It is that time of year again when one year ends and another begins. The change to a new calendar year brings with it a sense of new possibility and a “clean slate”, which leads many of us to make New Year’s resolutions. Making these resolutions is steeped in tradition, practiced by the Romans and possibly even dating back to Babylonian times. The reasons why such resolutions appeal to us may be because of an attraction to starting over, and because of a natural tendency towards self-improvement.
While sources indicate that 40 to 50% of us make New Year’s resolutions, it has been noted that relatively few of us actually keep them. When a new year fills us with hope and motivation for betterment, why is it that the majority of resolutions are never realized? Many factors play into resolutions not being attained, including the "busy-ness" of life getting in the way. Unfortunately, the positive feelings of motivation and hope felt at the start of a new year can give way to feelings of sadness later on when goals are not realized.
There are some things that can be done to increase the chances of resolutions being successful, however. Some experts have made the following suggestions:
If you set a small number of goals, rather than a long list, you can focus more of your energy toward them and are be more likely to be effective.
Set Specific, Tangible Goals
You are more likely to be successful if you set specific goals that are measurable, rather than vague. For example, a tangible goal of “getting on my treadmill for 30 minutes at 9 pm three days a week” is more likely to be followed through with than a vague goal of “exercising more”.
Set Small Goals on the Way to Larger Ones
If you have larger goal in mind for the new year, such as “getting a new job”, you are likely to feel more accomplished if you set smaller goals on the way to meeting the larger goal. You might set intermediate goals along the way to getting a new job, such as “Setting up five informational interviews” or “applying for ten jobs a week for several months”. If you succeed at meeting small goals, you may have more motivation to attain the larger change you are seeking.
Hold Yourself Accountable
If you have an accountability system in place for meeting your goals, such as recording your progress, reporting regularly to a friend, etc., you may be more likely to succeed.
Give Yourself Rewards
Give yourself small rewards along the way towards meeting your goals; doing so will encourage you to think positively and will enhance your motivation to continue working.
While setting goals toward personal growth and achievement is a positive first step, it is also important to remember that change is a process and it does not happen overnight. It is important to be compassionate to yourself and to be forgiving if you slip-up or do not attain all of the goals you set for the year. In addition, while some changes can be managed alone, some people grapple with more longstanding challenges, such as depression and anxiety, which may be influenced by environmental factors and are not easily resolved without more comprehensive support. It may be helpful for some individuals to talk to a professional clinician to help work through these concerns. If you would like help in reaching some of your goals, and/or of you feel you could benefit from receiving compassionate and non-judgmental therapeutic support while you work through larger challenges, please do not hesitate to contact us at Boston Evening Therapy Associates.
http://blog.bufferapp.com/the-science-of-new-years-resolutions-why-88-fail-and-how-to-make-them-work (Buffer Blog)
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/12/28/why-we-make-new-years-resolutions/ (Psych Central)
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201012/why-new-years-resolutions-fail (Psychology Today)