By Kate Rowe
Ever wonder why so many people make a New Year’s resolution only to “fail” by February?
According to research published in the Clinical Journal of Psychology published by the University of Scranton, almost half of the U.S. population makes a New Year’s resolution each year, yet only eight percent of those people succeed–but why?
It seems to be a combination of factors, the first of which is that we tend to set multiple, unrealistic goals and when we become slightly off track, we become discouraged and give up completely. Hence why on Dec. 31 of the following year, we are making those exact same resolutions that we made the following year.
Another reason may be that the internal pressure of attaining that goal becomes overwhelming; we become anxious and revert back to old, less-than-constructive behaviors. Here are my top tips to help you create a fail-proof resolution that will have you looking back in 2016 with pride and tangible results.
Effective behavior modification essentially comes down to creating new behaviors that improve the ability to make decisions that lead to a positive outcome. Essentially, it is conditioning the mind to “neuro-associate” specific behaviors with specific outcomes. Rather than telling yourself to create a “resolution” this year, make the commitment to instead modify your behavior. Behavior modification may prove to be a more effective goal-setting strategy than viewing your goal as a “resolution,” a term that is indeed a bit heavy and may subconsciously cause more anxiety than empowerment.
The most difficult part about behavior modification is taking the first step. However, once that initial step is taken, we not only are proud for taking the step, but we also reap the benefits of being one step closer to our goal, which increases the likelihood of repeating that behavior.
One goal–not three, not five–one
As much as I am a believer in full-on “life makeovers,” this approach only works for a small number of people. Setting five seemingly unrelated goals at once is similar to baking four different recipes simultaneously, all with different ingredients. Some people can do it–which is fantastic. But most of us humans are simply not programmed that way. I will note that if your goals are overlapping, like losing weight and increasing your athletic ability, then it’s best to categorize them into one specific health-related goal.
What happens when we set, say, three goals at once–for example, quit smoking, lose weight, and save X amount of dollars–we get the big “O,” also known as “The Overwhelm.” This ultimately leads to cortisol production (the stress hormone) and we not only throw our endocrine system out of whack, but we seek comfort to relieve the anxiety, in this instance, likely in smoking, food, and overspending.
This doesn’t mean that you have to focus on your one goal for the entire year. You can break your year up into thirds or quarters and/or begin a new goal each time you’ve accomplished the first one. This is absolutely essential to your success, as you will be far more likely to accomplish new goals after you’ve “proven” to yourself that you can, in fact, accomplish a goal that you’ve set.
Which brings me to my next tip:
Create the “goal that never ends”
Diets don’t work. I repeat, diets do not work. The number one New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. Did I mention that diets don’t work?
But, why? Firstly, our perception of the term “diet” is completely false. The term “diet” is how we shorten our way of saying “food choice and calorie restriction for short periods of time that reap short term results.” The only way we create lasting results is by creating lasting change via behavior modification. Creating a goal like “losing weight” should be: a) altered to something more empowering like “improving overall health” and b) a never-ending goal. Strive to alter your “diet” so that it incorporates whole, fresh, organic, local foods that are tasty, filling, nutritious, and that promote vitality as well as weight loss, versus calorie counting for two months, losing ten pounds, only to revert back to eating as you did previously to the “diet.”