At this time of year, we’re all thinking about how we can make a positive start to the new year. For many of us, a big part of this will be to set a new year’s resolution.
In 2019, the top 5 most popular goals were: eat more healthily; exercise more; lose weight; save more and spend less; learn a new skill or hobby.
However, research has indicated that a new year’s resolution isn’t always the positive start to the year it is intended to be.
Some commentators have suggested that trying to embed any new habit in the dark days of winter is setting yourself up for failure. Why not pick the summer months, when we are naturally more energised and productive? Or September; another month of new starts?
There is some truth to this: researchers have found that while as many as 60 per cent of us set ourselves a new year’s resolution, only 8 per cent of those questioned said they successfully achieved their resolution.
So, what can we do to ensure the resolutions we make this year are successful?
Well, waiting for September probably isn’t the best plan. After all, if you’re going to start a good new habit, there’s no time like the present. Instead, follow these top tips to ensure that your January new year’s resolutions are more likely to be successful.
#1. Plan ahead
Don’t wait until December 31 to decide what your new year’s goal will be. Allow yourself time to plan and put the things you need to help you succeed in place.
Try to tackle too many bad habits or ambitions at once and you may well end up spreading yourself too thinly. Your chances of success are greater if you channel your energy into one goal.
Planning helps to build a story around what you want to achieve. Working to concrete plans rather than a vague idea makes it much more likely you will succeed.
Goals should always be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely – and new year’s resolutions are no different.
What works for one, might not work for another. For example, introverts are more likely to get fired up with written plans and daily journaling. On the other hand, extroverts might find it easier to succeed by joining a group or club or working with others who want to achieve the same goal and can help to strengthen your resolve.
If your goal involves gaining a new skill or habit, try scheduling it for first thing in the morning. This way you start your day with a good sense of achievement and avoid the temptation to let things slide later in the day when your willpower may be more depleted.
The best way to make it easy to check in with yourself regularly is to set a series of sub goals. These help to reinforce the success you’ve made; you may even wish to give yourself a small reward when you achieve a sub goal.
If you do have a lapse, don’t allow it to slide into giving up. Giving in to the temptation to have a drink or miss a gym session shouldn’t be defined as a “failure”. Look at it as a lapse and be honest with yourself about why it happened. Try to learn the lesson so you can continue with your goal and avoid another lapse.
Negative moods can be the enemy of willpower – and often this is a self-fulfilling circle of despondency that starts with self-blame. In the same way, success breeds success. Celebrate your achievements and allow them to boost you on to further success – and, when you’re comfortable in your new behaviour, perhaps even add another resolution!