When the clock struck twelve midnight on January 1st, the sounds of celebration blasted through the night, joyful for what they had achieved, relieved for what they were leaving behind, and hopeful for a new beginning and brighter days to come. In that time of reflection, many of us made commitments to improve ourselves in positive ways. The idea of New Year’s resolutions is an old tradition, with origins as far back as ancient Babylon and ancient Rome. Recent polls show health-related promises like exercise and weight loss are most common, followed by money-saving, career ambitions, and more family time (Ballard, 2020). Yet how successful are we in accomplishing our goals?
Although many of us start off strong, over time, that success rate tappers off from 77% within the first week to a mere 19% after 2 years (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1989). Success came for those who felt they were surrounded by positive reminders as well as in finding the willpower within themselves to push forward, using multiple coping strategies to motivate themselves and reinforce good behaviours. A recent study has also shown that the kinds of goals you’d like to achieve matters; if it’s a goal you’re working toward achieving or acquiring something, then you’ll be much more successful than if it were a goal towards avoiding or stopping something (Oscarsson, Carlbring, Andersson, & Rozental, 2020). For example, if my goal is to eat healthier, for greater odds at success, I should focus more on eating healthy foods than to avoid unhealthy foods. A change in perspective can make a huge difference in making or breaking our resolutions.
Having the right, approach-based perspective, surrounding yourself with reminders for why you want to achieve, and finding that willpower and motivation to persevere to the end will give you the best odds at accomplishing what ever ambitions you set for yourself. The past couple years have been challenging, but 2022 looks to hold so much potential. Every day is a step forward and, even if you lapse, you’re making progress toward a better you and a brighter tomorrow. You’ve got this!
Ballard, J. (2020, December 23). Exercising and sticking to a healthy diet are the most common 2021 New Year’s resolutions. YouGov America. https://today.yougov.com/topics/ lifestyle/articles-reports/2020/12/23/2021-new-years-resolutions-poll
Norcross, J.C. & Vangarelli, D.J. (1989). The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts. Journal of Substance Abuse, 1(2): 127-134. https://doi.org/ 10.1016/S0899-3289(88)80016-6
Oscarsson, M., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G., & Rozental, A. (2020). A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance- oriented goals. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0234097. https://doi.org/10.1371/ journal.pone.0234097