A resolution, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is a firm decision to do or not do something. The word can also be defined as the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter – however, when it comes to the New Year, we tend to gravitate towards the first definition. Devising a lengthy list of New Year’s Resolutions has become as much an American tradition as hot wings on Superbowl Sunday and green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. As December nears an end, we discuss our goals and aspirations for the year ahead with those close to us. We discuss the weight we hope to lose, the projects we hope to start, and the vacations we hope to (finally) take. The whole concept of formulating resolutions is a positive one; we set goals for ourselves, and when we do so, we likely have every intention of attaining them. Unfortunately, our resolve often lasts all of two weeks. By the time February rolls around, we are knee-deep in junk food, and our gym membership sits in our wallet collecting dust.
Resolving to Make Positive Changes
Why is it so difficult for us to follow through on our resolutions? Our lack of long-term motivation is probably partially due to an unworkable set of expectations. We have a tendency to set unrealistic goals for ourselves; to expect change to come quickly and last indefinitely. When we fail to see results instantaneously, we abandon all hope and return to our old ways, vowing to try again next year. Instant gratification is often the name of the game. We resolve to lose 5 pounds and attend at least four yoga classes per week. We buy an unlimited month at a local studio, and we start off exceptionally strong. We manage to make it to a class every day for the first week of the new year. We feel good; strong, healthy, and proud of ourselves for sticking to a schedule. Then we come down with the flu, and we are flat on our backs for two weeks solid. We get discouraged, because the weight we began to lose is back in full – and then some. Our discouragement eventually blossoms into frustration, and we fall into a bitter morass of self-pity that we are unable to pull ourselves out of.
The Key to Success
Rather than set ourselves up for failure, we must attempt to set realistic and attainable goals – goals that will not be easily disrupted by unavoidable life circumstances. Instead of putting a number on our goals (5 pounds in a month, 5 classes a week), why not try to set loose goals pertaining to general improvement? Rather than saying, “I will go to the gym four times every week,” we can say, “I will start exercising more.” This way, we will feel accomplished for simply fitting a bit more physical activity into our hectic daily schedules. And instead of compiling a heaping list of resolutions, why not start small? Start with one negative behavior, and do what you can to change it. Rather than vowing to quit smoking cold turkey, for example, why not start by cutting back? If you need support, ask for it. Hold yourself accountable by sharing your progress with your family and friends.
Perhaps most importantly, avoid beating yourself up if you fail to meet your own idealistic expectations. Perfection is unattainable – shoot for progress. If you make any positive changes at all, it will undeniably be a very good year. Happy New Year from all of us at Next Chapter!