Written By: Dr. Jennifer Escarcega
It’s that time of year again when we are full of hope and excitement for all that the new year has to offer. Many of us use the New Year as a starting point for improvements that we want to make in our lives. Making New Year’s resolutions dates back to the ancient Babylonians who pledged to return borrowed objects and repay their debts at the start of each year, while the Romans kicked off January by making a vow to the god Janus (from whom the month takes its name). For thousands of years people have set resolutions, but how many of them kept them? How many of us set the same resolutions year after year, only to have failed by the time February rolls around? Less than 10% of Americans that set New Year’s resolutions will keep them throughout the year. Why do so many of us fail?
The top 3 reasons so many resolutions fail are because they are:
1. Based on willpower and not your “why.” We say, “I want to walk more,” instead of parking our car 10 minutes away. We say, “I want to go to bed earlier,” instead of putting down the phone, and turning off the tablet and the television. Willpower is a hard thing to base goals on without a reason “why” we want to achieve our goals.
2. Unspecific. We say, “I want to be healthier this year,” but when faced with the birthday parties in July, the overtime in August, and the family vacation in September, that goal falls by the wayside.
3. Unrealistic. We say, “I want to go the gym 5 times a week.” Setting unrealistic, highly aspirational goals creates a quick pathway to guilt and failure.
When setting resolutions, the first step is to discover your “why”. “Why” is the driving force behind everything. It is the way we want to interact with the world, other people, and most importantly, ourselves. It is what we want to stand for in life, how we want to behave, what sort of a person we want to be, and what sort of strengths and qualities we want to develop. Your “why” is like a compass; it will give you direction on your ongoing journey, whether that’s to better health, better relationships, or whatever other resolutions you make for yourself this year.
Be specific when setting goals. If your goal is to be healthier this New Year, how specifically are you going to achieve this goal? What is your definition of healthy? Write down the steps you are going to take to reach your resolution and put them in a place where you see them daily. The bathroom mirror is a great place to put your resolutions because you will see them first thing in the morning and last thing at night. This is a great way to keep yourself on track.
Lastly, be realistic. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all change takes time. Setting realistic goals for yourself will help keep you on track, keep you motivated, and decrease your risk of failure.