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Why we should all ditch our New Year’s Resolutions

Everyone makes them but not many people keep them. So why do New Year’s Resolutions continue to be so popular? This executive coach thinks they should become a thing of the past.

Are New Year’s resolutions made to be broken? In 2015, Bupa in the UK surveyed more than 2,000 people and discovered that 56 per cent of the respondents failed to keep their resolutions. The most popular reasons for their lack of success were losing motivation or commitment to achieving their goal.

This finding is supported by a US study reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, which found that around half of resolution makers give up within six months. Even more discouraging is the fact that only 8 per cent were still succeeding 12 months later.

Let’s step aside and look at the most popular subjects for these annual promises to ourselves. Again, these results come from a US study, but there’s no reason to think that Australians would differ much in this respect.

Number one in the failed promises stakes should come as no surprise – it’s to lose weight or eat a healthier diet. Number two relates to life improvements and self-improvements, followed closely by making better financial decisions at number three.

As this is a business and career focussed spot, we’ll skip four to ten which, for the curious, relate to family, friends, love, health, study and good deeds.

At number eleven we come to “Find a better job”.

Across the general population, surprisingly few resolutions relate to work and career choices – I’ll bet that if you’re reading this, you’re one of a group that would be much more likely to include work-oriented topics. But there’s no reason to think that the success rate would be any different.

So, what does all this tell us? It suggests that for most people, making resolutions is a waste of time. And or many, it’s actually worse. The self-recriminations and disappointment of not being able to keep a resolution can negatively affect motivation and the desire to achieve life goals.

However, I’m not suggesting that you, or anyone, gives up on wanting to improve themselves or their career position. I’m simply saying that New Year’s Resolutions are a demonstrably unreliable way of doing it.

Behavioural change requires planning, a strategy and structure – as well as time and consideration of a whole range of factors. It also depends what you want to achieve, be it to increase leadership skills, productivity or overall happiness. Executive coaching can help you to identify these goals, as well as provide analysis and feedback on current problem behaviour.

For many, coaching can be the catalyst to give you the knowledge and strategies to drive your life in the direction you’d like it to go. It offers you the tools of:

  • Discovery – exploring and mapping your current situation and goals
  • Detangling – a range of strategies that you could employ to achieve them
  • Strategy – a personalised plan of selected strategies for you to implement

Melinda Fell is Director of Melinda Fell Consulting, an executive coaching, leadership and development, and executive search and selection consultancy.

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