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Creating and Achieving an Effective New Year's Resolution

By: Carlee

All around the world, people celebrate New Year’s Eve with culturally specific traditions. In Russia, New Year’s Eve is a widely celebrated holiday similar to Christmas, where Father Frost and his granddaughter Snegurochka deliver presents under a decorated tree. In Latin America, many countries wear red underwear to bring love to the New Year. In Ireland, an unusual tradition involves banging loaves of bread against the wall to rid bad luck. Yet, there is one tradition that seems to be fairly universal; the tradition of setting a New Year’s resolution.

In fact, New Year’s resolutions can date back to 4,000 years ago when the Babylonians were thought to make yearly promises to the gods to pay their debts. Times and traditions have changed now that we are heading into 2017, and around 45% of Americans are said to make New Year’s resolutions. Only 8% of these goal-setters prove to be successful.

So why do we have such a struggle when trying to improve our lives? It seems like such a simple idea; pick an aspect of your life that you want to improve, and improve it. But many people don’t understand just how hard change can be. With that being said, let’s look at some ways to create an effective New Year’s resolution.


Picking Your Resolution(s)

New Year’s resolutions traditionally start on New Year’s Day, however you can start planning now. For instance, if your goal is to work out more, start looking for a gym that will work for you, fill out the paperwork, buy some new running shoes, ect. Bigger goals may take more than one day to start, so preparing now will make the transition easier on January 1st.

Also, remember that change can be very complex. It involves switching your everyday lifestyle habits that you might have been doing for years. Just stating “I’m going to lose weight and save money” isn’t going to be a very effective way to achieve your goals. Make sure your resolutions are achievable, and don’t make promises that you won't be able to handle. Pick one big or two small resolutions to focus on instead of making unrealistic expectations for yourself.

When you have prepared a New Year’s resolution that seems attainable, start setting sub-goals and mark them on your calendar/make a checklist. Focus on the smaller things you can do to make your goals more achievable. For example, if your goal is to be able to run a 10K in April, this will take a lot of time and energy. Start with making smaller goals, like running a half mile three times each week. As you continue running, it will get easier, and you can slowly add more to your sub-goals.

Maintaining Your Resolution(s)

After strategizing ways to achieve your goal, it’s time to do it! With only 64% of Americans maintaining their resolutions past one month, it is important to start your resolution off right. There are a few ways to ensure you stay motivated when it gets hard to control.

First off, there are two types of motivation, intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) motivation. Intrinsic motivation is rewarded within yourself and what you find pleasurable, and extrinsic motivation is rewarded by engaging with our environment to help drive our goals. It may get hard to manipulate your intrinsic motivation sometimes, but there are many ways we can use extrinsic motivation to achieve our goals.

  • Use phone applications to assist you in your resolution goal

  • Tell other people about your resolution to keep you on track

  • Set up a reward system pertaining to the goal you want to achieve, for example, for every $50 you save, buy yourself a coffee before work.

  • Use visual cues to help remind you of your goal, like posting a picture on your fridge of a vacation destination you are saving money for

Lastly, there seems to be a negative connotation towards “cheat days”, but they can actually work to your advantage. A day or time when you can spoil yourself a little bit proves to be helpful, depending on your resolution. If you are trying to cut down on your soda consumption, allow yourself to have a soda on occasion when you go to a sit-down restaurant. This will help fulfill your cravings while keeping structure to your goal. Still, if your cheat days turn into lapses, reflect on the reasons why this might have happened and make adjustments for the future.

Achieving Your Resolution(s)

One of the hardest parts of achieving your New Year’s resolution might be maintaining your willpower. It’s crucial to understand your self-control through the process of change. By practicing more self-control, you can strengthen your willpower, however you only have a limited amount of willpower and pushing yourself too hard can be inefficient.

You can strengthen your self-control with these tips:

  • Recognize the moments that you act impulsively

  • When cravings sneak up, use breathing exercises (or other ‘go-to’ activities) to change your focus

  • Research the things that you should be using more self-control on

  • Be honest with yourself and your behaviors

  • Develop new and healthy habits

  • Have a positive attitude towards your body and self-control

If you stay mindful about the negative and positive aspects of self-control concerning your New Year’s resolution, it will be easier to achieve your goal in the long run. Be kind to yourself. This means not getting down on yourself during lapses and to keep continuing on. Lapses may happen, but these are learning experiences. Reflect on the reasons why you gave in and try to find ways to avoid future slip-ups.

Most importantly, be mindful about all the times you have practiced great self-control through your resolution process. It is easy to dwell on the negative things while pushing the positive things aside, however adjusting your habits will be much harder if you don’t appreciate the small accomplishments. You can do this!!

Have a happy New Year from all of us at Miles Psychological Services!


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