New Year’s Resolutions: How Not to Fail in 2015

According to the International Health Club Association, 90% of people who join health and fitness clubs will stop going after 3 months. So by April that picture you posted on Facebook in your new workout attire could be replaced by one of you enjoying a maple bacon donut.

We know what our goals are — we desire better health, financial growth and personal fulfillment. We may have even gotten off to a great start in the first couple of weeks. But how do we guarantee the completion of personal goals and the achievement of professional success in the upcoming year?

The numbers are stacked against us

In a 1989 longitudinal study conducted by JC Norcross and DJ Vangarelli, 200 people were tracked for 2 years as they attempted to keep their New Year’s resolutions. 77% maintained their pledges for the first week, but only 19% kept it going for the full 2 years. The participants who found success had significantly more social support and willpower. Failures were mainly due to excessive stress and negative emotional states.

The science of performance

The first step to becoming healthier and more productive is making changes to our most fundamental patterns of being.

Many professionals sleep poorly and wake up tethered to technology. They use stimulants like coffee to continuously hop from one project to another instead of taking refreshing breaks throughout the day. This strategy — if you want to call it that — is completely ignorant of human physiology and psychology.

Our waking rhythm works much the same as our sleep rhythms. We drop into several 90–120 minute cycles of deep sleep with several “breaks” of light sleep. When we work we also have 90–120 minute periods of solid productivity and focus, after which the body and mind need time to recover. Over time, we can reset our sleep and rest patterns to have more energy throughout the day.

Commit to a new you on Monday morning

In an effort to break the cycle, my entire team is encouraged to follow Eben Pagan’s Wake Up Productive program. Pagan offers a Morning Success Ritual to ensure sustained physical, mental, and emotional health.This is the most valuable element to executing intentions because after performing the ritual for 30 continuous days, my employees formulate healthy habits to replace the bad ones. Here is one example of the MSR:

1. Remedy the dehydration of sleep by drinking a pint of water upon rising.

2. Exercise. This can be anything: yoga, running, crossfit, push-ups…

3. Sit silently for 15 minutes while focusing on your breath (also called meditation).

4. Eat a healthy breakfast.

5. Read at least one article to get the mind warmed up for the day.

By developing healthier and more sustainable habits, we operate at optimal levels of performance. But how do we make it all last for the entire year?

Three steps to guaranteed success

1. Repetition

Watching videos and understanding them is never enough. In fact, understanding can be the first step to failure. People say, “I get it!”, “This is great!”, or even “I’ve heard this before”. These can lead to talking oneself out of actually doing the practices — either out of resistance, or thinking that they already “get it”.

Read, listen, think, and act over and over again until it’s part of your nervous system. The first repetitions may feel strange, cumbersome or overly challenging. They can bring up feelings of frustration and or resistance. But over a period of 2–4 weeks they will eventually become second nature.

2. Recursion

Each time you do a repetition you go deeper into it. You can’t get into recursion with something until you’ve taken the new idea or practice and put it into action in your own life. Only then will you start to notice details that create a deeper understanding.

An example is learning to ski. At first you’re using all of your concentration just to get your entire body pointed in the right direction. After positioning becomes second nature, it’s then about taking on slightly more challenging terrain. At the elite level the attention is about putting the slightest amount of extra pressure on the ball of the foot to smoothly and gracefully carve a turn.

3. Reciprocation

Transformation is hard for individuals, but our communities support us to live in integrity with our intentions. When our team commits to something, we have ongoing conversations with others about what we are learning. This helps everyone to rapidly deepen knowledge and recurse further, and creates accountability.

For others to hold us accountable, they must know where we are struggling. In our weekly 15Fives, employees answer questions to provide feedback about themselves, the company, and team performance. We are all transparent about the tough stuff — our challenges and failures — so we get the help that we need. The community offers helpful feedback when we fall off target:

Maybe you missed the January 1 deadline for setting your intentions and resolutions. Maybe you already slipped and had that entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s. So what? Create a new commitment today. It will take several weeks to break free of your routines and commit to healthy habits. With the practice of repetition, recursion and reciprocation you can discover a more powerful version of yourself, one for whom anything is possible.

David Hassell is the founder and CEO of 15Five, the leading web-based employee feedback and alignment solution that is transforming the way employees and managers communicate. Named “The Most Connected Man You Don’t Know in Silicon Valley” by Forbes Magazine, David has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Inc., Entrepreneur, Wired, Fast Company, and the Financial Post. Learn more about 15Five and David Hassell at

Image Credit: Roy Niswanger

What are your new year’s resolutions? How do you intend to keep them?