Redefining Uninspiring New Year's Resolutions
Replacing vague goals with personal successes.
Posted Dec 30, 2019
The time to make a New Year’s resolution and then immediately break it will quickly be upon us. The two most common resolutions, unsurprisingly, fall under the umbrellas of health and finance. One meta-analysis puts health-related resolutions at 55 percent and financial resolutions at 34 percent. That makes sense, given health and financial concerns have probably topped every list of stressors that has ever been compiled.
Health and finances can be difficult subjects for many people. They can be especially difficult subjects for people with disabilities. It can be hard for someone to psych themselves up to lose weight when it feels like the only thing it will accomplish is creating a new subtype of very dissatisfied on their body satisfaction scale. It can also be difficult for someone to make financial planning a positive experience if they are unemployed or underemployed.
Let us be honest about what difficult means. Difficult means varying degrees of feelings that can be depressing and demoralizing. The manifestation of those feelings can occur when it seems like trying to accomplish a goal will yield little to no positive results. Combine those feelings with the end of a holiday season that is already a difficult time for many people, and it is fairly obvious to see why making a New Year’s resolution can be difficult.
Why do New Year’s resolutions even matter?
Sometimes they do and sometimes they do not. New Year’s resolutions do not matter to some people, and that is fine. There are not any diagnostic criteria for resolution aversion. They are simply a holiday tradition, and there are plenty of holiday traditions that people choose not to participate in for various reasons. However, they are a holiday tradition with origins dating as far back as ancient Rome, and even ancient Babylon. So what matters is that they are important to some people, and some of those people may struggle with them. What also matters is why many people are uninspired to try and quickly give up if they do try.
The most popular resolution underneath the health umbrella is losing weight. It is a fine goal to make, and tens – if not hundreds – of million people worldwide are about to declare it as their goal for 2020. However, an estimated 80 percent of people who make that declaration will give up within six weeks. One way to increase the likelihood of sticking with a New Year’s resolution and genuinely feeling positive about it is to reframe uninspiring goals with questionable benefits into identifiable personal successes.
I made weight loss my New Year’s resolution a few years ago. It was uninspiring, but I did because it was New Year’s Eve and I felt that I had to make a resolution. I went to bed that night and thought about what losing a little belly fat would do for me. The answer was not much, and within less than two hours my motivation waned. So I thought about what underlying issues led me to make that resolution, and I realized that as a quadriplegic I wake up nearly every morning feeling like I was hit by a truck.
I decided that eating healthier and exercising regularly, instead of merely doing physical therapy stretches, would cause me to feel better and reduce my risk of health concerns. Both of those personal successes would improve my quality of life. I did not know how much of an improvement it would be, but I knew that it would be some degree of improvement – and it was. Over time, I went from waking up nearly every day feeling like I was hit by a truck to waking up most days feeling like I was only hit by a small car. That is a personal success!
Consider thinking about what personal successes may make things better if 2019 has been a difficult year and you cannot see 2020 being any better. It does not matter how little the degree of better may seem. Better is better, and the degree may be larger than you anticipated.
Try a New Year’s resolution if you have not in the past. Try reframing success if you typically give up on your resolutions. Try something else if none of that works. Just keep trying, and ask for help from a friend, clergy, or professional if it is needed. Help is out there if we are willing to ask for it.
Luciani, J. (2015). Why 80 percent of resolutions fail. U.S. News & World Report
Pruit, S. (2018). The history of New Year's resolutions. History Channel
Woolley, K., & Fishbach, A. (2016). Immediate rewards predict adherence of long-term goals. Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.