A year-end activity that drives me crazy is making New Years Resolutions, Why crazy? Because I think it’s probably a good idea, but by February all the promises to myself have been dropped into the dumpster of failed self-improvement campaigns.
I find I’m not alone. Since Babylonian times people have been making promises to the gods, or God, or themselves about how they will change as the year changes. But the lasting effects of a statement of good intentions has a dismal record of success. Research done at the University of Scranton and reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2014 found that only 8% of those who made resolutions had achieved them one year later.
Maybe that’s not much of a surprise. Comedians use resolution making as the subject matter for end-of-the-year jokes, and articles proliferate about the topic as each year winds down. So is it worthwhile to spend time deciding how from now on you’ll eat less, drink less, stop smoking, spend less, save more and start exercising? An article in Time magazine suggests that resolution making is actually bad for you. Because success is so rare, attempting something that has a high probability of failure can leave you feeling like just that – a failure
Have I been wasting my time and making myself feel bad with my yearly resolving? Probably. So why am I even questioning whether to try again? Because I’ve been doing a little reading on the topic, and found that I, along with 92% of those who make resolutions, have been doing it all wrong. We overwhelm our brains with too many, nonspecific intentions. We give up too soon. (It takes 18 to 21 days to establish new habits.) We pay more attention to times we fall short than acknowledging small successes. We don’t call upon support from others And so on.
According to my Google search there has been lots of scientific study lately that can help us do it right. This is one readable synopsis.
And here are a few, easy to implement suggestions:
- Pick one specific thing to work on.
- Put it in writing.
- Begin with a tiny change and do it every day to establish a habit.
- Reward yourself for progress.
- Enlist support from trusted friends and/or family members.
- Spread resolutions over the year. Every day is a new opportunity.
Sounds pretty simple. Maybe I’ll give it one more try.
Good luck, and Happy New Year