• Ellen Cooperperson

NATIONAL QUITTERS DAY

JANUARY, the beginning of a New Year is traditionally a time for goal setting, leaving the past behind, and looking forward, with newly minted anticipation, to a fresh start!


The practice of setting New Year’s resolutions and goals is not new. It began 4000 years ago with the ancient Babylonians. And January was named for the two-faced Roman god Janus, who looks forward to new beginnings as well as backwards for reflection and resolution.


According to historians, returning farm equipment borrowed from your neighbor was at the top of the Babylonian resolution list along with the timeless promise to pay off debts.


Today, as then, along with assessing our lives and starting over, comes our resolve; our firm commitment, to do or not do certain things—lose weight, exercise more, get organized, make - or save - more money, enjoy life!



However, as most of you know, resolutions have gained a poor reputation. They are the very definition of best-laid plans, since, on average, most do not last for more than 30 days. One survey assessing more than 31.5 million fitness records found that the second Friday in January is the fateful day when most commitments crumble. University of Scranton found that 92% of people who set New Year’s Resolutions never achieve them. Business goal achievement does not fare much better. Almost 70% of them fail to be achieved. In fact, failing to follow through and do what we said we would, has become so common that this year, January 19th has been given a name, “National Quitters Day” No doubt there will be trophies and awards given to the biggest slackers and losers!


So, if you’d prefer to be in the winner’s circle this year, you’ve come to the right place. My intention is to shed light on:

  • Why do resolutions fail?

  • How can you make them last?

If the techniques I share with you don’t work, you can always resort to the method used by the Babylonians. That is swearing to keep your promise as someone grabs you by the testicles. I’m not sure what the female equivalent was to that. My suggestions are not that harsh, but you're welcome to keep that as an option.


WHY DO RESOLUTIONS FAIL? 4 Common Reasons:


1. The type of resolutions or goals we set


Comparing a list of the top 10 resolutions made in 1947 and today (Gallop Poll).

RESOLUTIONS FROM 1947

RESOLUTIONS 2022

1. Improve my disposition, be more understanding, control my temper

1. Lose weight​

2. Improve my character

2. Get organized

3. Stop smoking, smoke-less

3. Spend less, save more

4. Save more money

4. Enjoy life to the fullest

5. Stop drinking, drink less

5. Stay fit and healthy

6. Be more religious, go to church more often

6. Learn something exciting

7. Be more efficient, do a better job

7. Quit smoking

8. Take care of my health

8. Help others fulfill their dreams

9. Take greater part in home life

9. Fall in love

10. Lose (or gain) weight

10. Spend more family time

As you can see, resolutions in the 1900s were more religious or spiritual in nature, reflecting a desire to develop stronger moral character, a stronger work ethic, and more restraint in the face of earthly pleasures.


Our intentions have migrated from building character, self-discipline and treating others well to the pursuit of pleasure, satisfying desires, and self-indulgence. For example, learning something exciting is different from being excited to learn something worthwhile. Learning how to create and send a Zoom invite is not exciting. Being able to do that with ease, builds self-reliance. If we wait until we “feel like doing” it; tell ourselves it is too hard to learn or boring; or we get easily frustrated; we will be waiting to do it for a very long time. Fighting our nature - our animal instinct to do what is easy and comfortable - requires a connection to a power greater than what comes naturally. Getting started and sticking with unpleasant tasks requires discipline and self-control. Not wanting to is different than not being willing. It is ok that you don’t want to as long as you get in motion and do it.


2. Not specific enough


Our resolutions are too vague. Lose weight? How much? By When? What’s the Plan? And how will success be measured on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? Most business people know that resolutions have to be translated into SMART GOALS and that this acronym Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound needs to be written down and put where you can refer to them daily to maximize success.


3. Worded negatively


To program yourself for success, goals must be actionable. Break it Down - think of 2-3 actions you need to do to accomplish this priority.

  1. Locate and read instructions for creating a Zoom invite – when to start? How long will you allocate to this?

  2. Get help from IT, if needed, to walk through the process

  3. Practice sending invites - by when?

  4. What is the end date for completing this goal?

4. Not relevant enough to a person’s life


Connect to why-how does this goal fit into the big picture, why is it important to you? How does this connect to your larger, long-term goal? Remembering this and keeping it visible, will help you stay motivated.


How do you make resolutions (SMART GOALS) last?

  1. Choose a limited number of SMART (relevant) goals (3 tops)

  2. Put time into planning - “a goal without a plan is a hallucination”

  3. Start with small steps – daily manageable goals

  4. Avoid repeating past failures – know your nature - what are your traps?

  5. Remember that change is a process (53% of people who kept their resolutions for two years had at least one slip up)

  6. Get support – Connect with an Accountability Buddy or Coach

  7. Renew your motivation by connecting to why you are doing this and stay focused on that. Remember how you feel about yourself when you accomplish what you want in life. Happiness is a worthy goal. And follow your heart is very bad advice. Doing what you want in the moment might be fun—but it won’t bring happiness.

Embracing excellence has to be more important than how you feel about doing something.


Learning to stay focused for 21 days develops a new success habit. All of the high achievers I’ve had the privilege to work with, have one trait in common that keeps them in the winners circle. They don’t go home until they reached the daily goal they set for themselves. In other words, they never quit!


Ellen Cooperperson

President, Chief Learning Officer

CPC, Connect University