social sciences

Sticking to new year’s resolutions

It’s the last day of January, and many people have already given up on their new year’s resolutions. The whole idea of keeping track of time is a construct we created ourselves. Apart from the fact that the Earth orbited around the sun another time, there is not much that makes the end or beginning of a year special. However, as we are species that think ahead and plan things in the future, thanks to our prefrontal cortex, new beginnings are very important. We might feel as if we get a second chance and really get to make a change this time. Yet, it is incredibly difficult for people to stick to their resolutions or sometimes even goals in general.

  • First of all, while new beginnings have a big psychological impact on us, there is no reason to wait until the beginning of a new year to make a change. Especially if the goal is important to you, don’t wait around to start making progress toward that goal.
  • Thoroughly conceptualize your goal. What are you planning to achieve? Why? How much time will you be able to spend on it? How would others be able to help you out? Visualize your goal. How are you gonna change your daily life so you can properly work on your resolutions?
  • Make sure you can put in the effort and time to realize your goal. Consider whether the goal you set is actually realistic. For instance, learning to speak Chinese fluently in a year or losing 10 lbs in a month are probably not achievable goals. You will only demotivate yourself. Instead, convince yourself that baby steps are perfectly fine. Losing 1-2 lbs a month or aiming for basic conversational skills in a year, might be a better idea.
  • Be ready for setbacks. Your progress is not going to be a steady upward process. There’s gonna be days where the scale doesn’t display the number you were hoping for. Or you will fail to pick up your textbooks and not invest enough time in learning Chinese characters.
  • Learn from your setbacks. We have off-days and that can stall our progress. However, the day after it’s time to pick up the slack again and continue. By doing so, you will realize that can keep going for a long time, no matter the setbacks. These moments are important for our self-efficacy and self-confidence, which will help us in the long run.
  • Consider a multi-year plan. Don’t just focus on the current year. If you have big plans, you might need more than one year to get where you want to be. If you’re planning to go to the gym once a week or kick the habit of smoking, extend your plans and strategies over the course of time. Don’t limit yourself.

Changing or breaking habits can be very difficult. But with enough willpower and self-efficacy, it will be easier to stick to new year’s resolutions. And these you will get by trying and trying some more, even if you need to fail a couple of times. You can always readjust your plans and take smaller steps when needed. And remember, you can come up with resolutions during any time of the year.

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