The Problem with New Year's Resolutions and How to Re-approach Them for Results

The new year offers us an opportunity for a clean slate and a fresh start. The idea of re-establishing ourselves and stepping into a new realm of opportunity and lifestyle is exciting, and the prospect of becoming an entirely new and improved person is worth celebrating. New Year's resolutions are typically the starting point for an individual's personal goals for the new year; we tell ourselves that we will stop procrastinating, stop consuming as much junk food, be more organized, or possibly hit the gym more often. We overwhelm ourselves with drastic lifestyle changes, and we attempt to break habits that are deeply embedded into our lifestyles and personalities, and then we are disappointed with ourselves when we don’t follow through. According to Forbes, only approximately 8 percent of people actually follow through with and accomplish their New Year's resolutions. I’d like to offer an innovative approach to attacking New Year’s resolutions that will ease pressure on yourself and help you work towards success.

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Self-discipline does not magically develop between the hours of December 31st and January 1st; it often requires lifestyle changes that are best eased into, rather than changed drastically over one night. It’s important to be very detailed about what you are trying to achieve, as general overarching goals are usually more difficult to work towards. Begin with small steps that you could potentially take to overcome the larger obstacle. Instead of “I'm going to stop eating sugar,” reframe your goals in more realistic ways for yourself, like “I’m going to have my coffee with one sugar instead of two.” We have to be gentle with ourselves and remember that we are only human, and that it takes time to diminish habits that we have developed over the years. If you continue to create small, detailed goals and continue to apply them to your lifestyle on a weekly or monthly basis, by the end of the year you could have completely changed your relationship with your habit.

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Next, stop thinking of them as resolutions and start thinking of them as goals you are working to achieve. There’s a difference between “starting this year, I will go to the gym three times a week” and “by the end of the year, I will build myself into the habit of going to the gym three times a week.” This goes hand in hand with developing small, detailed goals to work towards. This helps eliminate the anxiety of having to be perfect right away. “New year, new me” reinforces the idea that we are going into the new year being a completely different person but we are instead, perhaps, trying to make improvements to ourselves while still possessing the qualities that make us our unique, beautiful selves. New year, new goals! 

We have to remember to give ourselves some sort of lenience, so leave room for error. It’s easy to just give up once you’ve already broken your resolution. When you make a mistake once that doesn’t mean you have to quit and wait until the next week, next month or even next year to try again. Pick up exactly where you left off and keep making those baby steps. Being consistent in your small detailed goals will help you improve your self discipline, little by little.

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I’d like to urge people to stop waiting for the new year to renegotiate your relationships with unhealthy habits or lifestyle choices. Instant gratification urges us to make drastic changes in a very short period of time, but we have to be more realistic with what we are setting out to do. Results are not always instant, you typically have to go through a difficult patch to triumph in the end. If you want to make positive, productive changes, start right away by doing small things. You could potentially be a different person by the time the next new year rolls around. Good luck with your new year’s resolutions for 2020! Don’t be too hard on yourself, stay positive and always continue to work towards your goals. The payoff will be worth it.