New Year Resolutions to advance your career

New Year Resolutions to advance your career

Learn a new skill. Expand your professional network. Land that long-awaited promotion.

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to set goals to advance your career. But let’s be honest: how often have you made a New Year’s resolution—only to realize in February that you totally forgot about it halfway through January?

If this sounds familiar, then you’re not alone. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions. Yet 49 percent of those who make resolutions are rarely successful at keeping them, and 24 percent always fail. Only eight percent report being successful.

The Statistic Brain Research Institute also reports that 75 percent of people who make resolutions manage to keep them through the first week. That number declines to 71 percent after the second week; to 64 percent after a month; and to a mere 46 percent after six months. Clearly, the further away we get from the moment we made the resolution, the more likely it is that our willpower will fizzle out.

So why is it so difficult to keep our New Year’s resolutions? And exactly what do the eight percent who succeed in keeping them do differently from the rest of us?

Why we fail

As Linda Geddes points out in her article in The Guardian titled “Achievement unlocked! Use science to keep your new year’s resolutions,” psychologists believe that in order to change, you need to possess the motivation, capability, and opportunity to do so.

However, when your reason to change something starting on the first of January is simply because it’s tradition or because your friends are all doing it, your motivation is unlikely to be very strong. If you don’t have the skills or tools you need to keep your resolution, that’s another obstacle. And finally, if you’re too busy or if opportunity doesn’t come knocking, then exactly when would you be able to work toward realizing your goal?

Clearly, most of us who don’t keep our resolutions are lacking in one, two, or all three of the conditions necessary for success. In short, no matter how great the outcomes could be, we obviously haven’t made the necessary preparations to meet our goals.

The secret to keeping resolutions

But what about the successful eight percent? Well, in contrast to all of us who fail, their success lies in the fact that they lay the groundwork for change—and build on it.

In her Psychology Today article titled “How to Change Your Behavior for Good,” contributor Abigail Brenner, M.D. explains how researcher John C. Lilly, M.D. studied our capability to effect change in our behavior by “self-programming” our minds. Lilly believed that if you examine your old, restrictive motivations and behavior and construct an image of your desired, self-actualizing motivations and behavior, you can expose negative aspects, lift limitations, and change behaviors for good.

In short, your motivation needs to stem from a sincere desire to achieve something, and your behavior has to be aligned with your motivations.

For example, if your resolution is to learn how to create apps for smart phones, you have to:

  • want to learn how to do this, not just do it because your friends are doing it
  • set aside time to study and actually use that time to study
  • seek out tools and avenues that can advance your knowledge of app creation

Why set out to accomplish new goals on the first of January?

Finally, there’s the question of whether you really need to make resolutions at the beginning of a new year. Of course, the answer is, “Absolutely not!” You can use the technique described above on any day of the year. However, since the tradition of New Year’s resolutions goes all the way back to the ancient Babylonians, some believe there’s a certain significance to choosing this date. But just remember that no matter when you resolve to make changes that will help you advance professionally, so long as you’re truly motivated and adapt your behavior accordingly, your chances of success increase considerably.