For many cultures, the beginning of the new year is not just a celebration, but also an opportunity for personal reflection and growth.
But as the year progresses, our initial drive for self-improvement can stall.
The good news is that our tendency to give up can be bypassed. There are several ways we can strengthen our commitment to our New Year’s goals.
A mismatch between goal and action
In early 2020, my colleagues and I surveyed 182 participants to examine personal goal factors that promote well-being and support people’s pursuit of their most important New Years resolution.
We found that 74% of participants reported their main resolution as the same or almost the same as last year.
More than half of the resolutions focused on either “diet” (29%) or “exercise” (24%). This suggests that health-related goals are restarted every year – possibly because New Years Day follows numerous end-of-year celebrations and celebrations.
Though attendees reported strong engagement for their listed resolution, about two-thirds gave up within a month. Other studies have shown similarly high Prizes for non-compliance with New Year’s resolutions.
Creating meaning in order to sustain exertion
If you want to get a resolution for 2021, you should first think about the past year.
Our personal reflection on 2020 and the key lessons we have learned from it will help determine our hopes and visions for the year ahead.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 was marked by longer lockdowns, isolation, loss and shifts in opportunities. But personal growth and strength can result from experiences such as: previous research has revealed.
Living in difficult and stressful times can pave the way for greater appreciation of life, deeper self-image, and increased personal resilience (which means that one can recover faster).
When determining resolutions, it is important that they are linked to meaningful goals and values that can keep motivation up.
For example, a resolve to “lose five pounds” is more likely to hold up in the face of obstacles, difficulty, or other competing resolutions when it is associated with higher personal values such as belief in one’s health or appearance.
Our study also found that “goal flexibility,” which refers to the ability to adapt to different situations, is positively linked to mental wellbeing. This, in turn, came with a greater chance of sticking to New Year’s resolutions.
Being adaptable to help you achieve your goals not only improves your overall wellbeing, but it also helps you keep track of your New Year’s resolutions.
Tips for setting your resolutions for the new year 2021
When it comes to sticking to resolutions, insights from psychology research can be turned into various practical and easy-to-use tips.
Set resolutions that match your lower values
Your personal beliefs and hopes play a key role in maintaining your motivational impulse and focus. This form of motivation is associated with increased personal wellbeing.
Try to set “new” resolutions
This is preferable to recycling old ones. Nonetheless, if you want to pursue a solution from last year, try to further define your approach.
Set resolutions as specific plans
These should take into account factors such as time, place and people. Specific plans provide the mental cues needed to stick to our goals.
This is because they are also less mentally stressful than more vague or general plans that require further thought. For example, consider this resolution:
I will be walking around the nearby lake with my friend Sam on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings for at least 30 minutes.
There is already a framework in place that offers many mental cues and strategies to follow. Including someone else in the plan also leads to greater accountability, responsibility, and social enjoyment – compared to a more vague solution like:
I will be going for more walks this year.
Identify and imagine your desired positive outcome
Visualize your goals helps you focus on identifying the specific resources your solution requires. It will also help to mobilize a sustainable pursuit of the goal.
Reward small wins along the way
Not only is it pleasant to make small strides, but it is also a pleasure to motivate you.
Establish resolutions that you want to pursue, not those that you think are appropriate
research consistently shows that the pursuit of freely chosen goals that are internally motivated increases well-being. In the meantime, externally motivated goals are associated with psychological stress and are less likely to be reached.
Examples of external motivation are to do something because the situation requires it, because someone else might like it, or to avoid the shame or guilt that can arise if it is not done.
If your resolution doesn’t work for you, reset or adjust it to make it more meaningful and / or achievable.
The more realistic your resolution, the more achievable it is and the less likely you are to prepare for a mistake.
Learn from previous mistakes
Instead of engaging in self-criticism and negative self-assessment, a positive attitude towards failed resolutions can help you do better next time.