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New Year's. It's that special time of the year where all one's worries and concerns can be momentarily put aside as we mark the passing of another calender year. Many of us celebrate the occassion with family and friends; indulging in reminiscence and making plans for the not too distant future. Many of us will also make resolutions. But how many of us will actually see our resolutions through to fruition?
My guess is not many. Sure, we may stay on track for the first couple of weeks of the new year, but by the time February comes around many of us will have conveniently forgotten our resolutions and will be back where we started; slavishly embracing the same old habits that prompted us to make our resolutions in the first place. As a case in point, I vividly remember my list of resolutions for 2011 and while it's somewhat embarrassing to admit, I don't think I achieved any of them. I didn't even try. How very sad. SMH.
So why do we do it then? Why do we set ourselves these goals, year in, year out, yet more often than not fail to do anything towards achieving them? Are we lazy? Are we trying to fit in with friends and family... I mean everyone makes a New Year's resolution, right?
According to Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University, resolutions are a form of "cultural procrastination", that is they are an effort to reinvent oneself. "People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves," he says. Pychyl argues that most people who make a resolution aren't really ready to change their habits, particularly their bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate.
But the reason that really struck a chord with me is much more simplistic. As stated by Dr Avya Sharma, people set unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions.
So how can we be more realistic with our resolutions? Writing in Psychology Today, Ray B Williams offers the following tips:
1. Focus on one resolution, rather than several;
2. Set realistic, specific goals. Losing weight is not a specific goal. Losing 10 kgs in 90 days would be;
3. Don't wait till New Year's eve to make resolutions. Make it a year-long process;
4. Take small steps. Many people quit because the goal is too big requiring too big a step all at once;
5. Have an accountability buddy, someone close to you that you have to report to;
6. Celebrate your success between milestones. Don't wait the goal to be finally completed;
7. Focus your thinking on new behaviors and thought patterns. You have to create new neural pathways in your brain to change habits;
8. Focus on the present. What's the one thing you can do today, right now, towards your goal?
9. Be mindful. Become physically, emotionally and mentally aware of your inner state as each external event happens, moment by moment, rather than living in the past or future;
10. And finally, don't take yourself so seriously. Have fun and laugh at yourself when you slip, but don't let the slip hold you back from working at your goal.
These suggestions make a lot of sense to me and I for one feel more prepared to set a realistic resolution for 2012.
Happy New Year!