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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

In 2005, I wrote a book about living a life without goals. Sort of. I’m not anti-goal by any stretch. But there are times that an obsession with goals can negatively impact your performance and happiness. In the book, I talk about setting themes rather than resolutions for the new year. Here’s an article I wrote on that specific topic. The article was so popular the Wall Street Journal reprinted it on a full page (yes, on paper). In it, I share some interesting statistics from some research I commissioned.

Soon after, I received an email from a researcher at a major national TV talk show.  They were doing a episode on New Year’s Resolutions and saw my article. 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

Here are maybe the two most important findings.

  • 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, 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?

We seem to be a society that chases happiness in the future. But what could you do to improve your level of happiness TODAY, rather than believing your happiness lies in the future?

Instead of just looking forward to what you want, spend your time reflecting on what you already have.  This is especially important during these challenging times.  One of my recent podcast episodes includes me reading a portion from the Goal-Free Living book called “Want What You Have.”  Take a listen. I think you’ll like it.

What will be your theme for the New Year?

I’m hoping that 2022 is your best year yet!

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