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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

This article was originally published December 2008

Early this week I received an email from a researcher at a major national TV talk show.  They are doing a show on New Year’s Resolutions and saw my article on the topic.

They wanted to know if I had more details on the statistics referenced in the article.

I went back to the research we did with the help of Opinion Corporation of Princeton, NJ, and found the following interesting tid bits.  The survey has a margin of error of 3%.

  • 45% of Americans usually set New Year’s Resolutions; 17% infrequently set resolutions; 38% absolutely never set resolutions.
  • Only 8% of people are always successful in achieving their resolutions. 19% achieve their resolutions every other year.  49% have infrequent success.  24% (one in four people) NEVER succeed and have failed on every resolution every year. That means that 3 out of 4 people almost never succeed.
  • Of those who do set resolutions (these add to more than 100% because some people set multiple resolutions):
    • 34% set resolutions related to money
    • 38% set resolutions related to weight
    • 47% set resolutions related to self-improvement or education
    • 31% set resolutions related to relationships
  • It appears that the younger you are, the more likely you are to achieve your resolutions
    • 39% of those in their twenties achieve their resolutions every year or every other year
    • Less than 15% of those over 50 achieve their resolutions every year or every other year
  • The less happy you are, the more likely you are to set New Year’s Resolutions.  This is especially true for those who set money-related resolutions: 41% are not happy, 34% are moderately happy, and 25% are happy.
  • And here’s the punchline – There is no correlation between happiness and resolution setting/success.  People who achieve their resolutions every year are NO happier than those who do not set resolutions or who are unsuccessful in achieving them.

What Does This Really Mean?

Of course numbers only represent averages and do not reflect on YOUR personal situation. However, there are a few questions you may want to ponder as we inch closer towards New Year’s Eve:

  • What kind of New Year’s Resolutions do you typically set (money, health, self-improvement, or relationship-oriented)?
  • Why do you set these particular resolutions?
  • What do you hope to gain by achieving these resolutions?
  • What will you do to be more successful (than the typical person)?
  • Do you believe you will be happier in a year if you are successful in achieving your resolutions? If so, be aware that this is rarely the case – your attitude is more important than the results.
  • And finally, what could you do to improve your level of happiness TODAY, rather than believing your happiness lies in the future?

New Year’s Eve is just around the corner.  This year, instead of looking forward to what you want, spend your time reflecting on what you have.  This is especially important during these troubling economic times.  Listen to a brief MP3 I recorded on the topic of “Wanting What You Have.”

And if you do set a resolution, set a “theme-based” resolution rather than a “goal-based” resolution.  This will increase your level of happiness AND participation in the coming year.

What will be your theme for the New Year?

P.S. If you want to give a great gift that will change the life of a loved one, be sure to check out Goal-Free Living.  If you want signed copies, use the contact button above.  We can make the book out with a personal inscription.

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