January 1st is the date most people choose for starting (or re-starting) new habits. Many people set New Year resolutions but, sadly, not many follow through. Does this mean New Year resolutions are bad? It depends.
The reason why resolutions work great for some people for not for others is that we are all different. More precisely, we respond differently to outer and inner expectations, according to the amazing framework developed by Gretchen Rubin. She has categorised people into four tendencies, of which upholders are the most likely to set and meet New Year resolutions. Obligers may meet them if they are accountable to someone other than themselves. Knowing your tendency can be a great first step to determine whether you should even bother with resolutions. You can find the quiz here.
Resolutions, the classic way
Traditional resolutions are usually related to health and fitness. Eat better, go to the gym, drop X kilos, etc. If you have done this before and it has worked for you, go ahead and keep doing it this way. However, most people drop their guard before February and abandon their goals until the following year. If that’s the case, these strategies may help:
- Before setting a resolution ask yourself why it is important for you. Keep that motivation in mind every time you struggle with sticking to the plan.
- Make your resolutions as specific and achievable as possible.
- Focus on habits, not results. For example, make your resolution “train at least 3x week” instead of “squat 200kg”.
- Consider breaking down the timespan to semesters, quarters or even months. The more often you check progress, the easier would be to stay on the bandwagon.
- Write your list (handwrite if possible) and have it somewhere visible.
- Consider having a buddy or a group of friends to keep you accountable (especially if you’re an obliger). Accountability can also be achieved by social media or blog posts.
Other ways of making resolutions
Over time I’ve heard about different ways of making resolutions that might help people with compliance. I’ve listed some examples below, feel free to comment with more ideas that might help other people.
- Join a challenge. Even if it’s not for a full year, challenges add the benefit of community, accountability and healthy competition. As a bonus, many of them have a charity component.
- Go minimal. Make one resolution and make it super specific to something you are obsessed with. As an example, Dan Pashman of The Sporkful podcast closes every year with the resolution of eat more of a particular food on the following year. He encourages listeners to send recordings of their own food resolutions. It’s a light-hearted way of having “a sense of purpose” with something fun and enjoyable.
- Go practical. Gretchen Rubin and her sister/co-host Elizabeth Craft created 18 for 2018 lists for their podcast Happier. Their lists contained 18 things they wanted to do in 2018 that would probably not get done if they weren’t in the list. The items could be as mundane as “buy a new phone charger”. They encouraged listeners to create and share their own lists and are planning new lists for the new year.
- No resolutions. If resolutions are not for you, that’s fine.
Happy New Year
I want to finish up by wishing you a Happy New Year, whether you choose to make resolutions or not.