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How many people keep their New Year’s resolutions and what does it matter if they do?

We all have a desire for self-improvement and to enrich our own lives and the lives of our families by committing ourselves to making positive changes. The $11 billion self-help industry attests to the fact that Americans, in particular, are obsessed with resolving to change. So how many people keep their New Year’s Resolutions? Read on to find out what current research reveals.

New Year’s Day

The start of a new year always brings hope, and our thoughts turn to what the next year may hold for us if we follow through on the commitments we seem to make every January. Some of the most common are losing weight, paying off debt, making a difference in the lives of others, spending more time with family, or kicking a nasty habit or addiction that we can’t get rid of. By choosing to achieve these things, we join a long history of self-improvement that has had an effect on our modern culture.

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin wrote “God helps those who help themselves” in his Poor Richard’s Almanac in the 1700s, and was a strong advocate of making your own luck through hard work. Dale Carnegie, who is considered by many to be the father of the modern self-help movement, wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936 after failing in several careers and becoming fascinated with the link between success and self-confidence. And today’s bookstores are filled with motivational books, while our televisions are awash with infomercials touting the next big thing that will fix your problems and make you successful.

success rates

So how many people keep their New Year’s resolutions? Recent research proves what most of us already know: that the vast majority of us will not keep those resolutions we so desperately want to make. While 52% of all participants in a resolution study believed they would achieve their goals, only 12% did. Interestingly, men achieved their goal 22% more often when they set small, measurable goals (lose a pound a week, rather than a wave of “losing weight”). Women were 10% more successful when they made their goals public and enlisted the help of friends.

A call to action

Many scholars criticize the modern self-help movement for providing overly simplified solutions to difficult personal and social problems. And there’s no question that much of the “help” out there isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on to provide direction in life and create personal success, whatever you define that to be. A truism stands the test of time to keep your resolve and give you the best chance to look back on December 31st with a sense of accomplishment—and that’s taking action.

While reading a book or watching a motivational video may spark your desire to reach your goal, nothing is accomplished without action. If you want to lose weight, turn off the television for an hour and go to the gym, walk or run. If you want to get out of debt, make a budget you can live with and stick to it no matter what it costs. If you want to help others: Join a Habitat for Humanity group, go on a mission with your church, or volunteer at a local school. If you want to quit smoking or drinking, don’t just read about it, take action and ask for help. Massive action is the only way to achieve your dreams and put yourself on the path to true self-improvement. So go now and do whatever you know needs to be done to get where you want to be. You will thank yourself on December 31st. And good luck with your goals!

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