How to keep your New Year Resolution

Every year people make New Year resolutions but 92% of them will fail (Journal of Clinical Psychology). Maybe it’s time for a different approach. Forget ‘I should’ and embrace ‘I want!’

New Year resolutions are typically something like “I’m going to lose weight”, “I’ll get more organized” or “I’ll save more”. If you’re thinking along those lines, I suggest you take a moment to reflect on why you’ve chosen that goal. Is it because you think you should or because you actually want it? If your resolution is prompted by a ‘should’, then I doubt it’ll last long after the midnight celebrations.

But if you focus on what you want to do rather than on what you think you should do, your chances of success improve hugely. Those with a more Puritan perspective might argue that if you want to do something, then it hardly counts as making a ‘resolution’. Perhaps, but how many of us have seriously considered what we want from life and then done something about getting it?

Aoraki /Mount Cook at sunset

Aoraki /Mount Cook at sunset

So, what do you really love doing? Grab a piece of paper and write a list of activities that make your life richer. It’s even better if you can use post-it notes, but paper is fine. Keep to three rules:

  1. be concise;
  2. describe activities;
  3. make sure every one is something you really love.

The acid test for this last rule is to imagine you life without it. Check into the felt sense that arises. If you get a sinking feeling in your body, then it qualifies. You might find that what you’ve written isn’t quite ‘it’, so be prepared to dig around. Is there something else behind what you’ve written? Again, let your felt sense guide you.

If you have listed something that isn’t an activity, modify it. If you want to list something about your love for nature or your kids, think of a related activity. ‘Nature’ might become ‘spending time in nature’; ‘my kids’ could be ‘playing with my kids’.

Once you’re happy with your list, stick the post-it notes or piece of paper somewhere where you’ll see them everyday. Now ask yourself: Are you devoting as much time and energy to each of those activities as they – and you – deserve? The chances are that at least one or two are getting short changed and frankly you’re cheating yourself. So, how can you get to do more of what you love? Use that question to come up with a New Year’s resolution. It may be your best ever!

This entry was posted in What works? and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How to keep your New Year Resolution

  1. Great advice to focus on what we want as a basis for resolutions, as well as to make our goals more specific. Your example of losing weight is a good one. Someone who wants to lose weight because they feel pressured is less likely to do so compared to someone who wants to lose weight for health reasons, to take part in sport or a hike in nature, or to play football with their children. The reason needs to be a strong motivator, which in turn is more likely to lead to long term lifestyle changes. I like your acid test of imagining life without something you love. It’s easy to fall into the trap of expectation and conformity, much harder to prioritise what really makes us tick. I’ve never been one for resolutions, preferring to set year-round goals, but I like your suggested approach. I’m looking forward to spending more time doing the things I love!

  2. Adrian Harris, Psychotherapist, Exeter, Devon says:

    Hi Tracy,
    great to hear you found this post useful. I like the way you unpack my point about motivation. With more space would have disussed the relationship between behaviour and intention, which you open up here. What’s the postive intention behind the behaviour of someone trying to lose weight? If it’s a positive intention, like being able to play football with her kids, it’s a powerful motivator for change.

    I favour year-round goals too and I expect to go through this excercise every few months to keep myself on track.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *