I hate to admit it, but we’re approaching the end of January. This means that for many of us, our New Year’s Resolutions have already been broken or indeed pretty much forgotten.
Why are we so bad at keeping New Year’s Resolutions?
When making them we have the best of intentions, but why are these ones the hardest ones to stick to?
After plenty of reading, talking to friends and fitness training clients about their goals and some serious self-analysis, I think there are a number of factors:
WHY we are making our resolution.
Sometimes we make resolutions that don’t really reflect US. Often we choose a resolution that is more about what we think other people want or society wants. This often applies to diet and fitness resolutions, but they can often be career or education-related too. We feel that somewhere…broadly…generally….we ought to be fitter, skinnier, or have a better job, but we haven’t seriously considered how that looks or applies to ourselves.
Not getting specific.
This ties a bit to the last idea. If you want to tackle something seriously, like getting fitter and healthier, you need a plan. Your plan needs to be simple, specific and actionable. Ideally it will have easy to measure your progress and ways to establish your accountability. A timeline can also be helpful. There can be quite a lot involved at the planning stage, and many people who aren’t committed to their resolutions will fall at this hurdle. It’s easier to walk away from a vague idea.
Failure breeds failure, so don’t set yourself up for it from the start. When making resolutions you need to look at your present situation, including all relevant factors including your personality type, physical ability, time available, financial situation etc. Then consider your ideal goal and see whether or not that outcome is genuinely achievable, before making your plan to get there. You shouldn’t be negative, but be realistic.
Many people write out resolutions like a goal - where you are looking at the end game and not at the process to get there. It can even set up the goal like an ultimate destination, meaning everything in between is just drudgery or work. Whilst actionable, measurable goals can be very valuable (and very relevant to some situations), psychologically many of us seem to be happier and more successful simply leaning in towards the establishment of new positive habits that feed in the direction our end goal, without necessarily putting a time or number end on it.
Making too many changes at one time at the wrong time.
In general, us humans are not keen on change. As a result, a bunch of resolutions loaded on at one time is not going to make things easy for us. The New Year also comes with a few extra challenges - it has an emotional loading as we tend to reflect (often negatively) on our failings. It also coincides with holidays that's end us out of sync with our normal routines and create additional stress. New Year’s Day is an arbitrary date. Consider spreading your changes throughout the year for a more achievable outcome.
Everyone fails at New Year’s Resolutions, right?
There seems to be a basic understanding that most people do not stick to New Year’s Resolutions so it is socially acceptable to fail. It would seem that many of us trot out a few resolutions to play lip service to a few ideas they have, but are not really prepared with anything that is required to follow them through.
As for myself, I don’t usually make lofty New Year’s Resolutions. I do set resolutions for myself throughout the year, though. For instance, starting on the 10th anniversary of my husband’s death I started writing this blog, intending to write once a week (but with a little self-forgiveness).
So here's my statement of resolution in public, for my own accountability:
This year I plan to revisit aspects of my minimalism and decluttering journey. After actively embracing minimalism a few years back, enough time has elapsed to revaluate some of my practices and declutter (again).
I also plan to streamline my kitchen routines. Last year we renovated and created a wonderful new kitchen and pantry. In November, in response to some health issues, my husband radically decided to become vegetarian, which dramatically shook up many years of cooking routines. With such a huge upheaval and a great space to work with, it’s the perfect time to revisit our whole system of operation. Whilst also working with a green ethos and a very frugal budget, I want to meal plan, meal prep and cook in a way that is organised and non-stressful. I already meal plan, but HATE it - I do it because I love the results - not thinking about what to cook every evening. There has to be a way to do it better and I'm going to find it, even if the legwork in between is as painful as pulling teeth.
I also plan to get involved with some more community volunteering and make sure I continue to make regular, booked-in time for healthy exercise, making art and connecting with people outside the home.
Hopefully you have also got some positive plans for the new year ahead. Stick them up somewhere and stick to them. By considering your motivations, being honest and realistic and putting a solid plan in place you should see some successes. Good luck!
If you want to read a bit more about the practice of establishing good habits, I’m recommending these 2 books: