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The Failure of New Year’s Resolutions

It’s not New Year’s Eve if you’re not pondering what your NY resolution should be. The wise will do this without intending on making one, the dumb will announce theirs to everyone and start NY’s day with a complete lifestyle change, setting unrealistic expectations for the next 364. The reason? You have no motivation and no real targets. You will start the year off thoughtful of Instagram photos and flawless celebrities. Then, when you inevitably resolve to behaving like a normal human being – stuffing you face with leftover mince pies or putting off that exercise for the new Sherlock episode, you feel disheartened. The year’s resolutions started exactly like the last and ended just as quickly.

This is because you have made a challenge for the whole year rather than clear set focussed goals for specific events in immediate time frames. Want to lose weight this year? Instead of deciding you’ll shed 15kg by December or worse, that you’ll just ‘lose weight’, set a goal of losing 2 kg by the end of January. This way, you’ll have the motivation to reach that specific goal and see results before you get bored. If you’re employed, the chances are you’ll be used to having a boss overlook your actions and criticise your achievements. Unless you’ve mastered self-discipline, you need a public audience for the results of your resolutions too. Instead of vaguely resolving to ‘get fitter’, decide to participate in a public 5k run on the last weekend of January, using the time before that to build up your stamina. Adjust challenges as the months go on. Don’t just achieve your new year’s resolutions, exceed them.

Using specific events to reach completion of goals is the perfect motivator – you no longer have a whimsical idea of what you want to do, you have a set date and event for which you must have achieved your goals by. New Year’s resolutions should not be a handful of lifestyle changes you wish to make, but rather an identified list of what the year ahead holds, what you will do to reach the targets needed for the activities of the New Year, and how specifically you will do them without making unmanageable changes to your lifestyle. No burger-indulging twenty-something became vegan overnight all for 2017.

Scrap the naming of ‘new year’s resolutions’ anyway. If you need the start of the new year to motivate you to make a lifestyle change, you don’t have enough motivation for it anyway. You could have started in December, months before, years before. But you didn’t because you didn’t want it enough. Either your goals identified in January were made then because it was a reminder to think about the year ahead, or they were made as you fell back on tradition and copied what those around you did.

Worse if you post your new year’s resolution on social media. For some this may be a way of forcing themselves to go through with it, and for others it is merely a way of grabbing the first available attention of the New Year. If you need other people’s opinions to motivate you, not only do you again not want it enough but you are not focussing on the main subject of your goal- you.

So make those New Year’s goals- if you want. If you want to eat less meat, focus on four meat-free days per week, using the money saved to buy something better. If you want to exercise more focus on getting out on a run twice a week and running 5k by February.  And if you don’t really want to do anything because you were happy last year and waited until New Years to consider what you could change for 2017 and have already broken your first resolution, don’t bother making one in the first place.

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