People have been making New Year's resolutions for thousands of years. Today people make resolutions as a way to reform bad habits and develop better ones. We often make resolutions with the best of intentions, only to fall by the wayside after a few weeks. Are New Year's resolutions really a good idea? Is it possible to make resolutions we will stick to?
Should You Make New Year's Resolutions?
Have you made any New Year's resolutions? With one study reporting a failure rate of 88%, is it really worth it?
Resolutions: How successful are we?
A study in Quirkology reported that 88% of participants failed to keep their New Year's resolutions. We've all done it. "This year I am definitely giving up ____ (insert your favorite bad habit in here) and this time it's for good." But by February we're back smoking, eating chocolate, or whatever bad habit we've promised to give up.
Just as popular as the "I will give something up" resolution is the "this year I will ...(do whatever is good for us)". An old favorite in this category is going to gym. In this case we are trying to develop a positive habit. But the same outcome happens as with the "giving things up" resolution. The gym membership is forgotten , and the expensive sports wear gathers dust in the wardrobe..
Whatever the resolution, when we break it, we feel guilty and bad about ourselves. The same study also found that when making the resolution, 52% of respondents were sure they would stick to it. So what happens between the time we make the resolution, and breaking them?
Why do we make resolutions we can't stick to?
One reason we fail to keep our resolutions is that we make resolutions that they are not achievable. For example, if we make the resolution to get in shape next year, but don't do any exercise, or have no time to exercise, this is not a realistic goal.
Another problem is that we don't know when we have achieved the goal. We need to work towards a goal and break down the steps we need to achieve it. For example, maybe we can start off by taking a short walk at lunch time, take an exercise class, and eventually do a 5 mile charity walk.
However, if we not motivated to take the first step, in this case going for the lunchtime walk, then we will never achieve our goal. Maybe the real reason we fail is because our resolutions are ideals we think we "ought" to live up to. But they don't fit with our inner values - what we really want to do with our lives.
Resolutions: an alternative approach
So what is the solution? Some people don't make resolutions and simply try to live the best they can every day. But for me the New Year is a chance for some quiet reflection. Everything slows down and there is time to look over last year and what I want to do in the year ahead. At the end of every year, I like to do a review of the year before. What's worked and what I need to improve on in the year to come.
This year I found a fabulous tool for doing a review in Psychologies Magazine. It involved looking at the year the good times and what made them good, the bad times and what made them bad. Then looking at how you can have more of good times and less of the bad. By going into depth on my values and what I needed to do to bring about the things I want in my life, I felt good about what I had accomplished in the past year and hopeful for the year ahead.
Maybe the questions we need to ask ourselves are: What went well in 2013? What do we want to achieve in 2014? How will we do that? This way we can look at our progress, find out what we really want, and not beat ourselves up by failing to reach unrealistic ideals.