Today’s topic is Lifestyle. On Mondays, we delve into the little things; changes that you can make, or activities that you can implement to your routine that can improve your quality of life! Today’s subject is New Year’s resolutions: the bane of our existence.
Every year, we make grandiose promises to ourselves, vowing to hit the gym every day, finally learn a new language, or become a domestic goddess. And every year, those resolutions fall by the wayside faster than a New Year’s Eve hangover. But why is it that our well-intentioned resolutions always seem to fizzle out? The answer is simple: they’re harmful to the establishment of permanent routines.
First of all, New Year’s resolutions are often too vague and unrealistic. We tell ourselves we’ll “exercise more,” but without a specific plan or goal in mind, it’s easy to let that resolution fall by the wayside. And even if we do have a specific goal in mind, the pressure to make a dramatic change overnight can be overwhelming, and ultimately lead to burnout (Duckworth, Gino, & Schweitzer, 2012).
Furthermore, research has shown that the “fresh start effect,” the belief that the beginning of a new year provides a psychological boost and makes it easier to implement changes, is actually a myth (Gollwitzer, 1999). In reality, the beginning of the year is no different from any other time, and trying to make significant changes all at once can actually be counterproductive (Duckworth et al., 2012).
But what about the positive sentiment behind New Year’s resolutions? While it’s true that setting goals and making positive changes can be rewarding, there are more sustainable ways to do so. Rather than making grandiose promises to ourselves on January 1st, it’s better to focus on small, incremental changes that can be incorporated into our daily routines (Lally, van Jaarsveld, Potts, & Wardle, 2010). This way, we’re more likely to see lasting results and establish permanent habits.
In addition to the issues mentioned above, there are a few more reasons why New Year’s resolutions often fail to promote sustainable change. One reason is that people often set too many resolutions at once, leading to overwhelm and a lack of focus (Duckworth et al., 2012).
It’s important to remember that making positive changes takes time and effort, and trying to tackle too many goals at once can be overwhelming and lead to burnout. Instead of trying to make a long list of resolutions, it’s better to choose one or two that are most important to you and focus on those. Another reason why New Year’s resolutions often fail is that people often rely on motivation and willpower alone to stick to their resolutions, rather than creating a solid plan for how to achieve their goals (Lally et al., 2010).
While motivation and willpower are important, they can be fleeting and aren’t always enough to sustain long-term change. It’s important to have a clear plan in place that includes specific actions you will take and strategies you will use to stay on track. Finally, it’s important to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. Research has shown that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit (Lally et al., 2010). This means that it’s important to be patient and to give yourself time to adjust to new habits. Don’t expect to see immediate results, and be kind to yourself if you have setbacks along the way.
While the sentiment behind New Year’s resolutions may be positive, they often fail to promote sustainable change due to a lack of specific goals, an overreliance on motivation and willpower, and an expectation of immediate results. Instead, it’s better to focus on small, incremental changes that can be incorporated into your daily routine and to give yourself time to adjust to new habits. Until next time…
- Duckworth, A. L., Gino, F., & Schweitzer, M. E. (2012). Self-control in the workplace: A field study of the effects of goals on self-regulation and performance. Psychological Science, 23(6), 684-689.
- Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54(7), 493-503.
- Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H., Potts, H. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998-1009.