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Why "New Month Resolutions" Are Better than New Year's Resolutions

By Dr. Stephen Kraus, Success Scientist

Nearly half of Americans make New Year's resolutions, but only about 15% are able to keep them over the long-term. In other words, about 85% break their resolutions, with as many as 20% breaking them in the first week!

Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to be more successful in keeping your resolution and making life changes is this: don't make New Year's resolutions - make New Month resolutions instead.

Let's face it: If you only take stock of where are and where you want to go in life once a year, then you're probably not going to end up where you want to be. If you set goals and start self-improvement efforts only once a year, you'll forget them. You'll lose focus. You'll get distracted by the hassles of day-to-day life. You'll get overwhelmed by the magnitude of your goals.

Perhaps most importantly, you'll set goals so far in the future that they won't be motivating. And that's why it's better to set New Month resolutions instead of New Year's resolutions.

There's nothing wrong with the idea of a New Year resolution; after all, people have been making them for over 4,000 years. The problem is that people don't make them often enough.

Imagine how much more people would achieve if the end of every month brought about the same feelings as New Year's Eve: that renewed commitment to fitness and weight loss, the excitement about their goals and their future, that urge to get organized and get focused. The New Year brings about the feeling of a "fresh start," and that can have very real effects; for example, research shows that people are more likely to recover from depression if they have that sense of a fresh start.

Perhaps the biggest reason to set New Month resolutions is that short-term goals have repeatedly been shown to lead to more motivation, better performance and greater happiness than long-term goals. Consider this sampling of findings"

  • As the deadline for a particular goal looms, people think more about that goal and experience a burst of productivity. Even rats work harder as they approach their "goals"! We call it the "imminence effect," and setting monthly goals uses this effect to your advantage.

  • Children struggling in math asked to set near-term goals not only outperform those asked to set more distant goals, they also develop a heightened sense of personal control, confidence, determination, and even (gasp!) an interest in math that wasn't there before.

  • Among adults, near-term goals lead to more weight loss than distant goals, and those who do lose weight setting distant goals do so only because they "improvise more near-term goals as well.

  • Those who are most satisfied with life are those working toward enjoyable, moderately challenging goals of high short-term importance. Those consistently focused on very long-term goals are less satisfied with life, and view their long-term goals as more difficult, more pressure-filled, and less enjoyable.

  • Members of the U. S. Olympic ski team are required to write long-term, intermediate and short-term goals, but the sports psychologists who work with them have concluded that "repeated daily focusing on long-term goals is often counter-productive. The focus is too far into the future and prevents the athlete from completing the intermediate steps essential to ultimate success."

  • Military leaders often "segment or "compartmentalize complex missions into smaller, "bite-sized sub-missions.

With these findings in mind, use New Month resolutions to achieve more in your own life. Instead of focusing on your goal to build a successful business by the end of the year, focus on writing the business plan by the end of the month. Instead of focusing on your goal of losing 50 pounds in the next year, focus on exercising 30 minutes each day during January. You get the idea. You'll achieve more, be happier, and get that great "fresh start" feeling 12 times more often than New Year's resolution makers.

About The Author
Success Scientist Dr. Stephen Kraus has been called a combination of Tony Robbins and Mr. Spock because of his scientific approach to the psychology of success. Steve is author of the highly-acclaimed book, Psychological Foundations of Success: A Harvard-Trained Scientist Separates the Science of Success from Self-Help Snake Oil. Steve has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University.

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