The turn of the new year begets a series of “New year, new me” and ambitious resolutions. The new year mimics the start of a new chapter and a chance to better yourself. Seems like the perfect opportunity to set yourself some goals and start the year right, doesn’t it? Well, just that “this is going to be my year” more often than not turns into “there’s always next year” a few months down the road.
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That is not to say that resolutions and goals are not important. They are. The only thing worse than giving up on your goals is not having them. Goals and dreams give you a sense of direction and purpose in all that you do. Granted, new year’s resolutions give one some sort of foresight to the upcoming year. However, according to a study by Scranton University, only 8% of resolutions are successful.
Think about most of the resolutions that we make. Exercise more, quit smoking, eat healthy. All things we know we should be doing; not what we are – everything that requires us to change our inherent behaviour. What we are trying to do, is to change our habits that have probably been with us for years. Creating a habit is difficult, breaking one is harder. A resolution is our, albeit feeble, attempt at individual reform and requires changes from the very core of our being. Due to the innate nature of our resolutions, we see no alignment of our goals with the subconscious image that we have of ourselves. Who we are, more often than not, is very different from who we want to be. Since every decision we make is based on whether it resonates with who we are and if we identify with it, our resolutions more often than not, do not work out.
Our habits are so deeply rooted in our brains that consciously or unconsciously, we go back to making decisions the same way we would have before these resolutions. The only way to really spark some sort of change in our lives, is to well, change what’s on the inside, which is definitely easier said than done. What we truly need is an intrinsic motivation that we wholeheartedly believe in to embark on changing ourselves. For instance, the reason for wanting to exercise more could be to lose five kilograms or three inches off the waistline. However, these numbers are not strong motivators, instead it is important to identify the core reason for our actions, which in this case could be to achieve a more desirable figure to increase one’s confidence. Only when our goals connect with our deepest aspirations will we be successful in achieving our goals. This, again, is seldom present in most new year’s resolutions. Such resolutions may be enough to give us an initial motivation, but definitely not enough for us to sustain through the year, let alone our lives.
Perhaps another reason why our resolutions do not work out is because the goals we set for ourselves are too large that they seem insurmountable. “Lose weight, get a 6 pack”. All very common resolutions that end up failing so terribly. Psychologists call this the “false hope syndrome” – when goals are unrealistic and misaligned with our sense of self. When we do not attain these goals, it affects our self worth and causes us to revert to our old habits, defeating the entire purpose of a resolution.
Rather, aiming to spend one hour at the gym everyday seems like a more attainable goal in this case. It is important to have smaller milestones to allow us to feel like we are on the road to self-improvement and to keep us motivated. These smaller goals are more attainable and completing them will give us a sense of accomplishment which will spur us to attain our final goal. This also gives us a play-by-play plan, some sort of a gamification if you will, that will eventually allow us to achieve the end goal we have set for ourselves.
That being said, in the end, regardless of how big or small our resolution may be, it all boils down to whether we truly want to change and improve on ourselves. The change we want to spark must come from within and be something that we really want, not just because we are entering a new year. We constantly say many things we do not mean, resolutions included. As we enter the new year, let’s just hope our 2017 ones do not become one of them.