For some the start of a new year brings renewed hope, a chance to re-set the clock, to start again, to do things differently or to try something new. New year’s resolutions usually revolve around implementing enhanced lifestyle changes, but can also include other aspects such as improving relationships, focussing on careers, commencing or resuming studies, picking up a new hobby, etc.
According to Griffiths (2016), research shows that while half of all adults make New Year’s resolutions, fewer than 10% manage to keep them for more than a few months. Why is this so? I think it is a combination of factors, discussed below: –
- Personality and drive – some people are great at starting new things and get carried away with the novelty or idea of something but are not great at finishing or maintaining the required action to achieve the goal.
- Being overly ambitious – sometimes we try and take on too much. Implementing change in our lives requires energy and effort and we need to fit these into our already busy lives.
- Lack of evaluation and planning of the goal – we may make a new year’s resolution to save money, but 6 months into the year, when we still have no savings, we are unsure why. What was the plan around your savings?
- Ineffective support from family/friends – if your resolution is to stop smoking and your family has heard the same goal for the past five years, your declaration may be met with cynicism, which may leave you feeling deflated right at the start.
Here are some strategies to help you overcome the above challenges: –
- You know yourself, so be realistic with what you want to achieve. If you know the long haul will be difficult break up the goal into months instead of the whole year: For the month of January I am going to …….
- Implementing change requires changing our habits, which requires changing our thoughts, which changes our actions. Choose the resolution wisely, perhaps the area where you feel the most anguish or where you know the impact on your life would be significant.
- Evaluate your resolutions using the SMART goal method – is the goal Specific (what is it you want to achieve?), is it Measurable (you will know whether or not you are achieving the goal), is it Achievable (do you have the resources to achieve the goal), it is Realistic (is the goal realistic) and is it Time-bound (by when you will have achieved your goal, or will you save an amount every month)?
- Decide whether your resolution(s) need to be shared with your family and friends. If you believe they will be supportive, share your goals with them. If not, you can choose not to.
On the positive side, Griffiths’ research also found that those who set New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to actually change their behaviour than people who don’t make these yearly goals.
I think at the core of new year’s resolutions is the individual’s desire to be a better human being, including a need to be healthier, wealthier, friendlier, more approachable, more giving, more focussed, more present/conscious, more aware and more connected. Some resolutions, goals, promises or intentions can be worked on and are of course achieved by the individual. Others may require assistance from a therapist to assist in the unpacking of the root causes for behaviours or patterns which you wish to change but are unsure how to, for example addictive behaviours, change in relationships that no longer serve you in their current form, or where you know there is significant change required in your life but are unsure where to begin.