By: Shaila Anjum
How effective are New Year's resolutions really? Many of us commit to a New Year’s resolution passionately, but typically only for a week, maybe two. Then slowly and slowly, one by one, the majority of us return to our regular daily routines as if New Year’s resolutions don’t even exist. How do several people get so wrapped up in these resolutions all at once? Maybe it’s just a social thing to do. After a while, the majority of us simultaneously abandon these ‘goals’ that we usually know are only temporary. Usually, we participate in the tradition of creating them just so we can also abandon them altogether in the following few days. This article will help put things into perspective, give you an understanding of successful goal retaining and help you learn how to get that motivation back!
Factors in Successful Goal Retaining
A longitudinal study conducted over a period of two years with 200 participants determined the success rate to be 19% for New Year resolutioners (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1989). This means that 38 out of the 200 participants consistently followed their new year resolution over a two-year period with an average of 14 ‘slips.' This was due to hindered willpower, a lack of self-control when experiencing stress and feeling negative emotions (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1989).
What can we take away and understand from this study?
· New year resolutions have not been successful for most people.
· It is normal to have ‘slips’ and therefore resilience becomes an important factor in maintaining resolutions. Which means, don’t be too hard on yourself, just get back up!
· Willpower, self-control, and regular reinforcement are crucial factors in successfully reaching your goals.
Abstract Versus Specific Goals
Dr. Amanda Durik talks about effective goal setting by connecting your goals to personal values, making them more abstract than specific (Durik, 2013). For example, instead of making your goal about visiting the gym four times a week, your goal should be more about living a healthier lifestyle which means this is connected to a core value. The gym itself is not a core value, it’s a specific goal to represent a core value which is to live a healthy lifestyle. The psychology behind this is that behavioural changes come more readily to things that are valuable to you rather than things that are not, making them seem more dreadful. In turn, this causes a block in your commitment to reach these resolutions.
A research study looked at the importance of situational cues and planning when goal setting (Orbell & Verplanken, 2010). In this study, dental floss was given to several participants that were all taught how to floss. One group was asked to plan when and where they would floss versus the other group that was only instructed to floss. Success rates were significantly higher with those that had an actual plan in place. Often during New Year’s resolutions, people set goals but don’t put a plan into place which also contributes to success rates. However, this may be because people usually do not set New Year’s resolutions with the true intent and focus of achieving them, but more so to participate in the tradition.
Not so Trendy, Trends
Even though tradition is important and social trends are fun, a social trend that involves setting goals up for failure can cause disappointment and affect your mood which ends up affecting other daily routines. We are all very well acquainted with the stress that comes from those minuscule tasks we keep pushing off, but they linger at the back of our minds, daily, taunting us of our failure to get them out of the way, causing stress and affecting our mood. This is the same effect that resolutions can have on us when they are made for social trend purposes only and left unachieved.
Make Way for April!
Instead of setting goals up for failure, it’s effective to set your goals throughout the year. In April, the weather is getting nicer, the temperature is slowly rising and we are getting more daylight hours. During this time, many people feel motivated and ready to push forward. Especially if you’ve been experiencing the winter blues, you may find those subsiding slowly. This time of year is a great time to start something new or bounce back into past routines you fell out of. Make April your new January!
Durik, A. (2013, December 18). The Science Behind the New Year's Resolution. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-wide-wide-world-psychology/201312/the-science-behind-the-new-year-s-resolution
Norcross, J. C., & Vangarelli, D. J. (1988). The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Years change attempts. Journal of Substance Abuse, 1(2), 127-134. doi:10.1016/s0899-3289(88)80016-6
Orbell, S., & Verplanken, B. (2010). The automatic component of habit in health behavior: Habit as cue-contingent automaticity. Health Psychology,29(4), 374-383. doi:10.1037/a0019596