Making Goals Stick

It’s January second, that’s about when some of my New Year’s Resolutions begin to get a bad case of the wobbles. By late in the week, I’m already chocolate, I don’t have time to read that chapter I promised myself I would and the credit card bill for the money I’ve already spent uses up all my “good-intention” money that was supposed to go to savings.

It makes me ask, “How can I keep this from happening? Is there anything I can to do make goals stick?

2013Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

The truth is, I do what I do because I do it. I act the way I do for reasons. I’m not aware of the reasons and don’t always understand them. But, last year’s behaviors I want to change now, come from somewhere!

Simply stated, if I can change the reasons I behave like I do, I can permanently change my behavior.

  • At one level, that means assessing my motivations, my reasons, for doing things. Do I have a sufficient motivation for the change. Is there enough pain in the past or promise in the future to support my change?
  • More than that, though, how is my life arranged to support my new goal? The reason I crave chocolate may be that I’ve always had it in my desk drawer. It might be that I don’t eat a good breakfast. I may have to change something upstream of the actual resolution before I’ll be able to keep it.
  • Still farther upstream, is there something in the stream that is poisoning it before it has the opportunity to water my resolution? Do I have an emotional commitment to the status quo that I’m unaware of? Maybe I eat chocolate as comfort food when I argue with my wife. Maybe the reason I have kept chocolate in my desk drawer is so that I can have control of one pleasure in my life, something I was deprived of as a child. So, I’ve held on to that one thing and now it is hurting me.

It seems to me that I have to take a look at the causes of my current behavior and address those if I ever hope to see substantive change. The whole process of goal setting is important because it forces us to do just that. And, if it doesn’t, it will be just an annual exercise in futility and status quo.

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