Making New Year’s resolutions offers a great opportunity for setting self-improvement goals. Some of us look forward to making resolutions each New Year but often struggle to stay on track. Many of us don’t make resolutions either because of a lack of interest to do so or previous failed attempts. It’s not uncommon for enthusiasm to wane within weeks of the New Year, however slight modifications in how we practice goal setting can make a difference between success or failure. The purpose of this post is to inspire readers to engage in annual resolutions. Let’s look at the history of resolutions, the statistics that indicate a different approach is definitely needed, and how to target change simply through positive modifications.
New Year’s Resolutions have been the cultural norm dating back 4000 years ago, when Babylonians made promises to follow through on financial commitments to their king. A similar practice is recorded in 46 BC when Romans committed to good behavior in the coming year. They honored their god, Janus, (month of January is named after), who symbolized looking back at the year just passed and looking forward to the coming year. Self-improvement resolutions we practice today resemble that of which originated in the Protestant faith – Methodism in 1740 AD, however such goals were spiritually focused at that time. Today only about 45% of Americans participate in making New Year’s resolutions.
Research conducted January 2017 and data shared by Statistic Brain notes that 37.8% of people in their twenties achieve resolutions each year while 16.3% of people over 50 achieve their goals. US News reported in December 2015 that 80% of New Year resolutions fail. These facts are not to discourage you but to encourage you to modify how you practice setting goals for the 2018 New Year, taking a different approach for a greater chance of success. Adjusting the practice is especially important if historically you include yourself in these disappointing statistics. If a plan isn’t working, modify the practice instead of getting frustrated or giving up. It’s amazing the impact slight modifications can make. If resolutions have failed you in the past, start by calling them something else to remove the negative stigma. How about calling your New Year goals, Target Accomplishments? Target Change? Or, choose a title that works uniquely for you! Just using the word TARGET keeps me focused!
Modifications – A Positive Approach
Regardless of goals that may change year-to-year, ingrained thinking and habits will determine whether you succeed or fail. Often, just feeling restricted can lead to failure. The mind will also embrace the last instruction you give it. For this reason it’s important to articulate your goals, written and verbally, in a positive way. Instead of declaring what you want to give up, let your goals speak to what change you want to experience. Here are some examples that illustrate how to modify target changes for a positive planned and effective approach.
A good friend of mine recently shared her New Year’s resolution, NOT BE LATE. Just a week into 2018 and being on time has been a struggle. After speaking about the goal and the challenges she faces, here is a modified approach.
- Positive Affirmation – Be On Time replaces Not Be Late.
- Challenge – “I take on last minute distractions that eventually make me late.”
- Solution – Be fully ready to leave 15 minutes BEFORE you need to leave.
- Another Challenge – Then I get antsy and find something to fill the 15 minutes.
- Another Solution – Have your mail, favorite magazines or a book set aside JUST for this 15-minute fill. Set your smart phone to remind you a few minutes before you need to get up and get out.
- Response – “I think this might work!”
Here is an example about smoking from my own personal experience, many years ago. Saying I’m going to “quit smoking” made me feel as if my goal was about restriction and not choice. My attempts to “quit smoking” therefore always failed. At that time I decided to change what wasn’t working and modified the approach to achieve being smoke free.
- Positive Affirmation – Be Smoke Free replaces Quit Smoking.
- Challenge – Fear…I don’t want comfort food to replace smoking!
- Solution – Determine in advance what will replace cigarette time. Coffee became my replacement with health and exercise, my focus. I did drink a lot of coffee which eventually tapered off. Today, catching up on email, walking around the office, stretch and breathing exercises, herbal tea, etc could fill this space. Just know, it’s important to have a new healthy habit replace the cigarette habit to avoid the void!
- Another Challenge – I’m restricting myself and this makes me crave cigarettes even more!!
- Another Solution – Embrace this truth…it’s about choice and not restriction. I kept a pack of cigarettes in a drawer with a lighter. I was no longer restricting myself because I knew I had access at any time BUT was choosing daily to be smoke free.
- Response – 1989 marks the year I successfully became smoke free without succumbing to temptation and cravings.
I have not been feeling as energized as I would like. Drinking a ½ glass of wine each night soon became a full pour and eventually on some nights, 2 glasses, through the month of December with all the holiday social gatherings. Alcohol is the trickiest and easiest slippery slope, pulling you down without warning! Here is my 2018 New Year’s Target For Change.
- Positive Affirmation – Daily 4PM Tea Time replaces Quit Weekday Wine Time
- Challenge – Finishing the day with a glass of wine gives me permission to conclude the day and relax!
- Solution – Exploring and investing in premium herbal teas that I can serve in a fancy cup, special just for me, is a great substitute. Some teas provide that soothing and relaxing feel, too!
- Another Challenge – I’m restricting myself when out with friends who are having wine.
- Another Solution – I can order wine too, but instead, choose herbal teas when out with friends Monday through Friday.
- Response – First week has been a success! I feel great choosing weekday herbal teas and weekend wine. I am already sleeping better and far more productive and energized during the week!
Below are simple steps to summarize how to target change. Accomplishing any goal is most often about changing behavior, habits, and thought patterns.
- Identify the change you want to see in 2018. This might include exercise, better eating habits, being smoke or alcohol free, improve finances, expand socially, thriving in relationships, increasing quality personal downtime, planning a needed vacation, furthering education, pursuing spiritual growth and perhaps offering or accepting forgiveness and seeking emotional and/or physical healing, etc.
- Articulate your target change based on the simple practice the examples above illustrate.
- Anticipate temptations and plan your responses, in advance, so surprises don’t become a distraction.
2018 can be the year we change the trend on New Year’s resolutions! Focus on the target change you want to achieve stated in a positive affirmation. Anticipate challenges and temptations that could get in the way and prepare responses in advance. By following these simple modifications you have a good chance of celebrating achieved resolutions at the end of 2018! Inspire others and share your experiences. I welcome you to share your success in the blog comments. Best wishes!!
- The Surprising Reasons We Make New Year’s Resolutions, Huffington Post, updated December 6, 2017
- The History of New Year’s Resolutions DECEMBER 30, 2015