How many times have you broken a New Year’s Resolution? If you’re like most people, you’ve probably stopped keeping count.
According to Carleton University psychology professor Timothy Pychyl, resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination.” Professor Pychyl believes that people make resolutions in an effort to motivate themselves. The problem with this is that a person has to be ready for this type of transformation, and it’s unlikely that we’re all truly ready on the 1st of January.
Why Your New Year’s Resolutions May Not Work
There are a few other reasons why your New Year’s resolutions may not work.
1. You’re lumped in with everyone else.
If you start your resolution along with everyone else, you’re probably going to be struggling to make it work while other people are dropping like flies. If they don’t have to do it anymore, why do you? When your friends are quitting their resolutions, there’s less pressure to keep your resolution going.
Start early and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals while everyone else is in the difficult early days.
2. If you start on January 1, you’re starting at a disadvantage.
If you’re serious about creating a new version of yourself in the new year, it’s best to get a head start. Here’s why: Research shows that it takes a minimum of 20 days to form a new habit.
In a University College London study, 96 participants were asked to choose a behavior they wanted to turn into a habit. They had to choose something they didn’t already do that could be repeated daily.
The study lasted 84 days, and researchers found that it took an average of 66 days to form a new habit. Simple habits, like drinking water after breakfast, became habit after about 20 days. Difficult habits took much longer.
By the time January 1st rolls around, you may already have a handle on your new habit.
3. There’s no time like the present.
Think of your resolution in terms of baby steps. Each day, you take another step towards your goal. Your goal may be something like reaching a certain weight or simply creating a new habit. If you start even two weeks before the new year, you’re already 14 days closer to your goal. You will have already made progress. Let’s say your goal is to lose weight. If you start 14 weeks earlier, you may begin the year closer to your goal weight. Every day is a step that will take you closer to your goal.
Resolutions are always made with the best intentions. That’s probably why so many of us start strong, but then our efforts fizzle out well before Valentine’s Day. If you want the best chance of keeping your resolution, start early.
Here are some more tips for making this year’s resolution a success:
1. Don’t make it painful.
Too many people make their resolutions something they dread. That’s why they put them off until another day instead of starting them right away. If eating healthy sounds like a chore, don’t make it your resolution. Your resolution should be something you can get excited about. It may not be easy, but your resolution should be something you really want.
2. Set specific goals.
It’s impossible to achieve a goal if it’s not clear. For example, if your goal is just to save money, how do you know when you’ve made it? Do you stop after ten dollars or ten thousand? With a vague goal, you could allow yourself to stop whenever you want and still claim success. But this isn’t true success.
On the other hand, if your goal is to save five thousand dollars by December 31 of the new year, you know exactly what to do. You know how much to save each week and month. It’s much easier to stick to and track this goal.
3. Keep it realistic.
If saving five thousand dollars in a year would mean skipping meals and living by candlelight, that shouldn’t be your resolution. Set something more realistic. Your resolution should be something you truly believe you can manage.
4. Make a plan.
You aren’t likely to get to a new place without a roadmap, and it’s just as unlikely that you’ll achieve your goals without a plan. Your plan should have a beginning and an end. Remember, the beginning doesn’t have to be on the 1st of January. You can change your life today if you want. You’re in control.
Just like your start date doesn’t have to be on January 1st, the end date doesn’t have to be on December 31st. Your goal, your rules. Feel free to set a half-year goal or to extend it into the following year. If it’s more of a life change than a goal, you can set your end date as December 31st. After a year, your efforts will be habit.
Once you have your start and end date, figure out what you’ll need to do each day, week or month to achieve that goal.
Now that you’re ready to start a resolution, all that’s left is choosing one. This is no easy task. You’ve probably got tons of ideas floating around your head, but which is the one you’ll stick to for an entire year or more?
Here are some 2018 New Year’s resolution ideas you may find interesting.
1. Quit social media.
Social media has its place, for certain. It helps family and friends find each other and stay connected. It helps people stay updated on current news and trends. It’s certainly not all bad. But technology addiction is real. Because social media delivers instant gratification, people become addicted to viewing and posting updates. It’s easy to become obsessed with likes and follows, but then you’re spending less time interacting with people in real life. If you think you may have a technology addiction, this may be a good resolution for you.
2. Adopt a whole foods diet.
This is kind of a modern take on the old “get healthy” resolution. Getting healthy is still a good one, but adopting a whole foods diet gives you a little more direction. This one can be a lot easier than most people realize. The foods you eat cannot be processed. It’s all about real wholesome food.
It’s easier than ever to invest your money. Apps like Stash, Acorns, and SigFig make it simple to invest a lot or a little. Feel free to start small. If you’re consistent, your portfolio will continue to grow over time with very little effort on your part.
When you tell someone you’ve set a New Year’s resolution, they probably won’t have much faith that you’ll follow through. Don’t be offended, this isn’t personal. It’s simply because most people haven’t spent the time and effort necessary to make it work. Now, you have.
If you follow all the tips outlined in this post, you will be on your way to having what may be your first successful resolution.
By now, you should be convinced that there’s no reason to delay. Start your New Year’s resolution today. Why not? If you want this year to be different, it’s time to try a different approach.
This is a guest post by Trevor McDonald: Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.