let down time after time, but still grasp to expectations and hope that next time will be different.
We can fuel our motivation to achieve a goal by hating a trait about ourselves, only to find that when we reach the destination, the disdain still exists.
We throw all of our progress away after one slip up, forgetting that mistakes are lessons and setbacks are a key part of the change process.
We tell ourselves life will be better when…, but “when” seems to always be just beyond reach.
We unconsciously cling to old habits without realizing they’re actually sabotaging our efforts.
So whether your goal this year is to pursue a new career, to finally get those graduate school applications completed, or simply to recover from a tough 2016, take a moment to see how revamping your mindset can help you achieve success. Remember, life changes when your mind changes.