New Year’s resolutions have gotten a bad rap lately with the commonly quoted statistic that most people only stick with theirs for about two weeks.  There is, however, some evidence that this is a worthwhile tradition and some science to help make sure you see your resolutions through.

The Evidence:

55% of Americans make resolutions, and those who make explicit resolutions are 10 times more likely to meet their goals than people who do not make resolutions.

8% of people who make resolutions keep them. This doesn’t sound like much but…

71% of people keep their resolution past 2 weeks, 64% keep their resolution past 1 month and 46% keep their resolution past 6 months. (Data from Statistic Brain for 2015, click for link)

25% of the people who make resolutions NEVER keep them, so this means either they aren’t serious about their resolutions or they have not learned how to make and pursue goals effectively. Luckily, we have some information to help with the latter.

The Helpful Information:

Researcher Angela Duckworth published a book on her research about the “power of passion and perseverance” called Grit. She says that you need 4 things to make accomplish a goal: interest, practice, purpose, and hope.

Though I know finding worthy and meaningful goals is an important step, today we’ll focus on the more practical side of achieving the goal you land on.

First: Focus on a “stretch goal,” a narrow aspect of the overall goal. For instance, if you want to speak better in public, choose a small part of what makes a good public speaking performance. Work on speaking voice, pace, emphasis, posture, staying on point, etc. as a stretch goal.

Second: Work towards the stretch goal with “undivided attention and great effort.” For instance, if you chose speaking voice, work on what it takes to find your pitch and keep your voice steady.

Third: Seek feedback on how you are executing that goal, explicitly to find errors. Have an experienced speaker or a coach listen to you perform. Find what you can improve.

Fourth: Repeat steps 1-3 until errors eliminated and stretch goal mastered. Work on what you could improve and then return for more feedback until you cannot go further with that goal.

Fifth: Start all over with new stretch goal. Now move on to pace of speaking.

The point is that goal setting (or resolution making) is not bad or useless. It is effective and necessary for improvement but it must be approached with a dogged resilience and a knowledge that deliberate effort, perseverance, and focus are a part of the natural pattern of meeting worthy goals.