A note reading "New Year's Resolutions."
Time for some resolutions. Credit: Tim Mossholder / Unsplash Credit: Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

Cultures worldwide celebrate the New Year for diverse reasons deeply rooted in tradition, spirituality, and symbolism. Many view the transition as a symbolic fresh start, an opportunity to leave behind the past and embrace new beginnings. New Year celebrations often align with agricultural cycles, marking seasons or lunar phases. In religious contexts, the new year signifies spiritual renewal, emphasizing reflection and resolutions for personal growth.

One tradition related to new year celebrations that I believe has made it into our workplaces is the creation of resolutions, that is goals and objectives. Regardless of whether we are talking about resolutions, goals or objectives, having them come to fruition is not easy. Why? Well, my take is that behavioural change or personal transformation takes a lot more than just articulating a resolution, goal or objective.

The problem with resolutions, goals or objectives

 There are three things that I feel like contribute to resolutions, goals or objectives not being achieved, that is, not seeing behavioural change: lack of specificity and realistic planning, perfectionism and unrealistic expectations, and lack of intrinsic motivation.

When resolutions, goals and objectives fail to happen when they are too vague or unrealistic. Many people set overly ambitious goals without breaking them down into smaller, achievable steps (objectives). For example, a resolution like “focus on physical and mental health” lacks specificity and a clear plan. Without a realistic roadmap and specific milestones, individuals may become overwhelmed and eventually abandon their resolutions.

“Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.” This quote from Brené Brown, does a beautiful job in illustrating how aiming for perfection can not only lead to frustration and disappointment, but it can be what holds us down, and in my case it can lead to procrastination and making really good excuses for why I haven’t seen movement in a resolution, goal, or objective I’ve set for myself.

Unrealistic expectations happen when folks expect rapid, flawless progress, they may feel discouraged at the first sign of setbacks or challenges. The “all-or-nothing” mindset can be counterproductive, as life is inherently unpredictable, and obstacles are inevitable. This unrealistic approach often results in the abandonment of resolutions, goals, and objectives, rather than adjusting them to accommodate a more gradual and sustainable journey.

Resolutions, goals, and objectives  are more likely to succeed when they align with a person’s values, needs and intrinsic motivations. If they are driven by external pressures or societal expectations rather than genuine personal desires, individuals may struggle to maintain the necessary commitment and enthusiasm. Without a strong internal motivation, the initial burst of energy that comes with the new year may fade quickly, making it challenging to sustain the changes required to achieve the resolution.

Achieving behavioural change

So given the problems with resolutions, goals and objectives, how can folks create these in a manner so that true behavioural change can occur? Here are five considerations.

  1. Set Specific and Achievable Objectives:
  • Define clear, measurable, and realistic objectives for the behavior you want to change. Break down a goal (like elevate my physical and mental health)  into smaller, manageable steps. Specific objectives (manageable steps)  provide clarity and make it easier to track progress, increasing the likelihood of success.
  1. Create a Plan and Establish Routine:
  • Develop a well-thought-out plan for implementing the desired behavioral changes. Identify potential obstacles and strategize ways to overcome them. Establishing a routine helps integrate the new behavior into your daily life, making it more likely to become a habit over time.
  1. Build a Support System:
  • Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, colleagues or like-minded individuals who can encourage and motivate you. Sharing your resolutions, goals, and objectives with others creates accountability and provides a source of positive reinforcement. Having people who understand your journey can offer valuable insights and encouragement during challenging times.
  1. Focus on Intrinsic Motivation:
  • Connect the behavioral change to your personal values and life purpose. Understand the reasons behind the change and how it aligns with your deeper motivations. Intrinsic motivation, driven by personal satisfaction and fulfillment, tends to be more sustainable than external motivators.
  1. Celebrate Small Wins and Practice Self-Compassion:
  • Acknowledge and celebrate the small successes along the way. Recognizing progress, no matter how minor, reinforces positive behavior and boosts confidence. Additionally, practice self-compassion by being understanding and forgiving of setbacks. Treat yourself with kindness and view setbacks as opportunities to learn and adjust your approach rather than as failures.

Remember that when it comes to resolutions, goals, and objectives although they might be “easier said than done”, behavioral change is the key. It is a process that takes time and effort. Being patient with yourself, staying focused and adapting your strategies as needed will increase your chances of long-term success.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Ghandi

Jodi Rai

Jodi is a People & Culture + HR Consultant, Coach, and Trainer on a mission to create a world where humanity is prioritized in workplaces and their communities. She has reimagined the traditionally...