Making new year’s resolutions can conquer fear of failure

New year celebrations bring a time of reflection on the past year’s events and a hopeful look forward to what the next 12 months could hold. It is a time to make personal changes that better our own lives and the lives of others. These new goals are commonly known as new year’s resolutions.

The Statistical Brain Research Institute recently conducted a public survey involving Americans who made resolutions. It found 41 percent of Americans make these resolutions each year, while 42 percent never make them.

Of those making resolutions, 44 percent are related to self-improvements or educational accomplishments. Money-related resolutions ranked second, followed by those that were weight-related and relationship-focused.

Sadly, only 44 percent of these quests for personal improvement make it past six months of commitment.

Why do many not attempt these annual changes? The answer, many don’t attempt these changes because they fear failure.

The survey found that only 38 percent of people in their 20s achieved them each year, while those of us over 50 had only a consistent 16 percent success rate.

We live in a society that looks down on failure, whether it be in the form of grades or career success. We shy away from taking risks, many seeking security in routines and the security they provide. Yet we find that those who take the risks provide us with innovations like Thomas Edison’s light bulb or Henry Ford’s affordable automobile.

Teddy Roosevelt once said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again and again, because there is not effort without error and short coming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself on a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

A magnet on my refrigerator states “What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail.” It serves as a reminder not to let fear of failure stand in the way of my pursuit of meaningful personal and professional goals.

In 2012 I enrolled in a doctoral program at University of Nebraska at the age of 49. I completed that journey with my successful dissertation defense in April of 2016, fulfilling my 2012 resolution.

This year’s new year’s resolution is to use that knowledge to co-create and implement three state-of-the-art career development courses at Michigan Tech that provides students with needed career competencies that are sought after by industry. Students will leave the courses knowing what they want from their careers both personally and professionally, with tools to achieve their own annual resolutions in those pursuits.

Could I fail? You bet, but I choose to be the one “who spends himself on a worthy cause.”

What resolution will you pursue in 2017? Happy New Year!

Steve Patchin is director of Career Services at Michigan Technological University.