5 strategies to avoid the death rattle and keep your resolutions alive and well

Cricketer’s will be familiar with the term ‘death rattle’ which is when they are batting and miss a ball directed at the stumps the familiar sound of wickets breaking can be heard, and your time at the batting crease is over.

Research shows that the end of January each year generally results in the death rattle for most New Year Resolutions (NYR) meaning they are no longer active and being pursued.

The question that has been asked many times without being satisfactorily resolved is, why is that the case?

Just recently I posed the same question to a group of experienced business colleagues who meet in Brisbane once a fortnight to share their experiences and views. The following is a summary motivated by that discussion with suggestions on how each pitfall can be overcome.

Before I do that though it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone believes in setting NYR for several reasons. So this article is written for those who who do believe in setting them but have had mixed results to date.

1. Mindset

There can be a lot of forced hype around setting a specific date for making changes in your personal or business life. It’s important to note that at any time during the year we may be dissatisfied with some aspect of our personal and business lives which is important enough to motivate us to make some changes. We agree or ‘resolve’ that changes are required and set a goal and actions to achieve the new outcome.

The mindset challenge for many people is getting over the arbitrary pressure to do it at a certain time of the year under the guise of a NYR. In many ways, this is a good time of the year to reflect on the previous year and refresh your thoughts and set some new goals for the coming year.

I generally find that people who complain about setting NYR are often those that struggle with setting any goals at all and that’s a worry. My advice is to simply look at it as simply being a worthwhile set of goals for the coming year and just move on without getting caught up in the hype of the name and generally negative connotations that accompany it.

2. Motivation

Unless the reason or motivation for making changes is strong, it’s unlikely to have the emotional impact that will keep you going no matter what. Quite often this is associated with writing a goal or NYR that is vague and poorly crafted such as “My goal this year is to lose weight” as opposed to something like:

“In the next 12 months I will do everything necessary to attain my ideal weight of 85 kilos and have a trim and toned body I am proud of.”

It needs to be powerful, visceral, and in language that stimulates the senses and parts of the brain that drive and sustain momentum.

I often say to my clients that a great goal is one in which you say to yourself:

You know what, I could not live with myself if I did not achieve that goal this year.

If that’s too over the top for some people then tone it down a little; but not a lot if you want to be successful.

3. Baby steps

When mountain climbers set out to conquer Mount Everest they know it must be done in various stages over various time periods from base camp all the way up to the summit. Each stage will be meticulously mapped out because these are historically high risk plans and decisions that have life and death implications. It’s not that dissimilar in a way with our businesses as poor planning and decision making could literally mean the death of our business.

The secret is to take the time to detail the action steps required to complete a goal into manageable bit size chunks. Identifying and documenting these detailed steps does take some thinking time and effort but it will be worthwhile.

I often find that people can successfully break down their holiday plans into days and sometimes hours but struggle when it comes to the business side of things. It’s the same principle, simply another mindset block to be overcome.

When we do take the time to break the goals down into bite size action steps then they are more likely to be successfully implemented.

This is important from another perspective which is what happens when the brain experiences failure. When the brain experiences a failure associated with a certain activity it will more often than not associate ongoing failure when doing the same things. Its therefore imperative that we don’t set ourselves up for failure in the first place.

4. Routines and rituals

It’s been often said that ‘the natures of men and women are very similar it’s just our habits that set us apart’… and I’ve found that largely to be true. If we are planning for some form of change in our life than we must plan for that change to take place, to give it the best chance to survive.

It’s super easy for the stuff of life to simply get in the way and curtail the new changes required. It’s like the change button illuminates for a while but the automatic default of ‘what I know or am comfortable with clicks in’ and bingo, you are back to your old ways. There needs to be routines, disciplines and some mental strength to help overcome those natural desires.

Some examples of these routines & rituals are

Improving health & energy (improving by)

  • Having a daily routine of exercise that is allocated in advance in one’s calendar.
  • Retiring at the same time each night and rising at the same time each morning.
  • Scheduling regular health and wellness checks and associated treatments like massage, acupuncture etc.
  • Sticking to a diet by planning meals in advance and only shopping for what is required.

Motivation (improving by)

  • Always keeping a clear vision and purpose for what you are doing and why that’s important and keep it handy to refer to.
  • Support with affirmations, visualizations and incantations (the power of positive self-talk)
  • Allocate time for reflection and positive learning experiences
  • Deliver on your promises, not matter what and when you do promise, do it with sincerity.

Focus and concentration (improving by)

  • Work off purposeful designed ‘to do lists’ and stick to the plan.
  • Learn to say ‘NO’ and avoid distractions.
  • Allocate blocks of time to certain work as part of your ‘perfect week’.

Planning and productivity (improving by)

  • End each week by posing the question ‘It is Friday (end of the week) and this has been a fabulous week because?’ Think in terms of outcomes with some tied to your new goals or NYR and ensure your planning for the week allows for those actions to take place.
  • Allocate specific times to review each in terms of progress made versus planned, identify the learning experiences and modify/correct your future actions and behaviours to suit.

5. Accountability

Finally, it is a very difficult task for us to keep ourselves accountable along the journey of personal and business improvement. It’s almost impossible to pose an objective question to our brain and receive an objective answer. We are too close to the subject matter and will be subjective with the response.

We need someone else to both challenge our thinking and monitor our progress.

We need someone to ask the hard questions that we may be willing or able to ask of ourselves. That person may be a peer partner within a business, trusted family friend (but not direct family member) or ideally an external person like a coach, advisor or mentor.

I strongly suggest you find such a person and if the immediate response is ‘I can’t afford one’ then my response based on a wealth of experience is that you will make significantly better progress if you do, so find a way to make it happen.


NYR’s are simply goals under a different name. If you have a compelling reason to alter the current circumstances in your personal and/or business lives that should provide the motivation to set, implement and sustain the goals or resolutions, and the necessary change that is required.

Follow some of the strategies outlined above and apply with commitment and diligence and see how you go. Good luck on your journey!

Are you still stuck? Have resolutions that seem too difficult to make happen?

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