According to the stats, nearly one-third of Canadians and over 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. The majority of these focus on creating a healthy family life or improving finances. Classic resolutions we are likely to have made ourselves or know someone who has made include losing weight, getting fit, eating better, drinking less alcohol, spending less & saving more.
So how are we doing as we delve into the wintery wonderland of February? Well, the good news is that over 60 percent of resolution-makers are still plugging away. Unfortunately, though, as the media loves to report, most New Year’s resolutions gradually fall by the wayside: Despite the good intentions, only 25 percent of Canadians and as few as eight percent of Americans actually achieve their goals.
Secrets of a Happy Life: Opt for Self-Love Not Self-Hate
I have a confession: I have never made a New Year’s resolution. Even as a kid. Perhaps this results from my self-reflective nature. Working on myself and setting goals is just what I do —part of my commitment to a growth mindset. As a therapist, I have also developed a heightened awareness of the potential pitfalls of resolutions. Winter can already be troublesome for many. With the darker, colder months come changes in sleeping, eating, socializing and activity patterns and sometimes dramatic drops in energy and mood. Throw in the post-holiday over-eating over-spending regrets and we are primed for negativity. Far too many times, I have seen people, women especially, use resolutions as a guise for self-beratement. They compare themselves to others, think about what they loathe about themselves, and mash their self-criticism into something that sounds like a New Year’s resolution but behaves more like a weapon for repeated self-punishment. Suffice it to say, this is more destructive than helpful. Resolutions should instead be thoughtfully-planned, inspiring challenges designed to have us working toward meaningful and achievable goals.
Where to Start?: Personal Investment & Self-acceptance
It is important to remember that even desirable, simple-on-paper changes may not be easy. Pick one or two specific goals that truly matter to you. We are far more likely to succeed if we are personally invested in our choices. We also need to be honest about our level of readiness: Having both a heartfelt willingness to change and belief in our ability to do so puts us at a different stage compared to thinking we “should” start or stop a behaviour that we feel conflicted about. Trust me - I would totally bomb at giving up sugar or alcohol since I am no where past the contemplative stage!
For some people, sharing their resolution with family and friends or even making a public declaration via social media can be motivating. In additional to providing a support network and sense of teamwork, shared goals can help to establish an accountability framework with regular monitoring and feedback.
Human Connection is Key: Ask for Help and Seek Guidance
It is essential to remind ourselves that we aren't expected to do it all alone. This is human nature, not weakness. People have different challenges & skill sets and asking for help reflects our self-awareness and courage. It really does take a village! As you set your goals and contemplate the potential hurdles ahead, consider what type of assistance would be most beneficial for your personal success strategy. Perhaps your goal warrants consulting a nutritionist, physician, personal trainer, financial planner, or life coach. Try using the SMART formula and then share your revived and revamped resolution with Dr. Tara’s Sunshine. Don’t forget to celebrate your progress along the way!