My friend asked me if I had any New Year’s resolution in mind. It was the first week of December and I hadn’t given any thought to it yet. I took a couple seconds, then said my New Year’s resolution is to not make any New Year’s resolutions. Having participated in the whole ‘New Year New Me’ shenanigan for the last several years of my existence I decided that it was a sure fire way to feeling frustrated and disappointed. Even the numbers point to the staggering unsuccessfulness of New Year’s resolutions. One survey found that on average, only 9% of Americans (who took the survey) were successful in keeping their resolutions. Committing to something with a 91% rate of failure seems downright foolish. To avoid setting myself up for failure I decided to not play the game where the odds are so clearly not in my favour.
Now some might say that, the New Year is a time for hope and change. That having New Year’s resolutions is an opportunity to be better. And I agree with that, but only if your resolutions don’t fill you with dread when push comes to shove. There is a science to setting resolutions very much like there is science to motivation. That means you could set approach-oriented goals instead of avoidance-oriented goals, you could celebrate your successes, you could change your environment, etc. We have these science backed strategies to help us succeed with goals that also applies to New Year’s resolutions. So set your resolutions intentionally and apply the strategies that will help you suceed, if you’re making resolutions at all.
The combination of strategies that work is most likely different for everyone. I’ve found that avoidance related goals don’t work for me. So I try to take a second helping of dinner verus succumbing to a bag of chips or a bowl of cereal later because I got hungry again. When I’ve intentionally designed my environment I’ve noticed the effect it has on my behaviour- this includes little things like good lighting, a clean desk and also bigger things like where I live, and where I work. Finally, I find that it is easier for me to maintain a habit when I associate it with fun as opposed to dread. I enjoy exercising in a group setting way more than by myself in a gym- where I end up dragging my feet from machine to machine.
I’ll spare myself any new resolutions this January. That doesn’t mean I think I’m perfect or I think I don’t need to change. In 2023, I hope to continue doing some things that have been good for me lately and discontinue other unhelpful things. For example, I like how much I’ve been reading and I hope to continue that. I completed 30 books in 2021 and 2022. I don’t like how little I’ve been writing here so I hope to change that. The last time I wrote here was 18 months ago. I hope to continue trying to be better and embracing the ups and downs as they inevitably will come. If anything I have hope for myself and for us. Whether you decide to set New Year’s resolutions or not, either way it’s a wonderful time to be hopeful. And I hope we all hold on to hope.