Setting New Year‘s resolutions are a tradition that for the most part result in failure. Statistically, only 45 percent of Americans keep their New Year’s resolution, while 17 percent have a semi-commitment to making resolutions for the year and a large 38 percent never make New Year’s resolutions at all. Based on some psychological theories, this is because most New Year’s resolutions are completely unrealistic.
The most common New Year’s resolutions among Americans include, financial stability, weight loss, and even getting married. The issue these resolutions is that many of the resolutions are completely out of their hands. How does someone become financially stable without the means? Well, according to the ideas in most American minds, finding a higher paying job and paying off debt is the plan. But, if you’re not in charge of hiring yourself, this is a resolution that will probably never become reality this year. Dr. Joseph Ferrari associated the failure of New Year’s resolutions with mental focuses on one’s negative traits as opposed to celebrating the positives.
“As people, we often focus on negatives. We focus on the things we’ve missed, things we didn’t get to do. A resolution kind of publicly states that in a nicer way: These are the things I didn’t get to do. It’s to say next year, I’m hoping to do that.”
Resolutions like weight loss in particular are most likely to fail, mainly due to unrealistic time periods in which people expect to drop weight. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute’s New Year’s resolution statistics, losing weight is the number one New Year’s resolution. Considering that only 8 percent of Americans achieve their resolutions for the new year, most people wanting to lose weight will not, let alone lose massive amounts. In the interview, Dr. Ferrari explains the issue with unrealistic weight loss goals in a broader sense.
“The problem is we make very unrealistic goals, like ‘The wedding is coming up in June, I’m going to lose 40 pounds,’ That’s not going to happen. Unless you’re going to have just water—not even bread and water because breads have carbs—you’re not going to do it and then you’re going to boomerang.”
If having your body expand instead of shrink is not your idea of success in the new year, it’s best that you simply make a mental note of your weight loss goals instead of making it a New Year’s resolution. Psychologists in recent years have found ways to lead yourself through your resolutions for the new year and actually achieve some success. Here’s what you need to do.
Think about it: All resolutions have an overall purpose and in order to make your New Year’s resolution become a reality you have to know why you want it. Will it improve a relationship? Will give you a higher quality life? Professor Emily Mailey of Kansas State University was involved in a study that analyzed New Year’s goals and how they relate to psychology. This is what the kinesiology professor had to say.
“Think about your reasons for setting your goal. Internal motivators, such as wanting to feel better or have more energy, are the ones that are more sustainable because they align with more people’s personal goals and values and don’t make working out feel like a chore. If you are motivated by these internal motivators, then you can focus on these immediate positive benefits of exercise, rather than the long-term goal of losing weight.”
Make it realistic: Though January is a big time of year, complete with massive celebratory festivities, it is best to keep your resolutions small. Creating New Year’s resolutions that are big may lead to stress, which may lead to you quitting all together. As statistics show that most people abandon their resolutions for the new year after six months, setting “small, attainable goals,” as Dr. Lynn Bufka states will help you be more successful.
Keep it private: For the most part, your family does wish the best for you but unfortunately they are not always vocal about their support. A 2009 study found that people who announced their New Year’s resolutions to family members often felt discouraged when those relatives failed to utter uplifting words, even when no negative words were spoken.
Write it down: Just like you sometimes have to be reminded of an upcoming doctor’s appointment or a meeting with your boss, resolutions for the year need to be refreshed in your mind. Keeping a list of your New Year’s resolutions in a diary or on your calendar will help you to stay on track. Psychological research from 2010 suggests that doing this will make it a habit, and if your goal for the new year is to save more money or exercise more often, making it habitual may lead you to being among those who manage to achieve their New Year’s resolutions.
Weigh the cons: Achieving a resolution for the new year is a positive thing, and being able to keep working toward those resolutions past the six month mark is an accomplishment; but, unless you weigh in the cons of not attaining those goals, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Recently, wealth psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo from Chicago told The New York Times that the key to success in the case of New Year’s resolutions is knowing the consequences of not attaining them and having a strong will.
“People typically succeed because their ‘why’ is bigger than their ‘but'”
[Photo by USCG/Handout/Getty Images]