With 2015 coming to a close, the promise of a brand new year beckons. A fresh page, a new start; time to make some resolutions. During the shortest and darkest days of the year when the festivities have passed, the holiday over-eating and drinking is over and the last family member has gotten up off the couch and left, it’s not surprising that many people find this post-holiday period a little bleak.
If you’re feeling down about the prospect of going back to a regular routine, an unsatisfying job, colder days on the horizon, or another year gone by without achieving certain goals, you may find yourself in need of opening up the windows and letting in some metaphorical air. You’re not alone. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, almost half of Americans try to inject some ambitious goals into their lives by setting challenging New Year’s resolutions. Way to go! Right? So what’s the problem?
Well, the depressing fact is that only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions. So, if you’re like the other 92% who kick-start new projects in January and abandon them later on in the year, or flail around in the quagmire of procrastination, then it’s time to get real. Stop writing down the same ambitions every year and then pushing them aside. It’s time to start setting some New Year’s resolutions that you’ll actually keep.
What Are The Most Common New Year’s Resolutions?
According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the most common resolutions of 2015 in order of popularity were:
- Lose weight
- Get organized
- Spend less, save more
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Stay fit and healthy
- Learn something new
- Quit smoking
- Help others
- Fall in love
- Spend more time with family
So Why Do These Perfectly Good New Year’s Resolutions Fail?
It’s very easy to put off until tomorrow the things that we can’t face doing today, like quitting smoking. The psychological thought of a “new year” tricks our brains into thinking that we have more time than we actually do before we have to start working on our objectives; and that somehow when the calendar roles over to January 1st, something will be different.
Sorry to break this to you, but if you’re thinking “new year, new me” it’s unlikely that you’ll undergo a lobotomy overnight. The dirty dishes you left in the sink on December 31st will still be there in the morning and your penchant for eating cookies and ice-cream late at night probably will be too.
If you take a look at the list of the most popular resolutions above, you’ll see that, with perhaps the exception of “quit smoking”, they all have something in common. They’re all:
- Very ambitious
Because we put too much expectation and pressure upon ourselves to achieve goals that are vague or unrealistic, when we don’t lose twenty pounds in a month, or fail to squeeze every last drop of happiness out of a day thwarted by subway strikes, highway pileups, or doctor’s appointments, we tend to jump ship on our goals.
How to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions
Keep them simple. Set specific goals and not vague ones. Go back to the list above and write down next to each one a smaller, more tangible goal. Instead of “lose weight”, write down “lose 10 pounds by…” and set a date. If you’re really serious about making a change, take it a step further and write down how you intend to do this, from cutting down on your soda or alcohol consumption to jogging three times a week in the park.
When you say “help others” – define who you want to help and how. Whether it’s the elderly lady who lives down the hall or the Syrian refugees, knowing who it is and how you want to do it will make your goal more achievable. From doing your neighbor’s shopping for her to organizing a sponsored fun run, suddenly you’ve got a game plan.
The same applies with “learn something new”. Try replacing the “something” with what it is you really want to learn. Is it a new language? Which one? A new dance step? What kind? Social media courses? How? When you quantify your goals you have a far better chance of actually reaching them.
If you’re still struggling with keeping your goals, you could try making a written commitment. For many of us, the act of actually physically signing a contract or making a pact with friends can be a great way to keep ourselves motivated, as we don’t want to let other people down.
Finally, learning to visualize your goals is a sure-fire way of making them seem more real and therefore, achievable. If you want to fall in love in 2016, then take the time to think about who you want to fall in love with. Note down the characteristics, visualize the person; start seeing yourself walking hand-in-hand and eating dinner by candlelight…
So, the gauntlet has been thrown. It’s time for action…
What will be your resolutions this year?