Nearly half of Americans have made or will make New Year’s resolutions.
Last year, the most popular goal was to lose weight, followed by others such as spend less and save more money, become fit and healthy, learn something exciting, fall in love, quit smoking, get organized and spend more time with family.
Unfortunately, many of us resolution-makers are not very successful in achieving our goals. We start out all gung-ho and do pretty well for the first few weeks, but then after a month or so, there’s a steep drop-off in our efforts.
A very clear illustration of this can be found in health clubs.
There’s usually a large influx of new members in January, who eagerly join with the intention of making exercise a habit. Initially, the gyms are bustling with more bodies, however, come February, the majority of these folks are nowhere to be found, yet they continue to pay their membership dues in the hopes they will one day resume their program.
Researchers note there are several reasons why the majority of us have difficulty keeping resolutions.
One of the main problems is that people often forget that resolutions should be concrete goals, not vague, abstract contemplations, and they fail to plan appropriately.
To ensure you have a fighting chance at attaining your aims, it’s wise to write them down and chart a detailed course of action.
Another issue is motivation. We tend to forget why the objective is important to us and without a compelling reason, it’s easy to let it go.
This is especially evident if it’s a goal that others want to see you attain. The idea is to select a resolution that personally matters to you and only you.
Setbacks are often my problem. I fall off the wagon because I encounter an obstacle or the going gets hard, which then makes me feel defeated and less inclined to get back on track.
I need to recognize that this will happen and allow myself some slack, as well as ensure that I have a clear strategy in place to handle this situation when it occurs. Sometimes people fail because they don’t have a strong support network in place to help encourage them in their endeavors. Or, on the flip side, they have friends and/or family members who work against them by sabotaging their efforts. Surrounding yourself with people who want you to succeed is important. They can be very instrumental in giving you the boost you need by being your consummate cheerleaders. Another common problem that I identify with is setting unreasonable expectations and time parameters without accepting that growth is a process. I tend to want to see rapid progress and when it doesn’t happen quickly enough for me, I become frustrated and disheartened. For those who identify with this problem, it’s important to remember that establishing manageable goals is the key to success and taking baby steps instead of giant leaps will prove most beneficial.
A number of people will tell you that lack of accountability was one of the reasons they couldn’t accomplish their objectives.
When you have someone who helps keep you on track, you are more inclined to stay focused and retain a positive attitude.
Without accountability, the tendency is to give in to those negative thoughts and let your self-critic dictate your decisions.
Despite the fact that the majority of people don’t actualize their resolutions, those that give their goals some thought each year are more likely to attain them than those who never participate in this age old tradition.
It’s a practice that historians have traced back to 2000 B.C. when Babylonians held festivals around the spring and autumn equinoxes, and marked the beginning of a new year by settling debts and returning borrowed items.
This ritual carried over into Roman times when worshippers offered resolutions of good behavior and deeds to a mythical deity named Janus, the god of beginnings and endings.
Once the Roman calendar was reformed, the first month of the year was renamed January in honor of Janus, and January 1st was established as the start of the New Year.
It’s a time when examining your intentions for the future makes sense, with one year ending and the next on the cusp of beginning.
And for many, the idea of a clean slate and a fresh start is appealing.
But, I am also a firm believer that you don’t need to wait until the New Year.
Anytime is a good time to make your resolutions.