New Years Resolutions and how to make them work for you.

It is that time of the year again when we reflect upon the dying year, mainly on the missed opportunities, and what we wish to achieve in the following year.

Should we stop making New Years Resolutions?

We think of the good and the bad, and most start to think forward to what the new year will bring them.  We may begin to ask ourselves “Will the next year be better?” or “Surely this next year can’t be as bad as this one”.

This negative mindset plagues many people and masks all the good things, and their achievements made throughout the year.

And among all this chaos of thought and worry comes the idea that we, again “should” set ourselves a new year resolution, to keep us on track and make up for our failings from this last year. So, is there no wonder why these resolutions often fail?

The majority of resolutions evolve around habits old and new.  Common examples include:

  • Eating more healthily.
  • Giving up smoking.
  • Drinking less.
  • Being more active.
  • Get a new job or career.
  • Being in the moment more.

Habits and New Years Resolutions

As a society we believe that habits are hard to change, so question why bother?  We must understand that habits are not always negative but usually a very positive thing.  The most exciting thing is that habits CAN BE CHANGED.  Is it easy? No, it requires effort.  Like anything in life, if it was easy and handed to you on a plate, how much would you appreciate it? Would it mean the same to you as something that you had to work hard to achieve?

When building a new habit, you need to keep in mind THREE steps:

  1. The actions you take need to start of SMALL.  “Eating healthier” or “Give up smoking” is not a small step. It’s like asking someone to leap mount Everest in a single stride. It can’t be done! Why do people often set themselves goals like this and wonder why they fail? Realistic progress will build your confidence. In the case of “Eating healthier” you might decide not to order that doughnut when ordering a coffee when heading into work.  What seems more achievable to you?
  2. This next step is related to the first in that the action needs to be EASY to achieve in the first few week.  Like anything in life, we often resist the challenging things, being drawn to the quick fixes and easy solutions. If we make our actions to build our habits easier, then we are more able to complete them.  Leave reminders about the measures you need to take and put plans into place to make the action seem easier. An example says if you wanted to set up the habit of having breakfast every morning, prepare it the night before and wake up earlier to give yourself the time to enjoy it. By achieving and recognising these easy steps, we build our confidence to attain more.
  3. CONNECT the new action with a previous habit. Consider a habit you already have that is well assimilated into your daily routine.  An example habit maybe is “Drink more often”, and to add to it, you could add “Drink less one less can of fizzy drink a day”.  By attaching your new desired habit to a previous one the stimulus to accept the new habit will come from the old habit. Building a habit from fresh can be more of a challenge, undoubtedly if it has no basis in your current live routine.
Time matters when considering goals

Time setting and why it matters

When building your New Year’s Resolutions, you also need to consider setting a time frame. Like any goal, if you create a time frame into you can help motivate you to achieve it.  By just saying “Give up smoking in the new year “you’re not specific enough about when you want to accomplish this. Giving a time frame will help keep you focused and restrict any procrastination.

Why the Resolution needs to be based on your terms

A final comment I will make on new years resolutions is to consider a rule from one of Jordan Peterson’s book https://www.amazon.co.uk/12-Rules-Life-Antidote-Chaos/dp/0345816021

Rule 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.

Jordan Peterson

The essence of this rule is that to compare yourself to others is unreasonable, self-destructive and like trying to compare an orange to a pineapple. Yes, they are both fruit, but in many ways they are different.  Expecting you to achieve the same things as others have is unfair.  You have not lived the same life, experienced the same things and had equal opportunities. 

On the other hand to compare who you are today, to the person you were yesterday is more achievable. You have both achieved the same things, been through the same experiences and had the same life.  The rule asks you to consider what small things can you do today to change your future, comparing who you were yesterday to who you want to be.

Base your New Years Resolutions on what you want and what you can achieve and watch how successful you will be.

And finally, my last comment on this is to be kind to yourself.  You can change and grow, but don’t beat yourself up for your past mistakes. You can do whatever you put your mind to if it matters enough to you.