The key to setting achievable New Year’s Resolutions


Let's think of the word ‘resolution’. A resolution in terms of expression is a firm decision to act a certain way. It is intention; it is aspiration; it is purpose. In technology, it can mean the level of clarity or the sharpness of an image, and can represent quality.

A New Year's Resolution should be all of these things: intentional, aspirational, purposeful, clear and high-quality. If it’s not, it simply won’t stick, you’ll forget all about it, or you’ll end up feeling disheartened instead of having achieved something.

According to Best Health Magazine, 23% of New Year’s resolutions are broken in the first week. 45% are broken by the end of the month. So why do so many people fail when it comes to resolutions? Is it a lack of willpower? Is it lack of motivation? Is it lack of reward?

No. More often than not, a failed resolution has nothing to do with a lack of something. Instead, a broken New Year’s Resolution is usually the result of it being made for the wrong reasons.

According to Life Coach Joy Tanksley, we have an ‘essential self’ and a ‘social self’. The essential self is the real, authentic, genuine you, whereas the social self is focused on fitting in and gaining approval from others. The social self is the one that worries too much about external validation.

Essential self versus social self

When resolutions are based on our social self, they are likely to fail because they are not authentic. Social resolutions are simply empty “I should” statements, based on what you think others want to see. You might like the idea of the resolution, and might even have an honest desire to make it stick, but its level of truth might not be strong enough to see through. Without depth, your desire for change won’t be strong enough to break habits for good.

A resolution made by the essential self, however, comes from deep within and is authentic to our true self. It identifies our innermost desires and core values, and gives the resolution an emotion that’s easy to monitor like peace, joy, calm or love. This is the foundation that makes a resolution worth hanging onto.

Identifying which decisions come from your social self and which decisions come from your essential self takes a bit of digging. When making your New Year’s resolution you’ll need to ask yourself a series of questions, such as:

  1. Why do I want this?

    If your resolution is to exercise at least four times a week, ask yourself why. Is it because you want to look more like the models in magazines, or is it because you want to feel healthier? Is it because you want to lose weight and fit into your old clothes again, or is it because you want to increase your energy? All these reasons might be valid, they just have to be true to you.

  2. Is my resolution out of kindness to myself?

    Are you shaming yourself by suggesting you’re not good enough, or is the tone of your resolution nurturing? Your resolution should not turn you into a drill sergeant and should instead, find ways for you to be kinder to yourself.

  3. How do I plan to achieve my goal?

    If you have an end goal you are working towards – for example, giving up smoking, achieving a certain weight, or finding a new job - place your focus on the journey rather than the destination. Devise a plan, and set yourself smaller goals along the way to help you get there. Your resolution isn’t just to ‘get a new job’, it should be to ‘tidy up your resume, look for ways you can better your skills, create new contacts, look for employment opportunities’ etc.

  1. Is my resolution flexible?

    Change starts when you let go. Accept yourself, and allow yourself to change, rather than forcing yourself to change through restraint and external motivation. If something’s not working in your resolution, can you adapt it rather than abandon it?

  2. How do I feel when I say the resolution out loud?

    If every time you mention or think about your resolution you feel anxious, deprivation or negative thoughts of any kind, your resolution might not be in tune with your body. Your resolution should be linked with your core, and be associated with a general feeling of positivity.

  3. Is my resolution broad?

    Many people choose a theme rather than a goal when making resolutions, and it’s a tactic that’s proven to work. Instead of saying ‘I will drink less alcohol’ or ‘I will have a green smoothie every morning’, choose a theme of health instead. This broadness allows you to achieve your goal at your own pace and in a way that suits. Besides, better health is far easier to tick off than 365 green smoothies!

  4. Is my resolution based on ‘should’?

    ‘Should’ can sometimes imply that you are lazy and deliberately hindering yourself by not actively doing something that’s expected of you. Instead of should, aim for ‘I would like to’ or ‘I can’.

  5. Do I have support?

    The right support can make a big difference. If your goal is to give up smoking but your partner and friends all smoke, your resolution is bound to be challenging. If you can round someone up to be in your corner, the journey to your goal will be a much more pleasant one. If you don’t have someone, look for ways you can support yourself. This could be something like putting the money you’d spend on cigarettes in a new account, and then buying yourself a reward with the savings.

  1. Can I break my resolution into small parts?

    Setting aside an extra 2 hours a day to work on that novel you’ve always wanted to write will be difficult, but if you break it down into smaller steps, it can be achieved. You could set the alarm 30 minutes earlier each day, and then gradually work your way towards two hours. You could try to take your lunch to the office instead of going out, or you could have all your research and plot planned out before tackling the writing. Try and make your resolution a small, achievable thing that you can work towards. That way you’ll be more likely to succeed.

  2. Can I visualise my resolution?

    Being able to see your resolution each day will help you keep track of what you set out to do. Vision boards, maps, lists and pictures that embody your goal will offer lots of motivation to keep going. 

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