What are new year resolutions and why do so many people seem to fail within the first month?
New Year's resolutions always come into discussion at the end of the year. We like to see a new year as a new chapter or mini ‘milestone’ in our life, an opportunity to improve ourselves in one way or another. We set ourselves goals such as “lose weight”, “be physically fitter” or a self improvement task such as “spending less time on my phone”. Do those goals sound familiar?
That’s because most of us will have set up new year resolutions with one of those topics in mind. An independent study in 2017* showed that the top five most popular new year's resolutions were to do with physical health (33%), weight loss (20%) eating (13%), self improvement (9%) and mental health and sleep (5%).
The majority of people fail their new year's resolutions within the first month of the year. Why is this? And how can we create better goals, ones that we can stick to?
Many people want to improve their way of life in some way. We often see a new year as a blank slate to start afresh and motivate ourselves to get things right that we may have put aside for a little while. By formulating goals for the year, this gives us a sense of control in our life and helps us to get motivated about projects that are otherwise difficult and not part of our everyday routine. These motivations we have at the beginning of the year, are the driving force behind our new year enthusiasm. “I feel so excited about losing weight and finally having that beach body I have been dreaming of!” Yep, I think many of us would get excited by that idea… This excitement comes from an increase in the neurotransmitter dopamine.
What happens next? After a couple of weeks of trying out your resolutions (such as an unpleasant diet or going to the gym five times per week), your dopamine levels start to drop, and your enthusiasm and motivation for the tasks start to wear thin. And that’s when you start to find the resolutions you planned at the beginning of the year too difficult, and too mentally exhausting, to maintain.
How on earth can we pull this around so that we can actually make a positive change that lasts the test of time? There are many answers to this question;, however here are some top tips and tricks to help us get where we want to go (with a less likelihood of giving up).
Create SMART goals that work
The scientific study back in 2017 concluded that the best way to keep people motivated to stick to their new year's resolutions is to createSMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. Such goals help us to understand what we are wanting to achieve and how we go about achieving those goals. You can find out more about setting up smart goals here:
Recruit an alibi to keep you motivated
The second tip to help you achieve your goals is assigning an alibi who can keep you motivated throughout the process. This can be a sports coach, a family member or friend. Knowing that you are doing this for yourself but also knowing that you don’t want to disappoint your alibi is a good way to keep going, even when the motivations are starting to wear thin.
Set positive goals
The most successful goals are approach- orientated, not avoidance-oriented. “Participants with approach-oriented goals were significantly more successful than those with avoidance-oriented goals” (2017). This means that positive goals such as “I will strive to eat five fruit and veg everyday” instead of negative goals such as “I will avoid all junk foods and takeaways” are usually more successful.
Set small goals
Setting smaller goals throughout the year can help with your motivation and make it easier to track your progress. If your goal is to lose weight, having smaller goals, such as to lose one kilogram per month, can help you to break down the daunting task and to remind yourself why you are doing this in the first place.
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit your targets
Another factor that causes people to stop their challenges is the guilt they feel for falling behind. Once you forget to do it one day, it feels more and more challenging to catch up, and we quickly get to the point where we are ready to give up. Try giving yourself more time to achieve your goal, so that you don’t have to perform every day, and forgive yourself for skipping a day if you’re not feeling your best self.
Be proud of yourself and be empathetic
And finally, whatever goals you have set yourself for the year ahead, focus on yourself, not those around you. We all have different challenges that we face and one person may find it easier to complete a challenge than another. Be proud of yourself and stick to your own personal goals. It’s okay if there are days or weeks where you fall behind;, that’s what happens in life. However, if you remind yourself why you set yourself those goals in the first place, and you try to add small, achievable goals in your everyday life, this will eventually become part of your routine. Successful goals are ones that become part of your life, become part of your routine and no longer feel like a difficult chore in the long term.
Whatever you decide to do this year or in the following years, it’s okay if you do or don’t work on resolutions. As long as you find a technique that works and that makes you happy, that's all that matters at the end of the day.
Who wrote this?
She / her. A traveller and artist at heart, Maddy is the latest addition to the RM family. Still a fresh design student from Loughborough, she is our first intern we have taken under our wing. With lots of spirit and mad determination to learn everything (nearly), she is helping in the marketing and design team, and learning the ropes from the very best. In her spare time, she loves all things creative and outdoors - painting, making earrings, hiking or yogaing… WATCH THIS SPACE, who knows what she will bring to the table…