When the ball drops in Time Square on New Years Eve, it signifies the start of a fresh new year. Many people look at the New Year as a time to reflect both the good and bad of the year gone by and to set goals and resolutions to improved the New Year ahead of them. One of the most popular 'traditions' this time of year is to set a New Year's Resolution. A New Year's resolution is a decision to change something in one's life in order to accomplish a personal goal or break a a disconcerting habit. It is through the reflection of the past year, that we determine what we feel needs improvement or was lacking, in order to ensure a happy New Year.
The month January was named after a Roman God by the name of Janus. He was known as the two faced God, with thought that one of his faces looked into the past, while his other face looked upon the future. Janus was the guardian of the gates and signified the beginning and the end. It wasn't until 153 B.C., that January was the first month of the calender. Prior to that, dating back over 4000 years, the Babylons believed that the New Year began in March. When Julius Cease came into power, he legislated that the New Year was to begin on January 1st and his reign lead to the creation of New Year's Resolutions. Back then, New Year's Resolutions were of a more moral nature, Be kind to thy neighbour, etc., but the theories were still the same (Washington Post).
Although New Year's resolutions are easy to create, maintaining them and achieving them aren't as easy. To this day New Year's Resolutions are popular with almost 50% of the North American population but of that 50% only 8% actually stick with their Resolutions and end up accomplishing their goals. Here are some tips to avoid and how to create goals you will actually achieve.
1. Don't set an unattainable goal.Many times when people create goals, they focus on the end result of the long term goal, rather then how they can achieve that goal. As a result they tend to overestimate the time and effort that will be required to reach that goal. For example: You want loose 50 lbs and believe you can reach that goal by the end of January.
Break your goals down into easily attainable subset. this allows you to keep your long term goal, but it doesn't set you up for failure. These subsets will allow you to feel successful as you reach mini hurdles (i.e. 2 lbs a week) before reaching the end goal (50 lbs at the end of 25 weeks). You still reach your goal, but you are reward along the way which encourages you to continue rather then the goal becoming overbearing resulting in quitting.
2. Don't keep your goal a secretIt is human nature to be ashamed of our failures. Since New Year's Resolutions tend to be self improvement, many people are often embarrassed or ashamed of the goals they make. As a result, the goals become secret and the goal maker is not held accountable for this goal. Since these goals are essentially nonexistent there is no pressure to fulfill them when they become too challenging. For example, you have decided to eat healthy and avoid junk food. Then this happens. Its the end of January and you've maintained your healthy 'diet' all month. Now its your best friends birthday and you are celebrating at a local bar. Everyone is drinking and eating junk food, encouraging you to join in.
Let everyone know your New Year's resolution. Not only does it make the Resolution more real, it make you accountable. People will ask you how it is going trying to achieve the goal, and since we like to please rather then disappoint, we will work harder at obtaining the goal. So at your friends birthday celebration, if they had known about your diet goals, they would have been more encouraging and understandable, instead of pressuring you to join in.
3. Don't copy someone else goalsSometimes people get all caught up in the New Year's Resolution thing because everyone at the office is doing it, or all of their friends have new Resolutions. If you jump on the band wagon and decided to loose 10 lbs like all of your friends, you are destined for failure.
Make a goal that is something YOU hope to achieve. If its something more personal to you, you are more likely to stick to the rules in order to obtain the goal. If it is something that you are doing because everyone else is doing, you won't take pride in the journey thus it will lead to cheating and eventual giving up.
4. Don't make your New Year's resolution negativeMany times when people create New Year's Resolutions they tend to be negative. For example, I will not be fat in 2013. This negativity becomes a barrier that results in a lack of self confidence in our ability to conquire the problem. It provides triggers and cues (i.e. I'm already fat so what's the use), that perpetuate the behaviour allowing it to continue and create more barriers.
Focus on the positive side of the resolution: I WILL maintain a fit and healthy lifestyle in 2013. The battle to be happy with oneself is a battle against negativity. We rarely attack negative situations as they appear to hard, but when placing a positive spin on the same situation they become more attainable and we begin to believe that we can actually reach our goal. It is through positivity that we continue to push ourselves.
5. Don't make your New Year's Resolution vagueVague resolutions are the WORST resolutions one can make! Not only do they create a goal with no true definition, but they allow the goal maker to change and adapt the goal to fit their current behavior. For example, I'm going to get more exercise. This goal could mean anything from "I'm going to work out 5 times a week" to "I'm going to walk to the TV to switch channels rather than use the remote". Vague goals allow you "Wiggle" rooms so you can feel better about NOT obtaining the goals and it can go as far as tricking yourself into believing that you have actually met your goal.
Create a goal that is focused on what you hope to achieve without being very specific. This relates back to the first Don't whereby the goal must be obtainable to. The delicate balance between the two can be very tricky, but if accomplished, the goal can be obtained!