The new new year’s resolutions

Monday, 16 January 2012

How to keep your resolutionsIt’s all over the news: several recent studies have turned up similar findings: most people break their new year resolutions within the first month. ‘Why Your New Year Resolutions are Doomed to Fail’, blares one headline. ‘The Trouble with New Year Resolutions’, says another.

But – besides the fact that people are about as likely to stop making new year resolutions as they are to stop getting married (incidentally, the two institutions have a fairly similar success rate, around 20%) – experts say making resolutions is far from futile if you go about it in the right way. While a recent study of 3 000 subjects by a Bristol University professor, Richard Wiseman, revealed the dismal truth about how few managed to keep their new year resolutions, it also made some interesting discoveries about those who did stick to their intentions. Alter your strategy, say Wiseman and other experts, and you might find your goals easier to crack. Here are five key tips for keeping your resolutions this year.


Break it down

In Wiseman’s study, subjects who broke down their resolutions into micro-goals and gave themselves due credit when each was achieved had a success rate of roughly 35%.

‘Breaking your ultimate goal down into small, measurable steps makes it less daunting,’ says personal trainer Shelley Wolff. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight – a resolution that, according to research, tops most people’s new year bucketlists – she recommends setting weekly goals, tracking your progress, and rewarding yourself for every success. ‘If you do fall off the wagon, there’s no beating yourself up about it – that’s only likely to set you back further. Rather take stock of where you are and get back on track as soon as possible,’ she adds.


Be realistic

Another major reason that people fail in their endeavours to turn over a new leaf is that they set unrealistic targets, says Dr Arya Sharma of the Canadian Obesity Network. “What you often find is that people are ready to make changes, but that motivation is channelled into the wrong activity, or is aimed at achieving unrealistic and unsustainable goals. People try, it doesn’t work, and they simply give up,” he says.

Couples counsellor and corporate coach Mary Ovenstone recommends setting development goals that will make you continuously stretch and grow, keeping them just beyond your current state, but not so difficult that you will fail to meet them. ‘While the brain readily grows new neural networks as we think new thoughts and make new decisions, it takes longer to recover from what it registers as a failure than it does from successes,’ she says.


Plan ahead

US entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn, once said, ‘I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacations with better care than they plan their lives. Perhaps it’s because escape is easier than change.’ Wiseman also cautions that resolutions made on the spur of the moment (at 11.30pm on the night of the 31st, say) have a much greater chance of failing as they tend to be based on less authentic commitment than goals that are clearly thought through in advance. ‘Many of the most successful techniques involve making a plan and helping yourself stick to it,’ says Wiseman.


Be positive

Being confident in your ability to meet your goals and focusing on the benefits associated with making the changes will also boost your chances of success, found Wiseman. Conversely, negative beliefs about the motivation or the self-control to stay on the straight and narrow tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies.


Write it down

The written word is surprisingly powerful – studies have shown that people who wrote down their goals and the motivations behind them, and kept a day-by-day account of their progress were much more likely to keep their resolutions than those who did not.

Other articles you may be interested in:
Simple resolutions part 1
Simple resolutions part 2
Have fun and stay motivated
Give up your dreams and achieve more
Beauty resolutions you should make now

Written by

After spending most of the last decade working as a journalist and editor in Thailand and travelling the East, Cindy returned to the Mother City in September 2010. She has written for a wide spectrum of online and offline publications in both South Africa and SE Asia and is passionate about reading, writing, food, globe-trotting and cats.

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  1. Nuuh

    Nice article one of my new years resolutions is to stop drinking for health reasons.

    5 years ago •

  1. Livvy

    yes, very important, “write it down” makes for alot of change

    5 years ago •

  1. Azraa

    Thanks, always hard to stick to resolutions… They are made to be broken

    5 years ago •

  1. Henke

    I normally make a vision board of the things I want to achieve during a year and then I put it up on the fridge or the bathroom door… it really works

    5 years ago •

  1. Bronwyn

    Making resolutions just because it is new year seems weird to me, I never bother. If I want to do something or make a change I just do it, regardless of the time of year!

    5 years ago •

  1. Angelisha

    Needed to re read as 2013 aint far…

    5 years ago •

  1. Angelisha

    Great advice! Motivational and inspirational!

    5 years ago •

  1. Maddy

    Great article. Keeping up the optimism and tackling the goal one step at a time is more likely to end up in success.

    5 years ago •

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