Following through on promises we make to ourselves is difficult, to say the least. Studies show that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. Approximately 50 percent of Americans who attend college drop out within six years of enrolling, and approximately 90 percent of smokers relapse within three months of trying to quit.
Is deliberately setting personal goals, especially when using milestones — such as New Year’s Day and birthdays — really worth it when the data suggests that failure is the most likely outcome?
Of course it is. Setting resolutions can still be a great method for successfully achieving goals, whether it’s going to the gym three times a week or going back to school to earn that degree you never finished. The key, of course, is increasing the odds achieving goals by utilizing the right resources to maintain the focus and motivation needed to succeed.
Regardless of when you set long-term goals, use these tips to increase the likelihood of successful outcomes.
Enlisting a partner or mentor who can provide support and accountability significantly increases our chances of meeting goals. A recent study reports that 40 percent of participants drop a fitness course shortly after it begins if they attend on their own, but if they work out with a friend, the dropout rate decreases to 6 percent. Those who exercise with a partner also burn more calories on average than those who exercise alone.
Similarly, when it comes to returning to school, having a mentor for support and accountability improves student outcomes. A 2017 Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce survey of more than 8,000 Middle Tennessee workers shows that mentorship — from enrollment through graduation — is very important for those who are considering going back to college.
Higher education stakeholders agree that mentors are critical for success. “Having a mentor in college is linked to academic success, and even predicts well-being later in life,” according to a recent analysis by The Chronicle of Higher Education. The same report refers to a recent Gallup-Purdue Index that examined alumni outcomes for more than 100 colleges, and found that Western Governors University (WGU) measures best when it comes to providing application-to-graduation mentorship.
“For me, the mentorship aspect of WGU Tennessee was instrumental in my success,” said Lindsay Davis, a recent graduate of the online, nonprofit university. “Because of my mentor, I always felt that I had support. My mentor held me accountable and taught me how to prioritize my work.”
Many people are familiar with the 21-day rule, which theorizes that it takes 21 days of repeated behavior to create new habits. Although the length of time needed to create new habits is often debated based on the habit and person, it is agreed upon that new, good habits can be formed with persistence.
Resolution-makers do themselves a disservice by waiting until the last minute — whether it’s New Year’s Day or another milestone — to make a plan and build momentum.
Leading up to the start of a resolution, take advantage of resources that will help shape new habits. For instance, if you plan to enroll in college to finish a degree, start spending 10 to 15 hours a week studying at home with free online tests and courses, and begin the application process well in advance of your desired start date to ensure there are no delays.
For health improvements and other new behaviors, start with small habits, such as drinking more water and getting more sleep, that help prime your body for the larger habit you hope to form – such as running 10 miles per week. By building momentum with incremental changes in behavior, rather than a “cold turkey” approach, resolution-makers are much more likely to meet their goals.
Most resolutions — losing weight, saving money, returning to school, and others — can be achieved more efficiently today with the help of technology. Business News Daily’s list of tech to help keep your resolutions is a good glimpse into technology designed to help users achieve goals.
When it comes to education, whether it’s an industry-based certificate needed in order to get a promotion or a four-year degree, don’t limit yourself to brick-and-mortar schools. Look for a degree program that fits your needs, but that also offers flexibility and cost savings through technology. Partial or fully online degree programs, for instance, reduce transportation and parking costs, and allow more time for studying at home.
Online, competency-based education (CBE) models — designed to measure knowledge rather than time spent in a classroom – have also leveraged technology to allow students to move quickly through subject matter they have already mastered so they can focus on curriculum they need to learn. This saves adult learners time and money, and because the finish line is closer, resolution-makers seeking degrees are more apt to stick with it.