For ages, new year's resolutions have been made by millions, aspiring to be better or make positive changes in the new year to come.
It was already well-established by the 1860s, as seen in one of Mark Twain's letters.
"Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath," he wrote on 1 January 1863. "Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time."
The new calendar year, or division of time i.e., after a weekend, creates the sense that we have a fresh start. Often called the Fresh-Start Effect.
After the previous year's or week's failures, we now have time to close a chapter and start over and try again.
Although many of us set goals or new year's resolutions, unfortunately, many fail to stick to them. However, if we change our attitude and game plan, we might be able to push through and reach them.
Here's how to stick to your new year's resolutions and achieve them
If you set a goal or resolution that's doable and meaningful, you have a bigger chance of reaching it.
Your resolutions may fail for these reasons:
- It's what society dictates or expects
- You don't have a clear vision of what you want to achieve.
- You don't have a realistic plan for achieving your resolution.
- You have numerous goals (or too extravagant) and put too much pressure on yourself, making the chance for giving up bigger.
Make sure you follow the SMART principle when setting your goals:
S - Specific - be very clear on what you want to achieve. I.e., instead of "I want to save money," say, "I want to save $2000 by the end of August."
M - Measurable - Measure and note your progress as you go along. It will keep you on track and help should you make adjustments.
A - Achievable - Is your goal realistic, considering your life, circumstances, and limitations? Rather take smaller steps instead of biting off more than you can chew.
R - Relevant - Is this goal relevant and important to you? Are you doing it for the right reasons? We often set resolutions to please a spouse, a colleague, or to prove something, but it's not really what we want for ourselves.
T - Time-bound - Similar to achievable, set a realistic time frame (and deadline) to achieve your goal. Focus on small wins to get to your end goal. See it as forming a habit to keep you on the right track.
Be prepared and have a plan.
When you envision and plan how to reach your aspirations and dreams, attaining them will get much easier.
Breaking your end goal into smaller "steps or sections" could also help you stay on track:
- Divide the end goal into sub-tasks
- Prioritize and order them
- Use a visual map to display
- Assign milestones to each task
- Decide how much time each step or section requires
- Allocate resources such as time or finances accordingly
- Focus on the next step, not the big goal
Share your goals with loved ones, or find a community with similar goals to keep you accountable.
If we put it out there in the universe, we are more inclined to stick to our new year's resolutions to avoid disappointing ourselves and feeling ashamed if we didn't stick to it.
Having a support system or group is very motivating when you feel like giving up.
Focus on what you have achieved so far instead of what you still need to do.
Rather than saying, "I still need to lose 15 pounds", focus on "I have already lost 5 pounds, and I am starting to feel good".
When we focus on the positives and our achievements, we are more inclined to feel proud and stay motivated to push on.
Avoid situations (or people) that may derail your efforts or tempt you to give in.
Want to save money? Avoid the mall! Need to lose weight? Instead of a coffee date, go on a hiking date. Find ways to overcome possible obstacles and temptations.
Make room for mistakes and setbacks and be flexible.
Pauline Wallin, a psychologist and author of "Taming Your Inner Brat," said any resolution plan should include room for errors. "You're there for the long haul. You have to expect slip-ups," she said.
"There will be times when you will say, 'I'll make a mess of things, and I'm just going to start again tomorrow.' Don't berate yourself. Focus on what you're doing good for yourself rather than what mistake you made," she said.
Remember, a resolution doesn't need to be tied to New Year's. It can be following a weekend, following a birthday, or starting in the middle of the year. Be flexible and adjust. Don't be afraid to start over.
Whether you have many new aspirations and dreams this year or only want to achieve one thing, a new year's resolution should be something you are excited about and enjoy along the way.
Be kind to yourself. It should not be a punishment. It's human nature to give in to temptation for instant gratification. And that is totally ok!
Just get back into the game as soon as possible and cut yourself some slack.
May you have a prosperous new year!