WE’RE just over a week into 2021, and thousands of Australians will have spent this time actioning their New Year’s Resolutions. Whether it’s getting that gym membership, going cold-turkey after Christmas on an all-or-nothing diet, opening a savings account, or deciding to learn a language – we’re no stranger to this annual cycle of making declarations to better ourselves.
So despite all best intentions, why do around 80 per cent of New Year’s Resolutions fail?
In 2019, Strava (a social network for athletes) conducted research that revealed most people will already forfeit their resolutions before the end of January.
Around January 12, to be exact. If we’re to believe this trend will continue – COVID-19 and all – we’re staring down the barrel of Tuesday, 12 January 2021.
People are quick to blame lack of willpower or motivation when they ‘fail’ – and it becomes a perpetual cycle of self-deprecation. So why do we make them at all?
ARE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS UNREALISTIC?
AS a teenager, I remember my New Year’s Eve resolutions vividly. This year, people will like me and I’ll make more friends. This year I’ll have a boyfriend. This year, I’ll lose 20 kilos. I’ll be a famous singer.
I don’t ridicule these at all, I think they were a product of the world I lived in then: a teenage girl, battling to find herself and be accepted. They spoke of loneliness, and a young person trying to edit herself as society told her to. These resolutions were more akin to wishes, than realistic goals.
While society has come a long way since circa 2010 (and still has a long way to go), I know many people – particularly girls and women – have made similar declarations.
This year, I’ll gain more Instagram followers. I’ll make more friends; I’ll make it into the ‘in’ group; I’ll be invited to more parties. I’ll have a steady relationship. I’ll meet the person of my dreams. I’ll join a gym and get my dream body this year. I’ll get a better job and make more money.
Same concepts, dressed up differently. We have been conditioned to believe we always have to be ‘better’ each year than we were the one before. And ultimately, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself and making goals – but experts say the key lies with making them specific and attainable. (Anyone remember those pesky S.M.A.R.T. goals from school? Perhaps there was some credence to them after all.)
Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction at Nottingham Trent University, said people fail because they “set too many (resolutions) or they’re unrealistic to achieve”. People want to implement monumental changes in their lives, with little consideration for the logistics or timing of those goals.
DOES THE PRESSURE OF A ‘RESOLUTION’ MAKE US FAIL?
ALONG with the dawning of a New Year and a fresh start, we almost feel as if January 1st holds this superpower to change our lives. But the power of change actually begins and ends with us. (Yes, as if that wasn’t obvious – stay with me.)
Psychology Today indicated most resolutions fail because people shouldn’t have started them on January 1st at all. Griffiths also suggested this, pointing out that “changing your behaviour, or some aspect of it, doesn’t have to be restricted to the start of the New Year”; that it can be any time.
If you want to succeed in your goals, you have to want to create lasting change for starters – not just like the idea of it. But you also have to be ready to change your life.
If you are completely determined to achieve something, don’t need to wait for December 31st– January 1st to do it. Think about it today, and action it in whatever way you can – even if it’s writing something down; making a call; or talking to someone supportive about it. Whatever move towards it you make, you’ll be further ahead than yesterday.
DITCHING NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR GOOD
OVER 2020, I made resolutions redundant in my life. Why?
Because I actioned everything I could, when I needed to, when I was ready – towards the life I wanted.
Unhappy in my 9-5 job? I quit. Did losing that financial stability during a global pandemic terrify me? Absolutely. And I understand it isn’t always possible for everyone to do this – but there will be other options, even ones you hadn’t previously considered. There are plans you can put in motion to get you there; start with updating your resume, and put the feelers out in your community or wherever you want to move to (after all, 70 per cent of jobs are actually found on the hidden job market). You never know what might come your way!
I used to only dream about being creative every day – but then I became a ceramicist alongside my mother.
I craved connection; I became involved with a not-for-profit that has a beautiful community.
I wanted to regain my professional confidence; I worked with the founder of that not-for-profit to publish a magazine.
I wanted to live a healthy lifestyle; I fine-tuned my diet, took up walking two times a day, worked out, and have been running three times a week since spring.
As for the ‘boyfriend’ wish? A couple of years ago, I focussed on my own happiness and mental health (after many dark years), surrounded myself with good people, and the universe sent the right person to me. I now live very happily with my dream man, who I love endlessly (and our two dogs!). My heart is full.
Each of these things, at some point, in some way, shape or form, have been my New Year’s Resolutions over the years. But in the end, they weren’t achieved because of January 1st. None of them were goals set on December 31st, 2019. They were things I used to dream about – and when the timing was right, and I was ready to put my energy into each of them and commit, they came into fruition.
There are so many other things I have excitedly plunged into so far in 2021, and not a single one of them has included the words ‘resolution’! I am content, and I don’t feel the pressure to reach the summit of those mountains in a month. To each their own, but I have made a commitment to take on each new goal, change, and dream in its own time. And if any of them scare me, I acknowledge that fear, and keep on going. There is no ‘failure’, only lessons to be learnt here.
I challenge you to scrap the annual wording. A dream written down with actionable steps becomes a goal – and you don’t need to wait for any Hallmark holiday to achieve them. Go get ‘em!