- Up to 83% of people set New Year’s resolutions, but as many as two-thirds fail within the first month.
- Too much expectation or inauthentic goals may be the reason why New Year’s resolutions fail.
- Try setting New Year’s resolutions that are meaningful, flexible and aligned with your values.
As the clock ticks over to midnight, you feel a sense of optimism and hope. It’s exciting to think of the year ahead and the possibilities that await.
You might vow to do things differently this year like:
- work smarter not harder
- doing 5 minute self-care activities
- actually committing to using your work-life balance planner
But, keeping New Year’s resolutions can be hard to do for some people. Should you make New Year’s resolutions? Or is there a different approach that you could take for your new year goal setting and motivation?
Consultant Psychologist, Dr Bec Jackson wants you to think differently about New Year’s resolutions.
“It starts with self belief and knowing that everything you need to make changes in your life is already inside you,” she explains.
A new year doesn’t mean that you need to overhaul your life.
With that in mind, should you make New Year’s resolutions this year? Dr Bec shares her insights to help you set yourself up for success.
What is a New Year’s resolution?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the New Year’s resolution meaning is:
“A promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year.”
Dr Bec says that most people make New Year’s resolutions based on their “social self”.
“We tend to focus our resolutions on what we think we should be committing to. That’s why resolutions are often generic, such as losing weight, finding a healthy work-life balance or taking up yoga,” she explains.
How common are New Year’s resolutions?
When chatting with your friends and family on New Year’s Eve, it feels almost inevitable that someone will ask “What New Year’s resolutions are you making this year?”
“I’m going to get a life coach,” one of your friends might say. “I’m going to cut back on alcohol,” another might say.
Then there are the New Year’s resolutions related to work related stress and self care strategies.
New Year’s resolutions need to be authentic. They need to place you at the centre and reflect your values.
Sound familiar? If so, it’s probably no surprise to you that an Australian survey found that up to 83% of people set New Year’s resolutions. It’s also interesting to know that more than 50% of New Year's resolutions are fitness related.
Why don’t New Year's resolutions work for some people?
The stats on how many New Year’s resolutions fail is quite staggering. In fact, within the first month of setting a New Year’s resolution, two-thirds of people don’t stick to it.
Why is that? Dr Bec says it may come down to two common reasons.
“Sometimes New Year’s resolutions could be doomed to failure because there’s too much expectation around that time of year,” she explains, “The other common reason they don’t stick is that they aren’t personally salient and meaningful. You can’t get motivated about a generic resolution.”
You may be pleased to hear that flexibility around New Year’s resolutions appears to be one of the greatest predictors of the success of the goal. When people are able to adapt their resolutions to inevitable changes and road blocks along the way, they may be more likely to succeed.
Set goals that match your values.
So, should you make New Year's resolutions?
Dr Bec says that New Year’s resolutions can be valuable when you tweak the approach you take.
“New Year’s resolutions need to be authentic. They need to place YOU at the centre and reflect your values. Then you’ll be in a better position to act on the plans you need to make those dreams and goals a reality,” she says.
Dr Bec suggests the following five steps to help you set meaningful New Year’s resolutions:
1. Understand your why
If you decide that you want to learn how to practice self love, ask yourself why that’s a goal you’ve chosen. The deeper you dig to get the answer to the question of why, the closer you might get to achieving your resolutions.
2. Be kind to yourself
Try to set resolutions that are based in self compassion, kindness and love; not based in shame, fear or critical self talk.
3. Focus on the journey
Instead of setting your goal on the destination, make it about the path to get there. You do need to understand what your end goal is, but you also need to be mindful about how you’re going to get there.
4. Make it aligned with your values
Goals that match with your values can be far more meaningful and may help you achieve them.
5. Be flexible and open
Rigid resolutions may be more difficult to achieve. If things aren’t working, try being more flexible and open to changing or tweaking goals along the way.
At the end of the day, you might not want to set a New Year’s resolution at all. And that’s totally fine – they’re optional after all.
“Another option is to use New Year’s Eve as a time for reflective practice,” offers Dr Bec, “You could start your resolutions on 1 February or 1 March. Revisiting them every three months is also effective.”
Happy New Year
You’ve heard it before – ‘new year, new you’. But just because you’re stepping into a new year, it doesn’t mean that you need to completely overhaul your life.
If you do choose to make New Year’s resolutions, having more meaningful goals aligned with your values may help you to achieve what you’ve set out to do.
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Dr Bec Jackson is a Consultant Psychologist with 20 years’ experience across clinical psychology, academia, therapy and education in clinical, forensic and organisational psychology.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board December 2021.