New Year’s resolutions are useful. The problem is that we go about this in entirely the wrong way.

The whole new year resolution thing has become something of a joke and a cliche. The consensus seems to be that you will decide to turn over a new leaf, make all sorts of plans, and that your good intentions won’t last the week, or even the day. The reason is that we start the process with the wrong attitude.

Changing your life from one day to the next is not going to work. So I try not to start out by imagining that this year, it’s going to be different. After all, research has shown that it takes on average 66 days to break a habit, and sometimes, depending on both the habit and the person, a lot longer.* This kind of change can be more effective when you are replacing the behaviour that you don’t want with something that you do want, and also, it can be achieved more quickly when you are strongly motivated. (For example, if you are trying to stop smoking because you are concerned about your health you are more likely to manage than if you are only doing it because someone else thinks you should.)

What I have been doing for some years is looking at New Year’s Resolutions as a plan for the entire year. I plan what I want to change and how I will go about it. This means that sometimes smaller steps need to be taken that might not achieve my goal completely, but will take me closer to it. It means that I will stuff up and abandon ship every so often, but I know that I can climb back on board and keep on going.  The new year is the whole year and not just the start of it.

Something else I try to remember is that I can’t tell the future. None of us knows what’s going to befall us in the next twelve months, and there may be reasons why goals change or simply become unachievable. Changes in finance, health, employment, and personal life can mean what you decided in January may not be valid in May. That’s okay. Life has a tendency to get in the way of what we want more than we would like. This is only logical. So why are we so hard on ourselves?

So I will go ahead and make my New Year Resolutions, my plan for 2018. Whether I succeed or fail, I know that I have a goal in mind and that I am working on it. I believe goals are important to a meaningful life.

Happy New Year, and happy resolution making.

 

* How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world

  PHILLIPPA LALLY, ORNELIA H. M. VAN JAARSVELD, HENRY W. W.    POTTS AND JANE WARDLE, European Journal of Social Psychology.,

 

 

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