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Where have all the resolutions gone?

(Page 2 of 2)

The site is projecting that 18 percent of people responding to the poll will be focusing on their careers, down from 27 percent the previous year.

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"Last year we saw this really shocking, dramatic surge in career-related goals," says Mr. Helmstetter. "[People] sounded worried. It was 'I need to get a job,' not 'I want to make a million dollars.' "

Beginning a new year by vowing to improve is a practice that's been around a long time. The ancient Romans used to offer resolutions to the god Janus - the patron of beginnings and endings - for whom January is named.

The only difference between a resolution and a goal, suggests Helmstetter, is the week of the year someone makes it.

But one of the website's users, Joe White, says he's turned off by the associations connected to the word "resolutions."

Mr. White, a graduate student from Struthers, Ohio, who has used to help him reach education and bodybuilding goals, says he sees too much emphasis in the media on quick fixes, as related to resolutions.

"I guess it's just the term resolutions I don't like very much. I'd rather just think of it as an extension from last year.... It's a new goal," he explains.

Dr. Norcross also believes that there is little difference in the minds of most people between goals and resolutions, especially when it comes to behavior.

He offers tips for meeting goals - make them realistic, state them positively, and monitor their progress. But he also disputes the idea that the failure rate for resolutions indicates they aren't effective.

He and his colleagues have found that people who make resolutions are more likely to succeed after six months than those with a similar desire to change who did not make a resolution - 46 percent vs. 4 percent of those who had no resolution.

"So it is true most New Year's resolutions do not succeed, at least the first time," he says. "But they are 10 times more likely to succeed than not doing anything, [than] just having the desire."

Those interested in year-round help with their self-improvement will have another option at the end of the month. Johnson & Johnson, a manufacturer of healthcare and hygiene products, is launching a website - www.reach - meant to help people work toward success in reaching their goals.

Enlist outside help

"Here's another reason people don't keep resolutions: They don't tell anyone," says Gail Blanke, a motivational speaker and author the company has recruited to discuss the new site.

"And," she adds, "they don't actually make it a declaration, which is another reason that Johnson & Johnson has this website, because what they're inviting people to do is go online and make a declaration ... make a commitment."

As for Falter-Barns, she agrees that it helps to have a partner when setting goals.

She jokes that it's not easy to see her husband, who accompanies her to the hearth at the inn somewhat reluctantly each year, achieve his goals with little effort. But she admits she enjoys having the company as she tries to pick authentic things in her life that she wants to make happen.

"I think some couples would probably kill each other doing this," she says with a laugh. "But doing it with someone else is great ... we cheer each other on."