Ah, it’s that time of the year again.
The last digit of our calendar is about to change, so that means everyone is in an uproar. Your friends shove their most played songs on Spotify in your face, companies make the most cringy end-of-year videos, and everyone is preparing for a perfect countdown.
Ten, nine, eight…
[oh my God, the suspense, I can’t take it!]
three, two, one…
HAPPY NEW YEAR! 🍾
The new year 20-something has now officially begun. Imagine if we celebrated each new day as we do New Year’s Day.
Why New Year’s Resolutions?
Through the eyes of every other living mammal on our planet, the first day of January would be a day like any other. Were it not for the fact that man invented the calendar and we have turned New Year’s into something special. Whether they like it or not, this makes the day memorable for animals too, as they are absolutely terrified by all the fireworks we set off.
We like to end the old year with a bang and start the next year with a clean slate. The first day of a new year feels like a blank page waiting to be written. All the mistakes of the previous year can be put behind you. Day 1 of month 1, everything will change… right?
You can probably already sense that I am trying to temper the expectations of your New Year’s resolutions.
What makes New Year’s Resolutions so hard to achieve?
January is one of the hardest months to make a new identity for yourself. It’s right after the holiday season, during which we indulged in all sorts of treats and feasts. On New Year’s Eve, we stay up past midnight celebrating the first moments of the new year with champagne. The next day you wake up with a hangover; what a great way to kick off the new You.
January basically has no holidays and little to look forward to. January is also one of the darkest months; in most parts of the world the days are shorter, the nights longer, and the weather is bleak and damp. Good luck with your resolution to exercise more!
January also brings us Blue Monday. Taking place on the third Monday of January, Blue Monday is supposedly the most depressing day of the year, again due to a combination of bad weather, long nights and the lingering aftermath of the festive glut. Part of feeling blue is that most people have already failed their New Year’s Resolutions by then.
Research shows that only 8% of all people keep their resolutions, despite the majority being confident about their goals at the start. Another report shows that 35% of participants who failed their New Year’s Resolutions admitted they had unrealistic goals, 33% of participants did not keep track of their progress, 23% forgot about their resolutions, and about 10% of respondents claimed they made too many resolutions.
But this year, you will meet your New Year’s resolutions. Here’s how:
7 Secrets of People Who Keep Their New Year’s Resolutions
If you have set New Year’s resolutions in previous years and failed to keep them, don’t worry. This year, we’re going to do it differently. These 7 tips will help you achieve your goals for the new year.
1. Don’t start on the 1st of January
first of all, ask yourself why you insist on changing your life on 1 January. As mentioned above, 1 January is not the best time to start a life change; the odds are stacked against you. So perhaps it is better to choose another date on which you think your self-improvement will be more successful.
Why not wait a week and start on January 8? This gives you a week to steadily work towards your new habits. You can improve your sleeping pattern, eat more healthily and get a better overview of your schedule, now that all those festive activities are behind you.
Or choose another date that feels right for you. They are your personal goals, so you decide when you want to start working on them.
2. Make your goals specific
The typical New Year’s goals go like this: “I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to stop smoking, I’m going to drink less, etc.” These goals are anything but unique, and that’ s precisely where the problem lies. Your goals need to be specific. What does it mean that you are going to lose weight? How much weight do you want to lose? In what time frame? Is it achievable?
You’ve probably heard of SMART goals; five requirements that a any given goal must meet. Your goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
Bad: I’m going to lose weight
Better: I currently weigh 120 kilos and by the 1st of July I want to weigh no more than 100 kilos.
Bad: I want to drink less alcohol
Better: During 2021 I’m not going to drink more than 2 glasses of alcohol a week.
3. Measure your progress
Once you have set a goal that you can measure, you can keep track of how close you are to achieving it. Doing so gives you a very direct feedback loop telling you where you started and where you are right now. Believe me, at first it may be confrontational to keep such a close eye on your goals, but once you get the hang of it and see your own progress, it gives you a truly unsurpassable feeling of accomplishment.
There are some really handy and simple apps that can help you track your goals. They can send you reminders, make your progress very clear through all kinds of graphs and bar charts, and sync it across multiple devices. Some excellent apps for goal tracking are: Strides (iOS), Way of Life (Android | iOS) or Habitica (Android | iOS)
You greatly increase your chances of success when you don’t keep your goals to yourself. Therefore, say your goals out loud. Once you tell people around you what your goals are, you create a form of accountability. It’s easy to break a promise to yourself, but far harder to do it when a friend is watching you.
Moreover, speaking about your goals can open up new possibilities. Someone close to you may have similar goals, and you will have found a sparring partner with whom you can exchange tips and tricks and hold each other accountable.
5. Eliminate the cues that tempt you
The process of building a new habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward. The cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving and, ultimately, becomes associated with the cue.
According to the excellent book Atomic Habits, you can use this habit loop to reinforce or eliminate your habits. It all starts with cues. How to Create a Good Habit:
- Cue. Make it obvious.
- Craving. Make it attractive.
- Response. Make it easy.
- Reward. Make it satisfying.
How to Break a Bad Habit:
- Cue. Make it invisible.
- Craving. Make it unattractive.
- Response. Make it difficult.
- Reward. Make it unsatisfying.
If you have trouble applying this loop to your own habits, I recommend you read through this summary or just read the book Atomic Habits. You won’t regret it.
6. Avoid repeating past mistakes
Your New Year’s goals do not come out of thin air. Surely you have thought about your goal for a long time, and perhaps you have already made an attempt (and failed). If you have tried before and failed, you probably have little faith in succeeding this time around.
Think about what you tried last time and why it didn’t work. Don’t simply copy-paste the same New Year’s resolutions as last years’. If you do exactly the same as last time, you will most likely get the same result. You may need to change your approach and do things a little differently this year.
7. Don’t let one slip-up ruin everything
This is perhaps the most important rule for being successful in achieving your goals. We all make mistakes. But don’t let one mistake throw you off course completely.
Old habits that you want to get rid of will remain tempting. Accepting one cigarette from a friend does not mean that you might as well smoke an entire pack. Skipping one gym session is fine, as long as you’re back at it the next time around. One mistake is not an excuse to toss your entire self-improvement plan into the bin.
Everyone is bound to have setbacks, it’s inevitable. What matters is how you deal with that setback. Don’t dwell on your little misstep. Just acknowledge that you made a mistake and promise yourself that you will do better from now on. Relapses are learning opportunities. The path towards a goal is never a straight one.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
~ Thomas Edison
If you stick to these seven tips, by the end of next year you will also be part of the 8% club that has achieved their New Year’s goals.
Remember to be kind to yourself.
When was the last time you were so absorbed in an activity that you completely lost track of time? That was a tremendous feeling right? It was as if nothing else existed in the world but you and the activity. You were in a state of flow.
This article describes five steps to get into a state of flow.
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
In his monumental book, Mihaly discusses his view on happiness. He states that the best moments in our lives occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something worthwhile. Thus, the state of flow is the key to a happy and meaningful life.