Most people would agree 2020 can’t exit fast enough. Now that 2021 has made its appearance, many people have high hopes for a fresh start. The last thing they need is a slap in the face from giving up on their New Year’s resolution after a few weeks.
No one needs that kind of negativity setting the tone for 2021. So, how can you set yourself up for a prosperous new year even if you’ve never stuck with your resolutions before? We’ll take a look at some suggestions. But first, let’s see where the tradition of making resolutions originated.
The origins of resolution-making
The history of making New Year’s resolutions goes back to the ancient Babylonians over 4000 years ago. However, according to History.com, their ‘resolutions’ basically promised the gods that they would pay their debts and return borrowed items in exchange for a successful crop in the new year.
For early Christians back in the 1700s, New Year’s Eve was commonly referred to as Watch Night. Watch Night was a night spent singing hymns and praying for a peaceful, prosperous year to come. While the origin of making resolutions for the new year stems from various religions, today’s understanding of the practice is mostly individual. Most resolutions these days are contracts people make to improve, grow, and change positively in the year to come.
Change is hard
While many people make resolutions, the success rate of achieving them is not so stellar. Why? The specific answers will vary, but here’s the simplified explanation — change is hard.
Think about what most resolutions require:
- Changing long-standing habits
- Giving up things you love
- Patience and grace
If the requirements above were easy to achieve and follow, no one would need to make New Year’s resolutions. But perfect lives, or even near-perfection, is just a myth because we are all human. We all have flaws. Every year most people overindulge in food, drink, and materialistic things during the holidays. Afterward, the guilt gets the best of them, and they contemplate all the changes they will make in the year to come.
But, it’s worth saying again — change is hard. And most people never achieve the goals they desire. For whatever reason you are not living the life you imagined last New Year’s Eve, let’s learn from that mistake. Take some time to do some soul searching and discover why your resolutions from years past are just ‘thoughts’ and not ‘reality.’
Why people fail and suggestions for success
Chances are, your personal goals for 2020 were too lofty or too restricting. Don’t set yourself up for failure by having an ‘all or nothing’ resolution. For example, if you want to quit smoking, ‘cold turkey’ might be too extreme. Instead, make a plan to cut back on the number of cigarettes you will smoke per day, gradually decreasing the number. This plan takes longer to achieve but is set-up for success, not failure.
You can apply this strategy to just about anything you want to accomplish. Most people have a New Year’s resolution of losing weight and getting healthy. Again, total immersion in a brand new way of life doesn’t work for most people. A plan that gradually eliminates unhealthy habits and adds healthier ones is much less of a shock on your system and more comfortable to stick with because it doesn’t totally disrupt your life.
For example, create one or two mini steps per week that lead towards your ultimate goal. Add new actions every week and continue to practice the previous ones. Maybe your plan would look something like this:
- Week One: Drink more water / no sweets
- Week Two: Make healthy, low-calorie choices for breakfast and stand or walk more instead of sitting while at work
You get the point. Will your results take longer to show? Yes. But you might stick with a gradual program and remember the outcome is still the same, no matter how long it takes you to get there.
And this brings us to another point concerning resolution failure — patience, or the lack thereof. Sticking with a cold-turkey stop smoking plan for a week and feeling horrible from the withdrawal is enough to make most people throw in the towel. Cold-turkey methods don’t give you the time to see and feel results before your mind and body say to call it quits. And this concept is also true for weight loss. People are generally anxious to see results, but when it doesn’t happen fast enough, that towel gets thrown.
Giving yourself time to adjust gradually to change is a much better strategy. And understanding that results don’t happen instantly is a much healthier approach to change. Remember, your habits are deeply ingrained and have developed over time. Therefore, you have to give yourself sufficient time to adjust, so have patience and give yourself some grace when a ‘slip up’ occurs.
More tips for success
This year try a new approach to your resolutions.
- Break your resolutions down into attainable mini-goals that all lead to achieving a considerable accomplishment. Celebrate all successes and have mini rewards along your journey. Remember, all progress is progress.
- Think smarter by understanding that old habits die hard, so give yourself time to get to the prize. Remember, these are your goals for 2021. This means you can use that entire year to achieve them. This approach gives you ample time to plan and execute your strategy.
- Document your progress with a visual reminder. Sometimes when change is slow, we think we haven’t accomplished anything. A visual reminder can give the positive jolt of confidence and determination needed to keep you going. Put the reminder somewhere you can see it often to validate your journey.
- Make your plan known to others for some accountability, and gather a support system ready to problem-solve or get you back on track. If your goals are financial, have your best friend be your voice of reason when you want to buy that expensive purse you don’t need. Instead, take that money you would have spent and put it away in savings. If your goals are to lose weight, get a group of friends to commit with you. A group effort is a lot more fun, and you’ll always have someone keep you accountable.
- Probably the most important approach you can take to a new you in the new year is not to let failure and setbacks deter you. If you try and fail, get a mental understanding of why you failed and delete that approach from your game plan and try again.
Make 2021 one of your best years yet
True, change is hard. Past efforts have proven to be quite challenging for many people, and they end up abandoning their pursuit of resolution success year after year. But after a year like 2020, everyone needs a change, and they most definitely need to succeed.
Let’s make 2021 the year you break that cycle of failure by using new approaches for a fresh start. If your resolution goals mean enough to you, you owe it to yourself to develop a strategic plan to make them happen. Just remember to be reasonable with your expectations, give yourself time to make lasting changes gradually, and have the patience to see the goal to fruition. With this positive mindset, 2021 could be one of your best years yet.