New Year’s resolutions and why we never keep them

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The first of January marks the beginning of a new year for everyone across the globe. Most of us take this time in our lives to reflect on the year past and what lies ahead. It is a time when people are hopeful and contemplative towards bettering themselves both inside and out. Some may choose to join a gym to keep themselves healthier, or promise themselves to study harder and make it to the honor roll. Those out of school and in the workforce may hope to step it up and get that job promotion they have been eyeing for the past several months. Maybe someone has found himself in a financial rut for a while and promises to start a budget and get out of debt.

When it’s spelled out in front of us, it seems pretty easy to maintain the goals we set for ourselves. Accomplishing these goals would make us happier and healthier either physically or emotionally. Despite this, a study conducted at the University of Bristol in 2007 reported that in a survey of 3,000 participants, 52% were confident they would achieve their goal while in the end 88% percent failed to do so. So how do we let our goals fall by the wayside only weeks or even days after we set them?

  1. We fail to be realistic about the situation. Deciding to swear off being a couch potato and never watching television again is a goal that is going to lead to failure. Try to compromise with yourself in these types of situations. Instead of never eating chocolate again, try getting a low-fat brand and buying less at the store of it so you won’t be tempted to eat in excess at home. Chocolate in moderation is never a bad thing in my book!
  2. We are perfectionists. Finding a manageable goal to keep is the main key to sticking with your plan. Don’t try to pile on the self improvement all at once, because it will become so overwhelming that you want to stop trying as soon as you started. Trying to get out of debt and stop smoking and lose weight and get a new job and improve your grades and become more spiritual and volunteer more is impossible for one person. Unless you’re a miracle worker, find one solid part of yourself to work on in the new year.
  3. We lose our motivation. The energy we have because of the post-New Year’s hype gets us excited for the prospect of a better you to create. We idealize a perception of self that seems perfect: happy, physically fit, financially stable, and surrounded by lots of friends and family. While it appears easy to manage, life is a balancing act of all of these things and the dreariness of day-to-day activities wears us out to the point that doing anything productive is the last thing on your mind.
  4. We aren’t specific enough. Being detailed in your plans can also make a goal seem like a possible reality. Saying, “I want to become a volunteer EMT” is easy enough, but following through is the hard part. Instead, try to think “On Monday I’m going to talk to someone I know regarding whether this volunteer position is right for me. Afterwards, I’m going to call the community center and register for classes to get training. Then I’m going to look at my calendar today after work to clear up my schedule to totally devote myself to doing something I may come to love.” Breaking down a process into steps makes it easier than taking one intimidating giant step.
  5. Trying new things is sometimes scary. Going to the gym everyday might have seen daunting at first, and now that you have gone once, you don’t want to have to put in the effort to incorporate that into your daily activities. Baby steps are key in a goal like this. Saying that you will go to the gym once a week and gradually make it a part of your weekly schedule may be easier to manage right off the bat that trying to imagine yourself going everyday. The idea is too big, and in turn it’s too much to take on at once. A more manageable goal is one that is attainable in the foreseeable future.
  6. Forgive yourself. Slipping up doesn’t mean that your resolution is a failure. Take it as a learning experience and figure out a new tactic for your plan. Modifications to your goals are important to making them more suited to your personality.
  7. Don’t forget the small stuff. A resolution may even be as simple as being kinder to one’s friends, or spending more time with family by actually sitting down at the dinner table together. Not everything has to be a monstrosity. If you find yourself too stressed out because of school to get a job, then make your resolution something small, like taking ten minutes out of the day to relax or learn some breathing techniques. You might be surprised at how you can lift your spirits by changing even the smallest aspect of your life for the better.

So while January is winding down, remember that it’s never too late to create a better you for tomorrow. With determination and a positive attitude, your New Year’s resolution plan can become your reality.