Why bother with resolutions?

By: Dec 28, 2009
new years resolutions, new years, new years resolution

Making New Year’s resolutions that actually stick is easy, if you put your mind to it

Whether you’ve resolved to lose weight, quit smoking or log more hours at the gym, your well-intentioned goals for the New Year may be doomed to failure. Studies show we’re as good at breaking New Year’s resolutions as we are at making them.

But that doesn’t mean you should give up on New Year’s resolutions altogether. “The New Year can provide a good opportunity to pause, reflect and re-orient regarding your life and your goals,” says Dr. Susan Biali, a life coach in Vancouver and author of the upcoming book Live a Life You Love! Seven Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You. To avoid the pitfalls of resolutions past, here’s how to make resolutions you can keep.

Why resolutions fail

Researchers in the UK tracked 3,000 people who made New Year’s resolutions and discovered only 12 per cent had actually achieved their goals a year later. There are several reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail, says Biali:

  • People make resolutions because they think they’re supposed to, not because they passionately want to.
  • They try to make drastic (and often unrealistic) changes in habits, or attempt too many resolutions at once.
  • People try to make changes by themselves, based on willpower alone.

Making resolutions you can keep

Setting yourself up for failure with New Year’s resolutions not only makes you more likely to fail, it also makes you more likely to lose faith in your ability to initiate positive, healthy change, says Biali. Here’s how to improve your odds of success when you make your next New Year’s resolution:

1. Set realistic, measurable goals with clearly defined, small steps. “For example, if you want to eat better, instead of removing all the ‘fun’ foods from your diet, set a smaller goal, such as eating two more servings of vegetables a day,” says Biali. “Once you’ve settled into that habit, up the ante by finding a whole-grain substitute for your morning donut. It’s all about taking small steps that you can sustain for the long term.”

2. Don’t make too many changes at once. “Declare a theme to the New Year, such as ‘the year I quit smoking,’ or ‘the year I start a regular exercise program,’” says Biali. “This is much more effective than making it ‘the year of quitting smoking, losing weight, eating better and becoming a marathon runner.’”

3. Enlist people (friends, family, or a professional) to support you and hold you accountable. It’s even better if you can find someone to do it with you, Biali says, as you’re more likely to succeed if you have a friend at your side.

4. Take your time and don’t plan on a quick fix. “Real change requires significant reflection and analysis as to how the problem arose in the first place,” says Biali. “And improvement of problem areas in our lives should be an ongoing process year-round, not just something we try briefly at the beginning of each year.”

5. Don’t let setbacks discourage you. “If you slip up, and you will, pick yourself up and get started again, no guilt allowed!”