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Innovation Insights
by Stephen Shapiro

SS Blog The Resolution Myth

The Resolution Myth

Welcome to 2024.

We’ve been told that because it’s a new year, it’s time for a new you.

But before you set those resolutions, consider the fact that only 8% of people are always successful in achieving the desired results.

92% fail!

24% (one in four people) NEVER succeed and have failed on every resolution every year.

That’s pretty depressing.

These are some of the findings from research I did for my Goal-Free Living book, with the help of Opinion Research Corporation. The survey has a 3% margin of error.

One surprising finding is that there is no correlation between happiness and resolution setting/success. None!

When setting your resolutions (or goals), consider the following statistics from this research:

45% of Americans usually set New Year’s resolutions, 17% infrequently set resolutions, and 38% absolutely never set them.

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 your personal situation. However, there are a few questions you may want to ponder as you consider your resolutions:

  • What kind of New Year’s Resolutions do you typically set (money, health, self-improvement, or relationship)?
  • 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?

For 2024, instead of looking toward what you want at the end of the year, spend your time reflecting on what you already have and what you can do each and every day.

The Alternative to Resolutions

Resolutions are goals. You either succeed or fail.

Instead of resolutions, consider adopting themes. Themes focus more on direction and intention than on specific goals. They are not destinations to reach but rather gentle nudges that continuously move you forward.

Although the New England Patriots, an American football team, aren’t having the best of years, I still find this perspective from Bill Belichick, the team’s head coach, to be incredibly valuable. During the 2003 and 2004 season, the team had an unprecedented 21-game win streak. Reporters kept asking Belichick to talk about the win streak. His response was priceless. “We did not have a 21-game win streak. We had 21 one-game win streaks.”

Instead of focusing on the outcome at the end of 2024, look to what you can do today. And the next day. Create a 366-day win streak.

To help you do this, please read my Wall Street Journal article on setting themes. I think you will find this incredibly helpful for helping you stay on track.