New Year, New Resolutions
At the beginning of a new year it’s traditional to wish friends and family well for the new year ahead, and to make wishes for ourselves too.
A new year brings with it a blank canvas, a fresh start, and an opportunity for new hopes and dreams to be realised.
This inevitably leads to the tradition of setting new year’s resolutions. But new year’s resolutions sometimes get a bad rep – rightly or wrongly – and many of us choose not to set them, let alone go on to achieve them. But why is this?
Why setting goals is good for us
Firstly, why are new year’s resolutions good for us? Setting goals is good for our wellbeing – it gives us a sense of purpose and direction. Without this focus, it is more likely we won’t achieve our full potential in a specific project or activity, or simply in life.
But setting and achieving goals is not easy. And that is where we often fall down. It’s thought that as many as 80% of people will give up on their new year’s resolutions within two months.
While everyone’s situation is unique, the most common reason for this comes down to behavioural science. There is a difference between wanting change and wanting to change. One is an outcome, and the other is a process. And in order to achieve the outcome, you have to want to go through the process.
Turning habits into lifestyle
The key is firstly to identify a goal you really want to achieve, how you’re going to achieve it, and by when. Don’t just set goals because you think you should. Then you need to embrace the process of change, knowing and accepting that it won’t be easy and why (our brains are wired to treat anything new as a threat) and to then work towards turning the process into a habit and lifestyle. When habits become lifestyle, this is when change happens, leading to results.
For something to become habitual we need to repeat it over and over again. In so doing we create new pathways in our brain that become more and more trodden, which means we are more likely to follow them, rather than resist them or treat them as a threat. Imagine taking a walk out in the countryside and reaching a fork in the path… you’re more likely to take the well trodden pathway, than the one that looks like it leads nowhere.
It is widely thought that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. However, scientific studies indicate that it takes a minimum of 21 days to create a habit, but on average between 60 to 90 days to turn that habit into a lifestyle. Knowing this can help set us up for success when it comes to goal-setting.
Here are our five tips to help with your goal-setting this new year:
- Think first about those things in life that make you happy and healthy. Do you prioritise them enough? If not, what changes do you need to make?
- Think SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound) when setting goals.
- Think SMALL – break your larger goal down into smaller milestones – this will give you a sense of achievement as you tick off the milestones towards the larger goal.
- Think SUSTAINABLE and look for incremental gains day-to-day.
- Write your goal down. Even better share it with others. You improve your chances of achieving a goal by 50% if you write it down, and 75% if you share it (according to Dr Gail Matthews, Dominican University, California).
Focus on the journey rather than the destination
When you set goals, know that the process or the journey won’t always go to plan, but the experience of challenging ourselves and learning along the way will be fulfilling and rewarding in itself. So when setting new year’s resolutions this year, shift the daily focus away from the end result, on to the process and journey in order to get the best results, and the best satisfaction.
All that said, for some of us who are happy with the status quo, or who have spent a year or a lifetime trying to control and plan, perhaps the very best intention you can set yourself this year is to allow yourself the relief to simply be in the moment…
We believe in being better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today (knowing it won’t always go according to plan). So, wherever you are this New Year and whatever your intentions may be (or not) – we wish you a happy, healthy year of all that you desire.
Be well, be happy, be you.