It’s that time again! 2015 has arrived and if you’re like half of the population, you’re probably looking at setting some New Year’s Resolutions centered around losing weight, getting healthy or being more happy. Other top areas of focus for resolutions are improving career, being more organized, stopping smoking, improving relationships and spending more time with family.
As you can see from the above graphic, less than half of all people actually take the time to make New Year’s Resolutions. Additionally, of those that do make resolutions, 75% of them will abandon them within the first week of the new year. Even worse, statistics show that 88% of all those who make commitments for the new year, will fail to achieve any of their desired results. Why is this so? What makes it so hard for people to set and keep their resolutions?
In this article from Psychology Today by Ray Williams, Author of The Leadership Edge and Breaking Bad Habits, several reasons are defined for why most people have such a hard time keep New Year’s resolutions. Most notably:
Cultural Procrastination – People typically make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves and unfortunately most people aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits.
- False Hope Syndrome – More often than not, people make resolutions that are significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves. This principle reflects that of making positive affirmations. When you make positive affirmations about yourself that you don’t really believe, the affirmations not only don’t work, they can be damaging to your self-worth.
- Negative Reinforcement – Just as with positive affirmations, negative affirmations can make a huge difference in attempting to change our behavior. Unfortunately, trying to change unwanted behavior by “not trying to do” something, in effect just strengthen the bad habit.
- Unrealistic Expectations – People may often think that if they lose weight, or reduce their debts, or exercise more, their entire life will change, and when it doesn’t, they usually get discouraged and revert back to old behaviors.
How To Set Your New Year’s Resolutions
So how do we go about setting resolutions that are realistic and attainable? Let’s take a look at some suggestions:
- Be S.M.A.R.T. – Everyone that has ever been successful at goal-setting and/or keeping resolutions has most likely employed the SMART model. It is as follows:
- Specific - Target a specific area for improvement and accomplishment.
- Measurable – Quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
- Achievable - Make sure the desired outcome is in fact achievable.
- Relevant – Is it relevant to who you are and your interests?
- Time – Specify when the results should be achieved.
- Understand Why & Be Ready – In order to avoid Cultural Procrastination and change a particular habit or correct something uncomfortable in your life, you must understand why you desire to make the change and be ready to do what it takes to achieve it. Ask yourself: “How would I like to grow and become better?” Then, be honest with yourself and ask “Am I really ready to make this change in my life?” If your answer is not a resounding “YES!”, then look at another resolution.
Be Realistic & Start Small – Overcome False Hope Syndrome by making realistic and specific goals. Losing weight is not a specific goal. Losing 10 pounds in 90 days is. Also don’t overcommit yourself and keep your list short. Committing to too many resolutions or setting goals too overwhelming is a sure-fire recipe for failure.
- Avoid The Negative – Remember, when it comes to using affirmations, you cannot affirm a negative to get a positive. Setting a resolution to “not be fat” will not be effective, because you’re trying to get something positive out of a negative phrase. Instead focus on the desired outcome. “I will lose 30 pounds by following my diet and exercise plan” or use affirmations like “I am healthy and fit because I take good care of my body” to adjust how you think before taking on bigger goals.
- Envision Achievement – Instead of thinking that accomplishing your resolution will instantly change your life, visualize what it looks like in your mind to have accomplished what you desire. Visualization is one of the most important parts of affirmations because without seeing ourselves as skinnier, wealthier or more organized, we will never believe we can achieve it. The emotions that we feel when visualizing these changes in our lives is the essence of motivation and the impetus for achievement.
How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions
So now we’ve set our clearly defined and attainable goals that resonate with us emotionally when we visualize them, but what can we do along the way to help us hit the mark? Here are some suggestions:
Break Down Larger Goals – When focused on a resolution, make sure to break it down as far as you can, to the simplest task possible. If your resolution is “going to the gym”, turn it into the tiniest habit possible that you can perform in under 60 seconds.
- Partner Up – Not only does having a New Year’s Resolution partner keep you both motivated and supported, it also keeps you accountable to someone other than yourself. If you’re backsliding or not staying committed to the goal, a partner can call you out on it.
- Track Your Progress – Keeping a log of your progress towards your goals can be a powerful tool to keep you moving in the right direction. Social media is also a great place to track success while sharing with others for support and additional accountability. There are also apps made for your smartphone or tablet that help track goal progress.
- Reward Yourself – Make sure to celebrate the small successes between milestones and reward yourself with something that doesn’t contradict your resolution. These small celebrations will keep you motivated and feeling good about your progress. Rewarding yourself with a therapeutic massage or day out with a friend can be a simple way to say “way to go” to yourself.
- Continue Envisioning Achievement – Continue to visualize what it looks like in your mind to have accomplished what you desire and let yourself feel the emotions of satisfaction. Much like the affirmation process, these visualizations and accompanying emotions are vital to keep you moving in the right direction.
Here are some great links to resources on how to help you keep your New Year’s Resolutions:
Here’s one last resource for New Year’s Resolutions and setting new habits that I found to be very simple, straightforward and easy to understand:
One last tip I always like to talk about with people when setting resolutions is to not focus so much on New Year’s Day or the new year itself. A resolution can be started at any time. It doesn’t matter if you fall off the proverbial wagon either, just be ready to get right back on and start fresh. Also, your attitude may well be the single biggest factor in either succeeding or failing, so make sure you do everything you can to stay positive, focused and motivated.
Have a balanced day (& year!) ~Maria
About The Author
Maria Martos is the owner and founder of Sagewood Wellness Center in San Juan Capistrano, CA. As a certified Neuromuscular Therapist, Maria specializes in the treatment of severe, chronic or minor pain, as well as injury rehabilitation and prevention. She holds a certification in Sports Massage providing her with expertise to evaluate and address athletic injuries and to help professional and recreational athletes improve their athletic performance. Maria is Board Certified by the NCBTMB, and provides therapeutic massage sessions for those seeking stress reduction and relief from generalized aches pains, and tension. Maria holds a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology, and offers individual Counseling, focusing on Integrative Mind-Body Therapy to help individuals uncover and remove unconscious blocks that limit them from living their best lives. She is also a Reiki Master and Teacher, and has worked in the health care field for over 25 years.