Why do our New Year's resolutions fail?
New year, new goals, new resolutions. Sounds familiar?
Well, they are not so new, since you set the exact same goals last year, or the year before....
How come that we just loooove making promises to ourselves; and now I am not talking about strictly language goals, but basically anything from becoming a regular gym-goer, having a more balanced diet or sticking to Marie Condo’s tips for the magic of folding your shirts in tiny neat piles…. and of course, to pass that language exam. But somehow you never get to the finish line, your initial enthusiasm wanes in the process…
Well, you must know that you are not alone with this experience!
Although almost all of us make New Year's resolutions – yes, even you, in the privacy of your innermost thoughts - only 9% of people keep them and achieve their goals.
Let's explore the underlying reasons and find out what we can do to be successful in achieving our goals this year – for a change. I will take a closer look at the reasons why we fail to keep our New Year's resolutions and what it takes to successfully reach our goals and unleash our full potential.
Reason #1 for failing: Poorly defined goals
Nothing is more certain to doom our resolution to failure than an ill-defined goal.
Let me reveal the big secret: "I want to learn English" is NOT a specific goal! It's just like "I'm going to lose weight" or "I'm changing jobs." What's wrong with these? They are far too general, and barely attainable, that is, can only be achieved by investing extreme effort in the long-run. Furthermore, they are too intangible. The statement "I want to learn English" is actually a wishful thinking in itself...
So, what makes a well-defined goal?
SMART goal setting is well-known in the business environment and it can also be perfectly applied to language learning goals.
SMART goals are:
S – Specific – In order for a goal to be effective, it needs to be specific Setting specific goals can be done by detailing the action to reach it, not just defining the result. Use an active verb and a deadline to make it concrete. E.g. "I will learn and practice marketing terms and presentation phrases in English so that I can give a 10-minute presentation at a conference at the end of May." or "In 10 weeks, I will review the basics of English grammar by spending 30 minutes a day actively completing tasks in my book and the tasks given by the teacher."
M – Measurable – Quantifying your goals - that is, making sure they’re measurable - makes it easier to track progress and know when you’ve reached the finish line. The goal must be clear so that we can determine whether you have achieved it or not. For example, if you can successfully present at the marketing conference in English or write a successful grammar test at the end of the your English course, then yes, you have achieved it.
A - Attainable - Goals should be achievable and realistic — not pedestals from which you inevitably tumble. The goal should be big enough to challenge you, but not so big that it would kill your enthusiasm on the way. If you say that you will pass the C1 (advanced level) language exam within 2 months, but you haven't spoken English for 5 years, and you barely passed your English GCSE back in high school, that is obviously not attainable.
R – Relevant - The goal is to be aligned with other major objectives in your life. It must be important for you, something you can commit to and can be incorporated into your daily life. A relevant goal relates to your values, dreams, and ambitions. For example: I want to feel more confident at my job that is why I want to improve my English presentation skills.
T - Time-bound - When time is tight, it forces you to act. For example, you will have an English job interview in a month, or you signed up for a language exam at the end of May. Setting a realistic deadline holds you accountable, helps you stay focused and find the required resources to achieve it.
To help you set attainable goals and track your progress, I have prepared the Language Learning Planner for you for 2023. Download the digital journal and keep on track throughout the year!
Figures taken from: https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/2020-12/urban_plates_-_nyr_survey_key_findings_12-8-2020.pdf