Why your coworkers have already dropped their New Year resolutions… and why you won’t

By now, only a third of your friends and colleagues are still on track with their New Year resolutions.

Calvin New Year resolutions small

According to a survey conducted recently by University of Scranton, and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 1.1.2014, New Year resolutions statistics are quite dismal. Every year, it is the same routine: make them on the 1st of January, drop them by the 10th. Next to no one keeps them. Many of us think about them, at least. Some try once or twice, a week, maybe a few. A more determined bunch will genuinely apply themselves until “something comes up” and gets in the way. Then, life takes over. Only a few will do what they resolved to. What’s different about them? Let see.

News Years Resolution Statistics  – Getting started                                      Data       * My Interpretation *

  • Americans who absolutely never make New Year’s Resolutions                 38%        Lost already
  • Americans who usually make New Year’s Resolutions                                  45%       Willing, often unequipped
  • Americans who infrequently make New Year’s Resolutions                        17%        Trying, likely unprepared

News Years Resolution Statistics  – Keeping at it     Data       * My Interpretation *

  • Resolution maintained through first week            75%        Talked without meaning it
  • Past two weeks                                                      71%        Tried, but stopped when it got hard; it always does
  • Past one month                                                     64%        Tried, but didn’t know how to adopt new habits
  • Past six months                                                  46%        Likely finished the year

News Years Resolution Statistics  – Getting the results                                Data       * My Interpretation *

  • Percent who never succeed and fail on their resolution each year             24%        Unsuccessful
  • People who have infrequent success (among those who tried)                  49%        Mostly failing
  • People who are successful in achieving their resolution                     8%          Reliably successful

Source: University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 1.1.2014

First, let me ask you: if you had to make a huge leap aside to avoid a car, would you? If you had to work an all-nighter to save your job, would you? You answered yes and yes. If you hadn’t, you would not be here today. So, we are good, at doing things for an immediate benefit. Now, let me ask you: Did you save 20% of your income, year over year, since you started working? Chances are, your answer was no; yet you know that this is what you will need as you are getting older and cannot work anymore. We all know we need to save. Yes, most of us don’t. So, we are good at doing things for an immediate benefit, much less at working towards a long term benefit; it seems harder, for some reason.

And you know what is even harder than working for a long-term benefit? Working for no benefit at all. Isn’t that normal? Why work for no reason? It feels like self-preservation. So we don’t do it. We preserve ourselves from the effort… but from the result mostly.

This is why most of your friends and colleagues have already dropped their New Year resolutions.

There needs to be a clear benefit, for us. It may be immediate, or in the future, maybe far in the future. It may even be uncertain. But it must be there, clearly. And it must be vividly present in our mind, even more so if its realization is in the future. Yet, most of us have no real benefit in mind to motive ourselves. Now, there are not a hundred different types of motivators; I see five:

  • Inner passion is what drives you when you truly love what you do, so just doing it is its own immediate gratification. You do it now, because it is fun, now.
  • Strong beliefs work very much like inner passion, except the immediate gratification is the certainty and pride that you are doing the right thing. For instance, as a Salvation Army volunteer, you may not enjoy wielding a bell all day long in front of crowds that mostly ignore you, but you are likely inspired by the fact that you are helping the needy in a tangible way. You do it now, because it is good, now.
  • Compelling goal is what drives you when, for instance, you want a degree, so you can get a job as a software engineer and quit the backroom of McDonald’s because you’re not lovin’ it, at all, there. You also know that if you do not do it now, it will get harder. The immediate gratification might be mix of the frustration of still being there, the sense of relief that this is coming to an end, and the sense of joy that life is about to get better. You do it, because what you’re doing today is painful and you want it to has to stop. A little of pain now, for a lot less pain, or a lot more pleasure later.
  • Inspiring vision is what drives you when you want to change the world, or the way people order their pizzas. You have suffered the pain before. You know there is a need. You talked to people about it. They agree. You already see yourself on the cover of Time magazine for it. You do it, because the image you have of it.
  • External pressure is what drives you through fear of the future, peer pressure or emulation: You have a gun on your head or any negative stimulant of the kind, or all your friends are launching their own startup and you want to belong. You do it because people, things or events around you compel you to follow a course of action.

There are amazing people on this Earth. You know some. People with a burning passion, people with strong beliefs that defy the established order, like Martin Luther King, people with clear goals and energy to achieve them, and people with inspiring visions you want to join. But many people have none of it: little passion, weak beliefs, vague goals, and rarely a vision at all. That does not add up to much: little reason to strive. That leaves only external pressure. And they wonder why their employer drives their life… External pressure is simply doing what internal drive was not.

This is why another 10% of your friends and co-workers will drop their New Year resolutions by next week.

Please come back soon, and take our survey about what drives you.

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