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How effective are new years resolutions?

How effective are new years resolutions?

Mehreen Zahra-Malik

I’m sure everyone has been through the process of getting excited towards the end of the year and making list of resolutions. It could be goals or dreams we hope to achieve or habits we wish to quit or incorporate, but the idea of ‘new years resolutions’ is a wide-spread one proliferated by the media and entertainment world. However, how effective are new years resolutions?

According to studies, 64 per cent of new years resolutions are abandoned within the second week of February. Gyms, yoga and pilates classes get an influx of memberships at the end of the year and beginning of the new year only to see a drop in numbers within the first month. The interesting thing to note about these statistics however, is that the problem isn’t so much with the nature of the goals that we set. Whether they be big, small, achievable or life-changing, people seem to fail at the same rate.

There are two main reasons for this. The first is the intentionality behind our goals; unless you change your mindset your goals will never actualise. It’s not the gym, pilates or yoga class that will be the major change, but rather, it’s your mind that needs to change in order to achieve your resolution. All change requires some form of emotional friction, which becomes our fuel to bring about that change. Self-Discipline is the impetus that will bring about change. You are not born with it, it is acquired and built through a process of enduring the discomfort of changing who and what you are. Similar to building muscle, it needs to be developed one challenge at a time.

Another reason why new years resolutions typically don’t work out is that it takes more than just the resolution itself to work; a strict and proper process to achieve the resolution is needed to begin to see the results. Although it is obviously harder to achieve a major goal versus a micro-goal, the difficulty of the goal you set isn’t nearly as important as whether or not you create the right process to achieve that goal. This is why the first thing you need to do when upon making any resolution- big or small- is create a process that will actually allow you to achieve that goal.

There are certain ways to frame our resolutions such that we may be closer to achieving them:

Make your resolution extremely specific

By making your goals more specific, they become more measurable and give you clarity as to what exactly you want to achieve and how you can achieve it. For instance, instead of “get in better shape” make your goal, “lose 10 pounds in one month”. That way, you’re motivated to create a diet and fitness plan as this more specific goal gives you more direction. Similarly, the goal “grow my business” may sound great but it’s too vague to cultivate any real change. The goal “land five new client in one month” is a better alternative, giving you an idea of the process to get to your larger goal.

Make your goal positive

It is easier to strive to become someone new or invoke change rather than avoid something all together. For example, the goal “stop smoking” is a great goal expect that it is a ‘negative’ goal in that it’s far harder to stop doing something than it is to embrace new, positive change. The phrasing of our goals should be such that they are ‘positively’ phrased so that we are immediately encouraged to exhibit better behaviour instead of immediately encouraged to resist temptation or exhibit willpower, which are far more difficult to do.

Make your goal personally meaningful

If your goal is centred around other people rathe than yourself, you’re less likely to achieve it. Ultimately, it’s easy to not care about what other people think at times and this can detract you from your goal. However, if your goal is about yourself or something meaningful to you, such as setting a good example for your children, you are more incentivised to achieve your goal. The point of your new years resolutions is that they should make you proud and prove to yourself that you can achieve difficult goals or make a difference in how you see yourself.


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