Making resolutions is one of the most attractive parts of going into the new year. Many people like the allure of a clean slate, and as humans, we are drawn to the idea of self-change. Plus, there is a lot of social pressure to become a better version of ourselves: better looking, thinner or more successful. Unfortunately, not everyone manages to keep their resolutions. More often than not, this happens simply because these resolutions aren’t truly in line with our values, what’s really important to us. Read our blog to learn more about new year’s resolutions and what you can do differently this year to succeed.
Why Do People Make New Year’s Resolutions?
In the past, new year’s resolutions held religious significance; the ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods, which had to be kept in order to stay in their favour. Today, people make new year’s resolutions as a promise (to themselves) to improve their lives. It’s also a social media trend followed by many influencers who encourage you to share your resolutions. At times they even often offer discounts on their fitness programs!
Generally speaking, people make resolutions because they’re hoping for a positive change, and the reason they wait until the new year is because of the illusion of starting from zero. A new year is like a clean slate that allows you to make the upcoming year better than the previous one. We’re attracted to this idea because although starting something anew can be tiring and scary, it can equally be extremely exciting and satisfying!
Why Is Setting New Year’s Resolutions A Good Idea?
1. Setting goals makes us feel good
Setting a goal gives us an instant reward. It can make us optimistic about the possible outcome and focus on what our life will look like after we’ve changed instead of paying attention to the process of change itself. Additionally, setting goals can help us develop a plan that makes us feel more in control and makes achieving the goal more likely!
2. They can bring you one step closer to becoming a better version of yourself
Knowing that everyone sets a new year’s resolution can make you feel pressured to do the same, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maybe you’ll finally sign up for a training program, apply for university or a new job. While this doesn’t guarantee you’ll go through with the plan, it’s an excellent first step. And if you realise that one of your resolutions isn’t really what you want, that’s great too! A bit of reflection and self-awareness can encourage you to work out what might be an ideal goal instead, aligned with your values (more on these below).
3. They give you a sense of security
None of us knows what the new year will bring but setting goals can make it a bit more predictable, which will give you a sense of stability and security. Setting resolutions can be a good anti-anxiety strategy.
Why Do New Year’s Resolutions Fail?
1. People believe that changing one thing will bring other positive outcomes
Have you ever wondered why you want to lose weight? Sure, for some being thinner might make you feel better about yourself and help you become a healthier person. Still, chances are you’re hoping for other secondary outcomes, such as becoming more attractive and perhaps finding a partner. Unfortunately, many people give up when the secondary result isn’t achieved straight away. This is due to what’s known as false hope syndrome, which refers to having unrealistic expectations about the speed and outcome of self-change.
The new year is an opportunity for many businesses to offer unrealistic training programs, which is why a lot of people believe that committing to an intense plan is possible. This might also make people focus on an idealised version of the future instead of analysing their past experiences and deciding if their goals are actually achievable in a short amount of time. If you’re overconfident, you’re more likely to set goals that are too ambitious, which can set you up for failure and more giving up!
3. All-or-nothing thinking
All-or-nothing thinking can be in the way of making new year’s resolutions come true. For example, people who are trying to lose weight and happen to eat a cupcake in a moment of weakness might decide they’d already failed and go on to eat even more. Similarly, people trying to become fit might give up exercising after failing to keep the promise for one day.
4. Changing habits isn’t easy
Keeping resolutions isn’t easy because it comes with making a lifestyle change. Changing your routine takes time, and it doesn’t just involve adding new activities here and then. It very often also consists in eliminating bad habits that can prevent that change. For example, if you want to lose weight, it’s not enough to include a bit of daily exercise. You might also have to quit eating lots of sugary products and adjust how you respond to stress.
5. People set resolutions to follow trends
Noting other people setting similar resolutions might encourage you to do the same. But if your resolutions don’t come from a genuine desire to change and live a more fulfilling life, your commitment will be short-lived. Social media can make you feel like you should lose weight and be productive. However, that might not be what makes you feel happy in reality. Keep on reading to find out how you can set new year’s resolutions that are true to your values.
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How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions?
1. Get to know your values
Values are what gives your life meaning and what helps you set goals you will want to achieve. If you want to work out your values, you must remember that they’re very subjective. While many people hope to earn more money or travel more next year, it doesn’t mean it’s what you should do too or that it will make you happy.
Try the gravestone exercise extensively used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to connect with what really matters to you. Imagine that you died and focus on answering questions such as; how will people remember you, who will miss you the most and what your obituary would say. Crucially, imagine that nobody will ever visit your gravestone and that you’ll be the only one who knows what it says. This should hopefully give you some clarity on what’s truly important and gives meaning to you. You can use this to inspire your resolutions this year and make it far more likely that you’ll stick to and achieve them!
2. Start small
Once you’ve identified your values, think of the goals you want to set, but don’t make them too ambitious. Aiming too high will put you under pressure and might discourage you from committing to the goals in the long run. Start small instead. For example, if your value is wellbeing and, to follow that, you set the goal to be more financially successful, try to avoid making it about accumulating an enormous amount of money by the end of the year. Instead, you could try to put a small sum of money aside each week.
If you discovered that one of your values is connection (with others), you could set a goal that includes being more in touch with the people of your life or even meeting new ones. In this case, you could start small by aiming for meeting with your friends at least once a week or signing up for a new class to meet new people. What helps a lot is to keep your goals achievable with a realistic plan…
3. Make a realistic plan and commit to it
Understand that a change isn’t instantaneous, and you’ll possibly fail a few times before you develop a consistent routine. Once you’ve set your goals, try to divide them into smaller ones. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, focus on eating healthier without giving up on your favourite food. After you’ve followed the new diet for a while, you can start eliminating sugary and salty food. Often, we don’t achieve our resolutions because we feel disheartened by a single failure. Committing to your values and goals can help you here: it means accepting that you can’t be perfect and will not always stick to your schedule. Being compassionate towards yourself can help you renew the same commitment after a failure and make it far more likely to eventually achieve your goals and resolutions.
4. Keep a journal
The best motivation is seeing your successes, even if small ones. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Thus, while you won’t achieve your goals straight away, you can always reward yourself for making progress. Keep a journal to detail your journey and treat yourself to something you enjoy doing to celebrate your commitment. Celebrating your victories, even if small, is a fundamental aspect of self-care. It will boost your confidence and make you more likely to succeed.
Sharing resolutions with other people will help you feel more supported and motivated to stick to them. Find out if your friends set the same goals or join an online forum to connect with like-minded people. If your goal is to read more, why not joining a book club? Feeling like you’re not alone on your journey, and your accountable for reaching those goals will help you stick to them!
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