The New Year marks a new opportunity to set up goals that you would like to attain. It is tradition to come up with a list of resolutions at the end of the year, and to try to accomplish them by the end of the next year.
This tradition began in ancient Babylon, about 4000 years ago, as a way of keeping oneself in good standing with the gods. However, it is surprising to see that this tradition has carried on today, as it is a known fact that most people can’t keep up with their resolutions.
According to the University of Scranton, only 8% of people actually stick to them. As the psychologist Walter Mischel states in his infamous marshmallow experiment, humans prefer quick, short-sighted rewards over long term achievements.
The former gives us immediate gratification and satisfaction, even these do not last long.
The act of stepping out of one’s comfort zone, self-control and consistency, to reach any achievement, whether it be personal finance, healthy eating or sport performance is extremely hard.
The question of why we cannot commit to our New Year Resolutions finds its answer in human nature.
If we take a look at the most common resolutions, there is a quickly identifiable pattern. Most people set goals that are too general and need too much willpower.
For example, this year’s top resolutions around the world are, like every year, to exercise more, lose weight, save more money or quit smoking.
Theoretically, by using our willpower we can suppress envies of smoking or spending money on unnecessary things. But for some reason, we always end up quitting in the first or second month of the new year.
That’s because using our willpower for self-control is the wrong way to stick to our resolutions. We seem to struggle way too much by trying to cajole our desire for immediate gratification.
So what is the ideal way to keep up with our resolutions?
The answer is: by adopting a positive outlook and expressing gratitude and compassion to attain self-control. A clear example of this would be, instead of saying ‘I need to lose weight, so I need to eat better’, we could say ‘I need to eat better because it will help my body be healthier, and therefore make me happier’.
Self-care and this way of thinking is what moves us and makes us progress as human and social beings.
There are other specific ways in which we can make sure to stick to our goals. Mentally preparing for change is a great way to do this. We would suggest to look back at past resolutions, and past changes whilst making positive associations with these changes.
Setting a goal that really motivates you is important as well. You must not set a goal just because you think that it’s the goal that everyone should have. Often, it may not the goal that you know is best for yourself.
Make sure that your resolutions are aligned with your goals in life, priorities, dreams or aspirations.
It is also crucial to limit your resolutions to a manageable amount, and to make them as specific as possible. Your resolutions must be clear, so that you have direct sight of your goal.
They must be quantifiable, so that you can measure your progress and keep yourself accountable. And, they must be challenging, yes, but attainable at the same time.
Finally, a way for you to attain your New Year’s resolutions, is to break your big goals into smaller goals. They are easier to attain, more attractive, and simply more practical.
Through small steps, you should be able to create a clear image of what your goal ought to be.
Some resolution inspirations for you
Here’s a list the most common New Year resolutions. But, there’s a slight twist. We have modified this list, so that it can be used as a template for your own, personally drafted resolutions. This way, your resolutions can become reality!
1. “Exercise more” – Try instead ‘do more cardio to improve my mental, and physical health’. Or, ‘to be able to run a marathon to develop new skills and challenge my mental and physical strength’.
2. “Lose weight.” – Or rather, ‘eat better to improve my mental and physical health’, or ‘eat greener foods to improve my gut, reach a better hormonal balance, and be happier’.
3. “Get organised” – Reword this to focus on a specific task and sort it out in order to attain it more easily. For example, ‘re-organise the home office to better work’, or, ‘delegate more tasks to my team so that I feel less overwhelmed and no longer leave things to the last minute’.
4. “Learn a new skill or hobby” – Target those skills and hobbies, and design a clear plan to attain them. For example, ‘get a B2 diploma in my favourite language’ or ‘read a book in a whole different language by learning the language through Duolingo‘ .
5. “Live life to the fullest” – To experience something you have always wanted to try, make a bucket list. From that list choose a select few activities that you will do this year. For example, ‘I will try bungee-jumping’, or ‘I will have one day a month where I say “yes” to everything.’
6. “Save more money OR spend less money” – For quantifiable resolutions, try to use numbers. Say, ‘I will save up to 20 pounds a week’ or ‘I will spend a maximum of 30 pounds a month on online shopping”
7. “Quit smoking” – This is a large, and high-stakes goal. Give yourself time to cut out bad habits. For example, in January, tell yourself ‘I will no longer go on cigarette breaks at work’. In February, say ‘I will go from 10 cigarettes a day to five’.
In March, decrease that number even more. By the end of the year, if you carry on breaking that big goal in smaller steps, you should aim to stop buying your own packs and stop smoking during the day or on nights out.
8. “Travel more” – Easier said than done during a pandemic but do pinpoint places on a map that you have always wanted to go to. Research those places well and set up your trip. In that way you can ‘visit more cultures and learn more about the world’ or ‘step out of your comfort zone’.
9. “Read more” – Well, you can start by ‘finishing that book I never dedicated time to’, ‘expanding your knowledge on sci-fi, or ‘join a book club’.
Most importantly, it’s okay to fail. Just because you have cheat days, or moments where you don’t stick to your resolutions, you don’t have to give up on them completely.
Great things take time. And, progress is not a straight line. Prepare to have bumps in the road, but keep a positive and empathetic outlook towards yourself.
2022 really will be your year.
Happy new year from the IB Insider family !