The beginning of the year is often considered as a chance for people to turn over a new leaf hoping to reinvent themselves. A reflection of last year’s activities and thoughts on what matters in the near future lead to creating New Year’s resolutions. However, this practice has seen a decline in recent years, with just 44% of U.S. adults planning to set a New Year’s resolution for 2022, compared to 50% in 2021.
Despite resolutions being made during the new year, a survey by Optavia saw that only 10% of U.S. adults who set New Year’s resolutions stick with it while 47% broke their resolutions within the first month. In fact, the second Friday of January is known as “Quitter’s Day” when people are most likely to give up their New Year’s resolutions. Some of the primary reasons behind this phenomenon are loss of motivation, not having a plan or the right support, and setting too many or overly ambitious goals.
Moreover, Dr. Judith Beck, president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, stated that the reason why people fail to achieve their resolutions does not involve a lack of commitment. Instead, people tend to fall into traps when setting up their resolutions. The following are strategies that would help thoroughly implement New Year’s resolutions all year long.
Set approach-oriented goalsLosing weight is just one of the most common resolutions set every year and also the most frequently broken. This kind of resolution focuses on avoiding something; in this case, restraining from eating too much, avoiding sweets, and the like. Avoidance-oriented goals are associated with fewer positive thoughts and greater negative emotions. This relationship may explain the early abandonment of the resolution.
Meanwhile, approach-oriented goals are associated with greater positive emotions, thoughts, and self-evaluations. It helps people get closer to their desired outcome by adopting new habits or introducing something new. Compared to avoidance-oriented goals, approach-oriented goals are proven to be more effective according to an experiment led by Martin Oscarsson. (2020).
Changing behaviors is relatively easier than erasing them. Therefore, instead of setting avoidance-oriented goals like “stop eating sweets”, it is more recommended to rephrase it into an approach-oriented goal such as “eat more fruits and vegetables in place of sweets”. While both goals are set to help lose weight, the second one is more sustainable.
Resolutions can also be described as a range of positive outcomes. If the ultimate goal is to lose 60 pounds, then losing 25 pounds could be counted as the first successful outcome. Setting up positive outcomes towards the goal will help overcome all-or-nothing thinking that only has success or failure as the options. Having a range of outcomes will motivate people to keep trying instead of attacking themselves for not being “good enough” and giving up completely.
Self-confidence plays an important role in investing a full-fledged effort to implement New Year’s resolutions. As there are always internal and external obstacles, it is very possible to fail in achieving the goal. Failures could be very discouraging once they are perceived as definitive, leading to abandoning the endeavor altogether.
While setting the goal, it is important to think about possible obstacles that may arise during the implementation of the resolutions and how to resolve them. For example, to achieve the goal of exercising regularly to get in shape, one may purchase a gym membership and plan to use it twice a week. However, this plan can get disrupted by the new restriction rules in other areas due to COVID-19 or by the rise of the gym’s monthly rate. By anticipating such obstacles, one could prepare with alternatives such as investing in workout equipment or taking up a routine that does not cost as much, like running.
Practicing a dry run period could also take the pressure off on going through with the goal. It gives people permission to experience failure and re-analyze their resolutions – whether it is attainable or not, what can be learned from the failure, and what are the possible obstacles. Experiencing the challenge slowly before officially starting the planned resolution also helps to gradually build self-confidence.
In case of internal obstacles such as an unconscious resistance to change, getting support from others helps in striving for a behavioral change. By sharing goals with family and friends, they could offer encouragement and act as a reminder when signs of giving up appear. They might also come up with other solutions for the anticipated obstacles.
Every new year starts with all sorts of resolutions, but few people succeed at keeping them throughout the year. Failure to achieve these resolutions is frequently due to traps in setting their goals rather than lack of commitment. Therefore, it is important to adopt an approach-oriented goal and anticipate obstacles when setting New Year’s resolutions.