Psychology of New Year’s resolutions


In a time as rocky and uncertain as the COVID-19 era, there is at least one thing that is almost guaranteed at the moment: those New Year’s resolutions we made for 2022 may already look a bit shaky.

People love to set goals, and setting goals can lead to significant change. But let’s be honest: we’re not necessarily good at it sticking these goals – especially New Year’s resolutions. A recent survey found that about 64% (or two-thirds) of people give up on New Year’s resolutions within a month.

What does it give? Why bother at all if the resolutions will fade by February? And what will make this year different – this time really?

Why we make New Year’s resolutions

It is partly an aspiration and partly a tradition.

“We tend to make decisions because the New Year serves as a cyclical marker of time during which we re-evaluate and inventory our lives,” says Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University in New York City. “The drive because decision-making is motivated by this punctuation in time, like the annual graduation, activates hope and expectations for what we hope to achieve in the future.”

Open a new calendar and imagine what it could be.

“The New Year gives us a sense of renewal, which makes us think about the areas in our lives that we want to improve [or] changing and starting and stopping the clock always looks like natural time, ”says psychologist Mariana Strongin, a psychologist.

But even that excitement is part of the problem.

Why Resolutions Fail

Maybe you wore pink glasses last year.

“People often don’t plan or think about what it will take to achieve a goal or make a decision and instead rely on excitement in the new year as something that will motivate them to achieve their goal,” says Amanda E. White. She is a therapist, speaker and author I’m not drinking tonight.

Then the buzzing stops. Or you may not have given yourself enough time to achieve your goal.

“Often we fail to achieve and retain them because they focus on a particular outcome (e.g. precise body weight), ”Says Romanoff. “When the focus is on a particular outcome, it can be challenging to persevere in your efforts if the results are not immediate. It takes time to achieve goals, and many people become discouraged and eventually give up before they reach the goal. ”

Look back to move forward

If you find yourself making the same decision every time January turns around, take a closer look at what’s going on.

The cycle of making and violating decisions comes down to one fundamental issue: honesty. So says Britt Frank, a trauma specialist and author The science of being stuck.

“We often set high goals for the future without an honest assessment of why we’ve struggled in the past,” Frank says. “Without testing where we are resistant to change … the cycle of resolution, relapse, repetition continues from year to year.”

Change is possible. Check what is holding you back. “Breaking the cycle of behavior requires a rigorous commitment to honesty at all costs,” Frank says.

Use these tips to stay around so you can stick to your goals.

A quick win or a long one?

“Divide your goals into those that can be achieved either in the long term or in the short term,” Romanoff says. Short-term goals are quick wins. Long-term goals will take time.

“Creating an action plan that links a long-term goal to short-term achievable and realistic goals will ensure success,” Romanoff says.

Find mastery

You’ve probably heard that big goals need to be broken down into smaller ones. But do you know why?

“As humans, we are driven by a sense of mastery,” Strongin says. So instead of setting a goal of ‘getting in shape’, I would set a goal of ‘exercising three times a week for at least 45 minutes each time.’ Breaking down the goal into measurable measures is more likely to make us feel good about ourselves, and yet we are more likely to continue. ”

White agrees. “We achieve our goals only in small steps every day or weekly. If we want to eat healthier, we need to change our diet choices every day. If we want to run a marathon, we have to dedicate ourselves to running a certain number of miles each week.

In general, breaking a goal to the smallest possible level makes you more likely to achieve it. We tend to be overwhelmed and give up when the goal is too high.

Focus on doing, not avoiding

Research shows that you are more likely to achieve a goal that is specific and based on doing something instead of avoiding something.

For example, if you want to complain less in the new year, you are more likely to achieve this if you express it as: “I will make a list of thanks and write down three things I am grateful for every day” because this resolution says something concrete you can do instead of something you want to stop doing.

Synchronize your goals

Are your decisions in conflict? This will make one or the other more difficult, or impossible, to keep.

For example, if you set a goal to save money and others to travel more, those goals might conflict.

“Be careful not to twist the pretzel and make sure your goals have a synergistic effect so that working on one doesn’t lead to the detriment of the other,” Romanoff says.

Know what success will also mean. If you imagine all the positive things if you achieve a great goal, you might be surprised.

“It’s key to understanding that achieving‘ big goals ’will involve some degree of sadness and loss,” Frank says. “Why? When we become healthier, happier and more successful, our relationships change, the pressure increases, and familiarity and comfort … are called into question.”

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it. Just be aware that success can have its challenges. You will want to be ready for it.

“If we focus only on the benefits and deny the costs of behavior change, we’re unlikely to stick to our decisions,” Frank says.

Anticipate challenges and stay flexible

Exactly what the obstacles will be is unique to you. But they will 100% show up.

Maybe it’s too cold (or too hot) a day when you’re afraid to drag yourself out for a walk or a run. Or a time when you feel weak and tempted to spend, eat or drink more than you planned. It could be a shame you feel if you face your debt. Or just the boredom of chasing when no goal is great and new.

What is your plan to be ready for these challenges?

“Make sure you think about things that might stand in the way of achieving your goal, and then build ways to overcome those obstacles in your goal,” Romanoff says.

Be SMART about it

“SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound,” says Dr. Matt Glowiak, licensed clinical expert advisor and author of the book. A year of finding your vocations: daily practices for discovering your passion and purpose.

He sees them as a ticket to lasting behavior change.

For example, if your decision is yes quit smoking, Glowiak says it looks like this:

  • Specifically: You identify one specific goal. In this case, it’s “I want to quit smoking.”
  • Measurable: You put a number on your target. Is it to smoke 0 times this week, or a certain number of cigarettes less than the day or week before? You need a measurable way to track your progress.
  • Attainable: Check the reality. For example, is quitting cold turkey smoking practical for you, or would you better do a gradual reduction until you quit?
  • Time limit: Decide when you want to achieve each milestone and your ultimate goal. You may want to celebrate every step of the way, which can help you stay motivated.

With health goals such as quitting smoking, changing your diet, or improving your fitness, your doctor can help you know what’s realistic and what will help. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own.

Use your values ​​for motivation

Your values ​​are like a compass. They constantly inform and direct behavior, Romanoff says. And I can help you remember why you set your resolution at all.

For example, Romanoff recommends avoiding a goal like achieving a certain weight. Instead, consider the value behind it, such as that the desire to be healthier is your motivation.

“Focus those values ​​as an incentive for your goal,” Romanoff says. “The ‘why’ behind your goal will ground it in purpose and contextualize the solution in a meaningful way.”


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