Did you make a New Year’s resolution for 2020? Every January, it’s nearly impossible to turn on a television or have a conversation without hearing about the positive changes you NEED to make in the new year. How-to guides, trendy ideas, and new technology to “finally make it stick” are everywhere. Local gyms are overcrowded with would-be fitness fanatics, and fad diets are ubiquitous. A quick Google search reveals articles and blogs written by experts from various fields, all providing encouragement and tips to make a change. As per Harris polling, health and money-related goals are by far the most commonly cited resolutions.
New year, new YOU? Unfortunately, here is the bad news. More likely than not, it won’t work (or has failed already). According to U.S. News and World Report, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. This likely is unsurprising to most, and probably can be filed in the same category as “Researchers make astounding discovery – water is wet.” Understanding the why and how typically gets much less attention.
Ineffective strategizing and/or implementation often results in failure, which can lead to negative self-worth and other undesirable health outcomes. Reinforcing failure sets a bad precedent for the future as well, making it more likely to repeat the same pattern and view resolutions as something not taken seriously. Perhaps even calling these changes “resolutions” contributes to the lack of seriousness and commitment.
What doesn’t work:
- If you aren’t going to make a serious commitment, don’t pretend to:
Self-improvement is great, but not if it’s coming from an unhealthy place or doesn’t match up with your current needs and/or values.
- Choosing goals
that are too broad. When coming up with a plan, consider goals that are:
- Achievable – Shooting for the stars can be overwhelming
- Objective – Don’t have your progress be up for debate
- Measurable – Eat better is hard to track
- Specific – Get healthy is vague
- Behavioral – Make it something active, that you have to actually do
What DOES work:
- Try making a commitment to changing one tiny thing: For example, “no more sugar in your coffee.” A small change over a long period denotes much more progress than the person who starts out strong and falls off before Valentine’s Day.
- Commit to a single phrase: Living by that phrase for the entire year may be a productive approach as well. Be more compassionate. Make improved connections. Be centered. Take a journey.
- Put your money where your mouth is: People are much more likely to make use of a personal trainer, a financial advisor, or accountant if they are paying for them (even better is paying in advance). Otherwise, psychologically speaking, you’ll be wasting that investment. People don’t like to waste money and will do unpleasant things (like exercising) to prevent it from happening.
Resolutions sound great in theory, but rarely are in practice. What counts is what you do after the resolutions fall flat. If you do happen to fail in February, all is not lost. Reevaluate your goals, come up with a more feasible plan, and start over. Positive change can happen well beyond January 1st.