January is the time of year that many of us feel compelled to start afresh and make a New Year’s resolution. But if you’re the sort of person who finds that they’ve usually broken this resolution before February has even rolled around, then you are not alone. According to one study by Scranton University, the failure rate for New Years’ Resolutions is more than 80%.
If this is the case, then the problem is likely not with us - the resolution-keepers - but in the resolutions themselves. Committing to pledges that are too harsh, too vague, too strict, too impersonal and too isolating are only going to set a person up to fail.
Here are our top five tips for setting yourself realistic goals that you can actually carry with you into 2023 and beyond. But before you read on, what if now isn't the right time for goal setting?
Timing and mindful goal setting
The most important aspect of goal setting is to do what feels right for you. You'll no doubt see lots of Ad's and content that can make you feel much worse about where you're at currently in a variety of areas.
For a resolution to be meaningful and impactful, you need to give it some thought ahead of time. It doesn't have to be in January and it doesn't have to relate to the pressures we all feel post the Christmas haze to lose weight or be more active which can be harder during the Winter months. This means reflecting on the areas of your life that you feel are in need of change, and planning for the different ways you might make these changes happen.
Pick one goal
To start with, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to change too many habits at once. Cutting out sugar, running twice a week, abstaining from alcohol and ditching processed foods all in one go is a sure-fire way to set yourself up to fail. Start with any one of these things, and once it no longer feels like a challenge, consider introducing other changes too. These can happen at any point in the year and might be easier to adopt once Spring comes around.
Make your goal specific and measurable
Resolutions like ‘lose weight’ and ‘cut down time spent on social media’ aren’t very specific, which means there’s no clear indication of when they have been achieved. Write down in measurable terms what you want success to look like, and set yourself a timeline for when to achieve it. To make the above examples more specific, you might say, “I want to lose 4lbs per month”, or “I’d like to limit my time on social media to 15 minutes per day.” Above all your goals should ultimately help you feel motivated and work towards a state of mind that feels good.
Keep at it and don’t be afraid to start again
The research is mixed about how long it takes to form a new habit, but one study suggests it can be anywhere from 18 to 254 days - or 66 days on average. This might seem daunting at the outset, but it’s important to know that the longer you keep at something, the easier it will become and the closer you get to it feeling automatic. It’s also important to know that it’s okay to start again if you slip up occasionally. It’s better to try again the following day or if now isn't a good time think about when your goal could be achieved later in the year - respond to your own mind and body and not the pressures you'll no doubt feel in January that are hard to ignore. Focus on progress over perfection.
Reaching out to like-minded people is a great way to help you keep on track. If you want to start running, join a running club. If you want to incorporate more mindfulness into your day-to-day, seek out a local yoga or meditation class. Associating with people who share the same interests will give you the support you need when things start to feel hard. If you don’t fancy joining a group, make your resolution known to a friend or family member and let them know what your end goal is. It’s much harder to quit something when you feel accountable to someone else but be sure to set clear boundaries with them as to how you'll need their support as you embark on your goals.
Whatever your goals and resolutions are for the New Year, make sure they’re purposeful and relevant to you and your life. By following these tips, we hope we can help you to make some positive, more mindful changes in your life – and help you see them through way past February!