Merrily Orsini's Thought Leadership

So…How Are Those Resolutions Working Out For You?

We’ve turned the page, and for many, it was quite a welcome relief, considering the twists and turns of 2016. As we smooth our hands over that crisp, new calendar page – or more realistically, swipe our thumbs to push that last electronic page of 2016 to the side, we’re faced with a decision: to resolve, or not to resolve?

The discouragement of failed attempts at resolutions past can serve as enough of a detriment to even attempt yet another. Are we really going to stick to that new diet/improved exercise regimen/bad habit abstinence? Statistically, it’s unlikely. In fact as few as 8% of us actually achieve our objectives, according to research from the University of Scranton.

But should we allow the odds to dissuade us from striving for self-improvement? Or is there perhaps a better way to point yourself squarely in the direction you’d like to go – and keep going?

I’m a firm believer in small steps. Watching my grandchildren take their tentative first ones recently served to remind me of the inherent determination we’re each born with. Those tiny, chubby, wobbly legs may make it only a matter of inches before they give out, but even after a hefty plop onto their bottom, little hands are instantly pushing back up, little feet once again attempting their delicate balancing act, and they’re on their way again – even if for only another few inches.

But inch by inch, painstaking as it may be, toddlers do reach their intended destinations. So why do we, as older adults, find it so easy to give up? And how do we rediscover the perseverance and persistence to instead stay on track?

First, it’s important to make sure your resolution – or the goal you hope to achieve – is within reasonable expectations. Someone whose only exercise over the past 10 years has been getting up to put new batteries in the TV remote probably shouldn’t resolve to run a marathon in the next 3 months. In the business world, we call them SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. Perhaps in this example, a SMART goal would instead be to walk for 10 minutes, three times a week, for four weeks.

Once that first small step has been taken and that first small goal achieved, celebrate your success. And then set a new SMART goal. Repeat each month, and before you know it, you’ve done the unimaginable: joined that elite 8% who actually set goals and reach them.