Most New Year’s resolutions fail. Should we keep doing them?
Forbes reported that research shows that by February, about 80% of people have already forsaken their New Year’s resolutions. While we often go into these resolutions with the best intentions of keeping them, they are set around an arbitrary date — some people may feel pressured to make a resolution because it’s the new year.
Additionally, resolutions can sometimes be vague (such as “I want to save money” or “I want to lose weight”) without a specific plan to achieve the resolution, like Ashley Stahl wrote in Forbes. That might not be the best way to implement change in your life.
Better ways to make change might include having a broad goal with smaller goals along the way to achieve it. There’s nothing wrong with having a New Year’s resolution — it can be effective — but it’s important to set yourself up for success with good goals.
What is the best way to set goals?
Holly Richardson wrote for the Deseret News that experts recommend a variety of methods of goal-setting. Some recommend what are called SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Others recommend BHAGs: big, hairy, audacious goals.
So, it depends on the person, more or less.
One way to find out how you best achieve goals is to look back at your past when you achieved something you were proud of and to see if you can recollect how you did that. Did you set smaller goals along the way? Did you go all in on a big goal? Remembering how you once achieved goals can help you set goals that work for you.
A good way to set goals is to think about them as small lifestyle changes that contribute to a bigger vision. If your goal is to improve your overall health, setting just a goal for exercise might not be effective if you look at the broader picture of your life. If you stay up late and don’t sleep well, if your diet could use improvement, and if there are other factors that contribute to your health that make it hard for you to have energy to exercise, setting that goal for exercise might not be enough.
Instead, setting a goal to increase the amount that you exercise over time, while also making small changes over time to your sleep, diet and other areas of your life, may ultimately help you achieve your goal. Having some ways to measure your progress and reward your progress can also encourage you to keep going.
Some ways to measure progress are to set up mile markers, so to speak. These can be smaller goals that you reward yourself on. For example, if you would like to sleep better as your resolution, try setting smaller goals like putting down your phone 15 minutes earlier than you would normally. When you do that for a week, reward yourself with something positive that you like, such as using a special bubble bath or reading a favorite book. Pick rewards that help you in your progress and that you find enjoyable.
Should we keep doing New Year’s resolutions?
On the one hand, since the majority of resolutions do fail, it might not make sense to keep doing them. On the other hand, since it’s the start of the new year and that on its own can feel motivating, there’s a case to capitalize on that energy. The answer may vary from person to person.
Instead of setting a massive goal on New Year’s Day, it might be a good idea to imagine what you would like to achieve throughout the year and make smaller changes throughout the year. If you would like to resolve to become a healthy eater, it makes more sense to try to incorporate more vegetables at one meal each day than it does to overhaul your entire diet for a couple of weeks and then revert back to old habits.
If you would like to become a voracious reader and stop watching Netflix, it might be tempting to just delete your subscription and start reading for a couple of hours every day, but that might ultimately not be sustainable. Since you’ve gotten used to Netflix, it might make more sense to spend a few minutes each day reading and gradually work up to reading more while simultaneously decreasing your Netflix consumption over time.
Maybe this year instead of making a New Year’s resolution, try reflecting on what you would like to improve on this year and then, throughout the year, make deliberate changes over time to see the best results.