Have you ever wondered why people tend to set New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of the year? What is it about starting something at the beginning of the year that seems to appeal to people?
The end of the year has become about looking back on what has or hasn’t been achieved. It is about evaluating our successes and, sometimes, failures, in which case we look for opportunities to improve upon that with which we are not satisfied. We have trained ourselves to understand that with a new year, new opportunities for success – be it financial, personal or social – are born. With this conditioning, our attitudes tend to be more positive and motivated. Our brains also love milestones and measurable chunks of time; We have always planned our lives in terms of specific portions of time, such as night and day, the seasons of the year or lunar cycles and ever since we’ve been able to, we have thought of the start of a new day, week, month or year as a type of “new beginning”.
So often, we set New Year’s resolutions, but forget about them within 2 months. Here is how you can avoid that:
BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR RESOLUTIONS
If, for example, you are overweight, unfit and have never slipped on a pair of trainers, don’t resolve to run the Comrades marathon in 6 months’ time. Rather aim to be run a half-marathon in a decent time or work towards a competitive personal best, in preparation for the following Comrades marathon!
PREPARE YOURSELF FOR YOUR RESOLUTIONS
Realise that this is something that requires a life change and commitment. Sit with that for a while and make sure it is really what you want. After that, you need to take the first step towards achieving your goals. Also make sure that you have a “plan B,” if things do not go according to “plan A”. For example, you might not always have enough time to train or be able to eat according to plan. If you slip up have a plan B. In the case of this example, to train a bit longer at your next session or re-adjust your diet. This prevents you from falling off the wagon and giving up on your goals.
Below I discuss some of the most common mistakes made by athletes and other like-minded, active people when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. I also discuss how to avoid them.
TOO MANY BIG RESOLUTIONS
Don’t be greedy! Some resolutions such as building muscle, saving a certain amount of money or training for a marathon, can take months to achieve. Limit yourself to a few big resolutions that can be spaced out over the year and planned for, intelligently. This is especially important if you are working and / or still have a family life to consider.
NOT PERSONALIZING YOUR RESOLUTIONS
Why did you make that resolution? What will achieving it mean to you and how will you feel when you achieve it? You need to have clear and certain answers to these questions, otherwise the resolution probably won’t mean that much and you won’t be as motivated to achieve it.
NOT WRITING THEM DOWN
Failing to write them down and clarify them, means they remain vague and undefined. An unclear resolution is an oxymoron and not at all “resolute”. It leads to unclear plans and poor results. Take some time to sit down with your resolutions, get to know and define them. Then stick them up where you can see them and remind yourself of them on a daily basis.
KEEPING YOUR RESOLUTIONS TO YOURSELF
Don’t keep your resolutions a secret! People tend to do this to minimize the consequences of failure. It may be uncomfortable, but telling people what your resolutions are, makes you accountable to them in a sense. There is that much more motivation to achieve your resolutions. Think of it this way: If you can’t even bring yourself to tell others about your resolutions, how are you going to bring yourself to commit to those resolutions and see them through?
NOT HAVING A SUPPORT GROUP
History has shown that resolutions, whether made at New Year’s or not, are much more achievable when we have support and backing from those around us. If you are trying to get fit, it won’t help to be the only one in the home or office who is eating healthy or trying to get to bed earlier. If everyone is invested, it can help to motivate you when you are tiring. If you can’t get the support you need from your immediate environment, consider joining a club or group associated with your goals.
Lastly, some points on how to make your resolutions more achievable:
A new year’s resolution is, in essence, a goal. And goals can be made more achievable by making them SMART! SMART goal setting is broken down as follows:
Specific: What exactly do you wish to accomplish? Does your goal clearly and specifically state what you are trying to achieve?
Measurable: How will you know if progress is being made on achieving your goal? Can you quantify your outcome or put it in terms of numbers, dates or milestones?
Attainable: Is attaining this goal realistic, with effort and commitment? Do you have the resources to achieve this goal? If not, how will you get them?
Relevant: Why is achieving this goal important to you? What values in your life does this goal reflect? What effect will achieving your goal have on your life or on others?
Time-bound: When will you reach your goal?
Make sure that you make changes that you can keep. A new behaviour should become a routine-like habit!