Updated: Jan 14, 2020
There is something about January that inspires new beginnings, normally in the form of infamous New Year’s Resolutions. But so few of us keep them.
According to Miller and Marlatt in 1998 the most common resolutions were; to start to exercise (37%), to eat better (13%), to cut down on alcohol or caffeine or to quit smoking (7%). These are still common today.
No matter how many resolutions are set, or what they are there is one thing that is certain; most (80%) will probably be abandoned before the end of January.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set New Year’s Resolutions. It just means that you need to set realistic, measurable goals that you can stick to an, most importantly, understand WHY you are making them.
How to Set Achievable Resolutions
Large goals like ‘Cut out all junk food. Be fit and healthy’ can seem insurmountable and by the end of the first month, there may be little obvious difference in your habits. Try and achieve many big changes in one go, and it gets even harder. If you are not clear on why you want to achieve the goal either then it gets harder still.
But it’s important to remember that setting goals isn’t a bad thing, it’s just how you approach them.
Instead of doing everything all in one go, have one or two higher goals for the year and set smaller, milestones along the way. Often I try 12 smaller goals – one per month.
Large goals like ‘Cut out all junk food. Be fit and healthy’ can seem insurmountable and by the end of the first month there may be little obvious difference in your habits. Try and achieve many big changes in one go, and it get’s even harder. If you are not clear on why you want to achieve the goal either then it gets harder still.
Set resolutions you will enjoy – such as instead of ‘exercise more’, try different sports or activities to find one you love. Perhaps set a goal to try one new food, class or health tip every month, just one.
Set wellbeing goals such as a daily or weekly gratification statement, or a positive outlook on each day or even set time each day to play.
These should be achievable and measurable – e.g. by the end of January I will walk between 10 and 20 minutes 3 times a week, by the end of February I will get to the gym twice a week too.
Mindset for Success
One of my favourite quotes comes from a book I once read and now have forgotten the author of but it goes something like this:
“It is not the goal that we chase, but the feelings we believe we will experience when we achieve it.”
Many New Year’s Resolutions are phrased in such a way that they are doomed to failure. They are too open, and there is no reason on why we want this goal. Many people also fail to acknowledge their own human nature when setting their resolutions.
Saying on January 1st, that you will ‘never do X again’ won’t be successful – you are human and you might smoke a cigarette, eat a chocolate bar or have a cup of coffee regardless of your promise. If you allow not tollerence for this then you can enter a cycle of failure – you have missed one day so you wonder what the point is in carrying on.
Set a more flexible goal and acknowledge that you may have days when you are unsuccessful. Don't fall off the wagon with it, just start again the next day.
Be realistic. Will you really ‘go to the gym every day’ or is it more like three days of the week you don’t have time and the others you are exhausted? Aiming for twice a week is more realistic and you are more likely to achieve it long term. You can raise the bar from there.
Always remember, you don’t have to be perfect in everything you do. Getting something done is better than waiting to be perfect.
Quality over Quantity
The key to succeeding at New Year’s Resolutions is to think carefully about them, rather than the New Year’s Day hungover decision to ‘never drink again’. Consider more in-depth, why you are choosing these goals. You can ask yourself;
What do I want to achieve with my goals.
How will I feel when I achieve them?
What will achieving these give me, that I do not have now?
Are these goals the best way to achieve that?
How will I keep myself motivated to achieve these goals?
Can each goal be broken down into mini-goals or milestones?
How will you celebrate the mini-wins?
What affirmation you will recite for when you miss a win, or slip up.
Who will you share your goals with to make sure you keep them? Telling others will increase the chance of you achieving them.
And most of all please remember, you have travelled this far already. Your old habits, thoughts and body have brought you to this moment. That is pretty awesome, no matter how bumpy the ride may have been.
Succeeding at small goals releases small amounts of dopamine to give you the little kick you need to continue with the next goal. It’s not the be all an end-all, but it will help.of your promise. If you allow not tollerence for this then you can enter a cycle of failure – you have missed one day so you wonder what the point is in carrying on. tick