Have you already given up on your New Years resolutions? It turns out that you are not alone. Only 8% of people who make resolutions at the start of the year end up successfully fulfilling them, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

I am among the 92% who gave up a great intention this year. The goal was for our whole family to cut out desserts and treats during the week. I admit it was bold as there are treats everywhere during the holiday season, but we went for it.

The first few days were pretty easy as I had cleared the house of sweets and we were eating at home. Then came a jam-packed day, where we ended up getting home late with lots to do. Somehow we found some leftover Halloween candy and I used it to make my daughter’s violin practice go smoothly and then the pre-rolled sugar cookies came out from the freezer. Dang… might as well start again next week. Does this sound familiar?

Maybe we need to try something new. Instead of making yet another unattainable goal try making a decision.

The next week we sat down as a family and talked about why we wanted to cut out sweets and how that would make us feel. We all agreed that without the sweets we had more energy and were more in charge of our health. We changed our goal driven challenge of: don’t eat sweets to a decision mindset: eat what makes us feel good. This small shift was actually very powerful and led us to give up the goal in exchange for a decision. For my daughter who has multiple food allergies, making the unhealthy choice to eat sweets was a way for her to feel normal. She made a decision to choose healthy foods and avoid sweets at home so that she could eat some sweets at her school functions.

For me, eating treats is a more unconscious process. I eat them just because they are there, more than because I actually want them or because they make my body feel good.

I made the decision to stop and consider if I really want a treat before putting it in my mouth. My husband had a similar experience. His ability to stay away from sweets was strengthened by the fact that it was not part of an unattainable goal with a concrete ending (i.e., I am not eating sweets for 30 days) but more of a decision: I will not eat sweets because I don’t feel good after I eat them.

In contrast to goals and resolutions, once the decision is made, movement is freed up and actions flow from this new clear focal point. This inside out process is intrinsically more motivating and ultimately leads to greater success. The power of this process is how it can help you examine the underlying question that is at the center of a problem. Rather than setting unattainable goals, it will help you clarify what it is you want in life, and direct your efforts towards that decision.

Here are some ways you can turn your goals into decisions and increase your success rate:

1. Start by asking yourself what is the central question you are considering? Is it a decision about your life, or a wish for something? For example, when our family was deciding whether to adopt a dog, my central question was not “which breed of dog works best for my family,” or “do I want a male or a female dog,” (both great questions) but, “how much freedom am I giving up to have this dog?”

2. Answer that question with a decision. I am deciding to give up my freedom to spontaneously go away on a weekend to a non-dog friendly place.

3. Consider what you are gaining in exchange. I am gaining the companionship of a cute furry friend.



Laura-Riordan-on MaybrooksLaura RiordanLaura Riordan, Ph.D., is a life coach and mother who works with individuals and couples in times of transition. She is a graduate of Cornell University¹s School of Hotel Administration and in 2006 earned her Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology. Laura¹s own passion for a balanced life has been fueled by her long-term yoga practice, extensive travels, continuing education and commitment to community. Laura lives in San Rafael with her husband and daughter. Learn more about working with Laura here.