With each new year, many of us set New Year’s resolutions. We resolve to do things like lose weight, exercise, manage our finances better and volunteer more. Have you ever made New Year’s resolutions that did not stick? Well, join the club! According to U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is about 80 percent, and most lose their resolve by mid-February.
So, why aren’t we more successful? One reason why we fail is that we sometimes bite off more than we can chew. For example, you may decide to run a marathon this year when you are currently only running a few miles a week. Change is hard and it is going to be challenging to eliminate habits that you have spent years building – or start new ones. If something changes too rapidly, it is threatening, and we tend to go back to what is comfortable.
In my opinion, the key to long-lasting success is to develop new positive habits that replace the behaviors we want to change. For these reasons, it is much more doable to focus on building or changing one habit at a time. If your goal is to eat better, rather than go full force into a diet plan, pick small things that you can do that will build into the larger change over time.
Another reason why resolutions fail is that we tend to set nebulous goals. You should use a SMART goal format to formulate your goal. This means that your goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. If you set a goal like, “I want to lose weight in 2022,” you are unlikely to achieve it. However, if your goal is, “I will lose five pounds by the end of March by riding my bike three times a week,” you are much more prone to be successful.
Have you already fallen off the wagon with your 2022 resolutions? No problem! For some reason, people seem to think that the new year is the only time that they can set out to make changes, but it can be done anytime. And, after nearly two years of a pandemic with no real end in sight, most of us are in survival mode. It may make sense to skip the resolution and not put so much pressure on yourself in the current environment.
Over the last few years, I have avoided resolutions altogether and instead have focused on setting an intention for the year. So, what does this mean? A resolution is an objective you resolve to achieve. It’s a clear thing that you either accomplish or not. On the other hand, an intention is a value-based motive to encourage the behaviors that you want. It is basically deciding how you want to feel and how you are going to live in a way that creates that feeling. You come up with a word or phrase that encompasses how you would like to feel and can serve as an anchor point throughout the year. My intention for the year is to try to cultivate more peace in my life. I want to avoid any unnecessary drama. I want to declutter, live simply, set boundaries, let go, disconnect and be grateful for what I have. As a result, I will focus on engaging in behaviors to support this intention and avoid those that don’t.
Let’s say for example that you resolve to read 75 books by the end of the year. Think about the intention behind the goal. Perhaps you value learning and want to engage your brain regularly. Instead of such a daunting resolution, you could set an intention to engage in as many opportunities to learn as you can. That way you could incorporate other activities like listening to podcasts or going to museums. This would give you more freedom and flexibility to work towards your overall intention and would not result in a pass or fail.
If you have set a resolution and are on track, stick with it! If not, you might consider one of the other strategies mentioned. The important thing is to do what works best for you! And give yourself grace, it has been a tough couple of years.