New Year’s Resolutions – for better or worse – are a cultural tradition that spans the globe, encouraging people to self-reflect and enter the New Year with a set of clear goals in mind. Despite more than 4000 years of existence, this now mostly secular practice still riles debate on its usefulness, effectiveness and potential adverse consequences.
Making a New Year’s Resolution provides a platform for introspection, allowing you to evaluate your current life choices and thus establish consequent goals that will you lead you onto a path of self-improvement. It can propel you into the New Year with feelings of motivation and hopeful aspiration. However, the problem with setting yearly goals is that they are extremely difficult to accomplish. According to a study by the University of Scranton, only 8% of people who made a New Year’s Resolution were able to meet their goal.
Most people fall into the trap of establishing unrealistically large goals with no concrete plans to support them. For example, if your aim is to lose weight then: How are you going to achieve this? How much weight do you want to lose? What athletic activities are you going to participate in? What dietary changes are you going to make? What makes it even harder is that most goals aren’t flexible at all, they aren’t customised to adapt to change, hence making it that much harder to accomplish.
“It is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time”
Moreover, if you’re unable to experience the glow of success instantaneously, then this can lead to feelings of perceived failure and a sense of worthlessness. Is it worth then to make a list of milestones that need to be reached if you might be left feeling shame and disappointment?
It is important to note that the problem may not necessarily lie in the goal itself but rather the way in which it is constructed. Resolutions are often shrouded in negativity, so its often better to frame your goal in more positive terms to elicit greater motivation and willpower. In addition, since they’re focused on the outcome rather than the process, it would be a good idea to create a bundle of small, related goals that will lead to achieving that larger goal. Furthermore, sharing your New Year’s Resolution with friends and family can provide you with a great support system. It’s easy to fall off the wagon so having loved ones by your side can help you from relapsing back into your old ways.
As psychologist Lynn Bufka states: “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.” Therefore, making consistent steps throughout the year will help you to transform them into healthy habits to be incorporated into your everyday lifestyle, transforming you into a more self-actualised individual.