I usually love making New Year resolutions, but recently, I’ve been starting to feel like they kinda suck.
December rolls around and you get caught up in the “end of year” festivities. It’s the season to make resolutions, and you get on board the wagon just like everyone else.
Then, fast forward to mid-January and your goals are out of sight and you’ve conveniently forgotten all about your goals for the year.
Before the start of the next year, as December rolls around again, you get out your previous crumpled list of resolutions out of your pocket and you realize how little you checked off (if at all).
You feel bad and then, you just repeat the cycle. Time for a new set of resolutions.
While most people make New Year resolutions, University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their goals.
Why is this?
According to researchers these are the three main things that keep us from getting what we really want:
1. People make unrealistic and vague resolutions: “I will go the gym 5x/week.” Really? You averaged twice a month last year. Or we say, “I want to get healthy this year” but when faced with the birthday parties in March, the overtime in June, and the family vacation in August, that goal falls by the wayside.
Setting unrealistic, highly aspirational goals is a quick way to guilt and failure.
2. People don’t equip themselves with the mental ammunition to fight off doubt and continue with their goals: A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found lack of social support increased cortisol, heart rate, and anxiety. All of these factors weaken your ability to stick to your goals.
In order to succeed with your New Year’s resolutions, seek support from friends and family, and take breaks. Mistakes are part of success, so don’t be afraid to make them. If you don’t get support from your friends, your first goal should be to get some new ones.
3. Using guilt or fear as motivation, or resolving to stop doing something: We say, “I want to walk more” instead of parking our car 10 minutes further away from where we need to get to. We say, “I want to stop messing around and go to sleep earlier” instead of testing different ways of falling asleep (like leaving our laptop in the other room, unplugging our TV, quietly covering our partner’s face with a pillow, etc).
So if this true (anyone who ever made and failed at a New Year resolutions might resonate with the points above) should we stop doing them?
What should we do instead?
This year I’m trying something new to help me get closer to checking things off my list of goals.
It’s still in it’s “experimental phase” – I will keep you posted on how it goes if I end up changing course! In the meantime, try this out for yourself and feel free to adapt or improve it in any way (and share it here, of course!).
4 Steps to Possibly Help You Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions:
Step 1: Take a moment to reflect
We get so caught up in the “new” things around us that we often forget to take time to stop, reflect and honor moments we have experienced.
So take time to think about the year that just passed. Have a moment of reflection and ask yourself these four questions:
i. What did I learn this year?
ii. What were my biggest achievements?
iii. What went wrong? Where did I fail?
iv. What are my big “thank yous”? Who do I want to acknowledge and appreciate?
Note: Try to write these answers down. I know this may sound “so last century”, but something amazing really does happen when you put some things to paper.
Step 2: Focus on how you want to feel
What motivates you toward a goal? What is the underlying reason for that goal?
I decided to focus on my feelings i.e. how I want to feel for this new year ahead. Again I answered some questions and wrote down everything that came to my mind.
So, try this:
What went right last year? What were some of the projects that excited you? What do you want to do more of this year?
What didn’t go so well last year? What things are the things you don’t enjoy doing? What do you want to do less of this year?
Step 3: Keep it simple
Most of us can’t help but come up with a long list, but do try to narrow it down. Too many things on a list will just make your year confusing. Try a radical approach: keep your list as short as possible.
I have my list of things, feelings, and issues I want to accomplish. I read them often and feel excited about this new year. It keeps me motivated and makes me feel empowered. Hope your list makes you feel the same.
And now that you’re finally in this next frame of mind, let’s take things to the next level.
Step 4: Make small but tangible daily steps to achieve the things on your list
This is the interesting part. Normally we make our list and then return to our daily lives totally forgetting what we had set out to do.
So instead of leaving my list of “Things to Achieve” in a folded piece of paper tucked away somewhere, I add these into an app I have on my iPhone called coach.me, which is a daily habit tracker. It is very simple to use and right to the point (plus it’s free!).
The app helps keep my goals in check.
By looking at this, I revised some of my daily habits, and added new ones which will help me get closer to some of my goals. That way, whether I achieve the big goal at the end not, I am happy and content that I did a little bit of something versus nothing at all, and that’s already making me feel good!
What are your thoughts on New Year resolutions? Have any secrets to making them come true?