Year after year, we dedicate a certain amount of time in the late days of December re-evaluating our actions of the past 360 or so days, analysing our thought patterns and identifying our unhealthy habits in the hopes that this is the first step in rectifying them – and indeed it is. But no one struggles with the first step. It’s the second step that defines the effectiveness of your New Year’s Resolutions. Most of us fall into the trap of setting a distinct goal with a defined outcome we can say we have (or haven’t) achieved, to have an aim with a checkbox next to it. “Go to the gym 3 times a week,” “stop eating chocolate for 3 months,” “do every assignment the day it’s set,” for instance, yet we still break our resolutions in the early days of January.
This happens because setting resolutions of this nature can actually be counterproductive and disheartening. It can lead to yet another year beginning with disappointment within the first few days because you’ve already broken your promises to yourself. The little whispers in your head begin: “you haven’t exercised at all this week; you are a disappointment,” “you ate that piece of chocolate; you have no self-control,” “you were set this assignment yesterday, it should be done by now.” It’s just another 365 days of being unjustly harsh on yourself, decreasing your self-esteem as a consequence and expecting less and less of yourself. This is the opposite of what you want to achieve when you create your New Year’s Resolutions.
Instead, find a term you are comfortable with for the changes you want to make in the new year. For example, I entitled my resolutions for this past year ‘a set of commitments for 2016.’ Choose something that doesn’t feel ominous and pressurising. Then, proceed with step one: think over your actions of the past year, identify the habits you dislike within yourself and think about how you approached situations that made you anxious. It can be better to take it in a more light-hearted way, looking back in retrospect from your current, elevated, more self-aware position. Forgive yourself, and look forward.
Then, the single most important factor in achieving your goals in the new year:
Decide how you are going to better yourself in your identified areas, and set your goals accordingly in a NON-BINARY, OPEN-ENDED way.
For example, ‘go to the gym more often,’ ‘cut down on chocolate,’ and ‘do your assignments within the first few days of being set.’ This leaves you lots of room to tackle your goals in different ways with varying intensity and without disappointing yourself completely. There’s no need to throw yourself in the deep end!
Lastly, make sure you note down your resolutions somewhere they won’t vanish into an abyss and never be seen again. This isn’t only so that you can be reminded of what you would like to achieve, but also so that when you catch sight of them, you feel that glimmer of pride and an instinctive smile spread across your face knowing you’ve started working on them. Personally, I would advise against writing them out in a bullet point list fashion, as it can make it seem as though you have a lot of tasks on your hand. Rather, space them out in a less rigid structure – a mind map, post-it notes dotted around your room, whatever works for you.
Finally, don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t be too harsh on yourself and observe as you conquer 2017!