“New Year, New Me!” Do New Year’s Resolutions ACTUALLY Work? The Experts Respond…

6 min read
  • Full of hope, many people will do some good old-fashioned resolution making for the New Year.
  • However, do they actually work for people?
  • Melody Coleman investigates, and provides her own top hints and tips for hitting those new year goals!

January 2016 brought feelings of hope, promise and fresh beginnings. With the world at our feet, and the possibilities endless, we revelled in boundless prospects.

12 months on, we're ready to go right ahead and close the lid on that can of worms, as hilariously depicted by the Internet below…

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I think I speak for a LOT of people when I say that we want to do better in 2017. At least we left some room for improvement...

As a new year rolls around again, along with it comes some good old traditional resolution-making.

For some people, this means utilising in-depth planning techniques and laying down a detailed schedule of milestones and micro-goals.

Most of us however, like to discuss our desires with friends, post them on social media, or simply keep them locked up safely inside our minds, filed under "To-do... Tomorrow."

The abstract noun, "resolution," is defined as a firm decision to do or not to do something. A review of lab and field studies over an 11-year period shows that "in 90% of the studies, specific and challenging goals led to higher performance than easy goals, "do your best" goals, or no goals.

My own experience tells me that although the combination of deciding on a challenging yet achievable goal and setting out a strategy does give the highest chance of success, it isn't quite enough when it comes to meeting long term objectives.

Whatever hat I happen to have on, whether that of a Trainer, Nutrition Coach, business owner, or human being with ambitions and desires, effective goal-setting (and of course implementation) is a vital part of my day to day life.

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As it turns out, this can be a tricky process - not only do the objectives have to be dialled in just right, but the plan has to suit the individual to a tee in order for it to be easily and fully executed.

Year-round I encourage myself, my clients, and friends to stay mindful of the bigger picture when it comes to reaching personal and professional targets.

This gets me thinking - what is it about the beginning of the calendar year that reminds us so powerfully of our greater intentions, and prompts us to set plans for the future?

Surely, if we are to succeed in such important endeavours then we should remind ourselves of them not only at shorter intervals, but also for a far longer period of time? Let’s find out…

Achieving our biggest, most meaningful goals is rarely something that occurs within the confines of a single 12-month period. A long-term mindset and regular evaluation are key elements when it comes to success.

After some fascinating discussions, and further research and consideration, I realise that the act of setting new year's resolutions can be viewed as part of a vicious cycle that sets us up for failure.

As a society, we are primed by our cultures and traditions, our peers, our families, and of course the media. Like the proverbial sheep, we really do follow the crowd when it comes to our outlook and practises in daily life, and in doing this we distance ourselves from our core values.

In the UK at least, the public mood appears to follow a seasonal cycle that is impacted by national holidays along with other important world events.

NY Resolutions

It is only at the start of each year that we hold this wider perspective on life, which might last for up to three months before we relax back into an ingrained routine of enjoying the refreshing spring time, active and social summers, cosy autumns in woolly jumpers, and hibernation with quality family time during the winter, all the time convincing ourselves we're too busy or tired to work on those ageing resolutions.

Unfortunately, as is the status quo in human behavioural cycles, we are not in the habits of a) questioning that to which we are accustomed, which might lead us to b) the trial and application of better techniques to lead a more fulfilling life.

If you really have a goal, it should be something you are conscious of year-round, not just when prompted through annual tradition.

“Who cares if "hygge" is all the rage this winter? Forget the creature comforts and step outside of your comfort zone.”

NY Resolutions

In remaining mindful of our goals, assuming they're important and meaningful ones, this is where we break the vicious cycle. Quite simply, if something is important, we must make time for it, rejecting excuses and tackling obstacles as they occur.

So, seeing as we find ourselves entering another 12 months of possibilities, let's incorporate into our resolutions the aim to hold a sense of perspective from here on in.

Let's resolve to realise our dreams and prepare ourselves to mobilise the time, effort, and resources to do so. Because something so important shouldn't be reserved for a single annual moment of consideration.

And what are the practical tips you can take away from this? Click through and find out…

Here are my practical tips not only to help you define your goals, but also create a strategy to achieve them, too. Just remember that now is as good a time as any..

  • ​Aim high, but keep it achievable. If you want to run a marathon, but you have a knee injury and only two hours a week to dedicate to training, perhaps it would be most appropriate to focus first on rehabilitation;
  • ​Your goals will need to be realistic in terms of their timeframes. Really take the time to think through how long they will take to achieve, and how much time you have available to work on them. How much time does this equate to weekly or monthly?
  • Research from well-known TED Talker Dan Ariely shows that ​self-imposed deadlines are effective in improving task performance, although deadlines set by third parties were even more effective. Set yourself a deadline, and stick to it. Better still - have someone who understands the task set a deadline for you. This kind of accountability will really keep you on track;
  • ​Other ways to hold yourself accountable could include undertaking your goal with a friend, or at least letting someone know what you're planning to do. This will bring your idea out into the real world and make it feel that bit more tangible;
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  • Don't just set the goal, plan to achieve it too. Set out a timeline and a list of micro-tasks that you'll need to complete in order to reach your goal. Think carefully about the time, resources, and logistics involved.
  • ​Recognise your hard work by rewarding yourself when you reach milestones. Beware of using food for this, though - you're not a dog! A schoolteacher friend of mine used to reward herself in the same way she did her students: by giving herself a little star on a poster for each task she completed. After a certain number of stars, she would treat herself to a pedicure, massage, or other small gift.
  • ​Try to maintain a sense of perspective. When you inevitably get caught up in the little stuff, find a way to pull yourself back. There are plenty of techniques to help you with this, including meditation practises, setting reminders in your diary, or keeping an aide-memoire such as a poster up in your home or workplace to keep you focussed on the bigger picture.
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Take-home message:

Don't save a fresh start for a new year. You can clean the slate whenever you make the decision to do so.

Sources:

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/bul/90/1/125/

http://wolfweb.unr.edu


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