CITYWIDE — After the heady effects of champagne wear off sometime on Jan. 1, well-intentioned people across Santa Monica will buckle down and determine to make some changes in their lives.
They’ll call these personal promises “New Year’s resolutions,” a reflection on the year past and what they’d like to change on the new slate offered by a new calendar.
“We’re always wanting, always going to get back to our goals on Monday, get back to them on the first,” said Carrie Kish. “The first of a brand new year is a whole new opportunity and people see that. We can reinvent ourselves.”
Kish is the president of Leadership Lab, a coaching company that specializes in teaching business executives and managers the ropes.
Although elevating talented professionals into the ranks of good managers is her bread and butter, Kish noted a remarkable similarity between their “goals” and others’ “resolutions.”
“It’s kind of funny. I mostly work with business owners and entrepreneurs, but in the end of the day, if they’re not happy in their life, nothing else matters,” Kish said.
Reinvention takes many forms, but New Year’s resolutions tend to fall into a number of set categories, usually involving weight loss or getting in shape, kicking bad habits and doing better in their careers.
The physical falls into Tom Williams’ camp.
Williams is the founder of Burn Fitness, a gym on the Third Street Promenade. His company sees a 33 percent spike in membership around January each year. By December, around 20 percent have left the gym, although it’s unclear whether or not most of those were disgruntled resolution makers.
Those resolvers “look in the mirror and see what they don’t like,” Williams said, aided by disheartening statistics about growing obesity trends and degrading health.
Burn does what it can to facilitate new and experienced exercisers with a number of classes, one-on-one support and an online database to track progress, but it can only go so far.
“To be successful, when you purchase a gym membership, show up!” Williams said.
Kicking bad habits, be they smoking, drinking or credit cards also tops the list of resolutions, according to Kish.
Programs to help the determined abound, including a smoking cessation class at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, and a number of “anonymous” groups for any number of ailments.
Getting off those habits can be good for both the body and pocketbook.
According to the Center for Disease Control, excessive alcohol consumption costs the United States $223.5 billion in 2006, or roughly $746 per American.
Approximately 76 percent of the costs of alcohol come as a result of binge drinking, and approximately 79,000 deaths are attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States.
That pales in comparison to the deaths by cigarettes, which kill 443,000 people a year, including those that suffer from secondhand smoke exposure.
The average cost per pack of cigarettes was $5.33 cents in 2009.
Job fulfillment comes up frequently for many Americans. Goals range from performing better in positions to the more dramatic move of changing career paths altogether.
“Preparing for the new year is a perfect opportunity to reflect on the past to determine what’s working and what is not,” wrote Katrina Davy, a Santa Monica-based career counselor, in an e-mail. “However, as with most resolutions, it is important to break things down into actionable steps rather than large, lofty goals.”
People looking for a change need to consider what makes them happy about their careers as well as what they’re not satisfied with, and then create a number of smaller steps that they can accomplish as they work toward the larger goal.
If the uncertain job climate — an 11.3 percent unemployment rate in California — seems daunting, attack the bits that make you unhappy or seek fulfillment in other places in your life, Davy suggested.
“Sometimes, joining new community organizations or dedicating time outside of the office to one’s true passions can help take the pressure off of a job providing those much needed elements,” she wrote.
It sounds well and good, but there’s a problem with resolutions.
According to an oft cited-study by John C. Norcross published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2002, few will succeed.
The study, which followed 159 resolvers through the first six months of the year, showed that 25 percent dropped out in the first week and only 46 percent self-reported to have continued through June.
Success is as easy as being SMART, Kish said.
SMART is an acronym that coaches use to help their clients succeed. Goals should be “specific” — how much weight do you want to lose? — and have “measurable” results. Goal setters need to be held “accountable” (“This is the place most people fail”) and “realistic” in the goals they’ve set.
People need help achieving goals. That’s why Kish sees her business jump up around the beginning of every year. But be it a professional coach, personal trainer or just a good friend that holds similar desire, the buddy system helps.
Finally, it helps to be “timely,” or have a set time period in which to complete the goals.
Setting goals with no hope for success is more harmful than aiming at achievable hurdles.
“Continually setting resolutions and then not hitting them undermines us and causes us to lower our standards,” Kish said.