Setting Realistic New Year’s Resolutions

Ah, January - the New Year, when everyone sets out to achieve a particular goal, endeavor, or achievement, a la New Year’s Resolution. In an effort to start fresh and better themselves, folks set out to achieve drastic changes, only to fizzle out and fail before the first month is out. This post is all about resolution strategy, and helping you to set realistic goals in the New Year, to ensure success and then sustenance, in any endeavor you wish to achieve.

Why Do We Make New Year’s Resolutions?

December tends to put us in a particular kind of mental state, especially at its end. As we come crashing down from our holiday highs, in sets regrets for a month of overextending and overindulgence, and for a year where some things were missing, disappointing, under performed, incomplete or even unsuccessful. Our reflections and nervous/negative energy leads to a discomfort that causes us to want to change, as we focus on ways to make our lives better and “start fresh” in January - the new year. Enter the resolution!

A new year’s resolution is a goal or promise you make to yourself, to improve your life in the coming year. This usually involve changing ingrained habits or behaviors, usually adding or taking something away, for the benefit of yourself and/or others. We set these because a New Year is viewed as a fresh start, a clean slate, and ultimately an arbitrary starting point for any and all major life changes, at least in our minds. We tell ourselves we can do anything, achieve anything, and that this will be our year. But there’s a reason that less than 10% of these resolutions are successful, and that’s because the standard resolution is a recipe for disappointment.

Why Do Most New Year’s Resolutions Fail?

As individuals, we are hardwired to hate change, no matter the size. We live in our world and react to our environment in a way that’s unique to us, and those reactions are known and comfortable. Change at its heart is the definition of uncomfortable, which is what makes it so hard. Even worse, the more drastic the change, the more uncomfortable it will be, and the more difficult it will be to turn the change into your new normal behavior.

We also make too many vague, grandiose resolutions. Remember the regrets and nervous energy I mentioned earlier? That leads us to create a long list of changes we NEED to make to improve our lives, and they all need to be accomplished IMMEDIATELY. In this age of instant gratification, a person may do well on acting on their set changes and goals for a week, or two, or maybe even a month, but then ultimately fizzle out when they realize that these new behaviors are in no way sustainable or adaptable. In taking on too much, too quickly, and ultimately failing, disappointment and old regrets come sinking back in. Pretty unhealthy, right?

How to Set Successful Resolutions:

The short answer here, don’t set resolutions, set steps to take towards ONE resolution. Now I know I said this post is about setting successful resolutions in the new year, but I’m proposing you all change your way of thinking about them. Think of the resolution as a catalyst for gradual improvements. As with weight loss, small change at a slow pace is both healthy and sustainable change. As you sit down to set a resolution, think of the one change that would have the greatest positive impact on your life, and then create a list of small goals and steps you could take over the course of the year to ultimately achieve that end-goal by year’s end.

Set yourself up for a successful new year, and avoid falling into the New Year’s Resolutions trap.

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