Don’t shoot for the moon and hope you land among the stars. Why? Because most of us - on shooting for the moon and missing – lose motivation and give up. New Year’s resolutions can be hugely powerful, but it’s easy for ambitions to backfire. Avoid the most common New Year’s resolution mistakes and you’ll make huge gains in 2023
Why do we make New Year’s resolutions?
The tradition of New Year’s resolutions dates back to the Babylonians around 4,000 years ago. Their New Year occurred in March when new crops were planted, and they made promises to their Gods to improve behaviour in a bid to bring about good fortune in the upcoming year.
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It was Julius Caesar who, 2,000 years later, named January after the god Janus, and moved the date to January 1st. Janus was a two-faced God with the ability to look back at the past as well as ahead to the future, so Romans offered sacrifices and made promises of better habits for the forthcoming year.
Today, we rarely make New Year’s resolution promises to Gods and instead only make them to ourselves. With the start of a new year comes the opportunity to look back on the previous year and identify habits, traits or actions we’d like to change.
Writing down your New Year's resolutions will make sticking to them more likely
Why are we useless at sticking to New Year’s resolutions?
We’re not great at sticking to New Year’s resolutions. Indeed, the general consensus is that only around 7-9% ‘complete’ their resolutions. Why is this?
Most common New Year’s resolution mistakes
Although the specific reasons behind ditching New Year’s resolutions differs for everyone, there’s some common themes which contribute to 90% of them. Merely understanding and recognising these will increases your stickability:
- Don’t make your list too long. We’re all amped to better ourselves, but 90% of us bite off more than we can chew. Keep it realistic and limit your ambitions to two or three key goals
- You’re not focusing on things you can control. With surprising frequency, people often make commitments to change habits that they have no control over. Control the controllables and only focus on those which you can change
- Don’t be airy-fairy about your goals. Resolutions needs to be specific. Why? Because you need to know if / when you’ve reached your target. Goal setting is a skill, but these 7 tips will help you get them right
- Don’t shoot for the moon, stars or any other planetary object. In an age when we’re told we can all achieve our wildest dreams if we just want them enough, it’s difficult to tell people to aim lower. “Shoot for the moon. If you miss you’ll land amongst the stars” sounds romantic, but in practice missed targets leaves most of us unmotivated.
Don’t aim for the moon with the hope that, if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars. Keep realistic
- You’re not motivated enough. It’s easy to dream how different life would be if you had a 6-pack, but most simply aren’t motivated enough by the outcome to stick to the routine needed to achieve it. Make resolutions that’ll deliver an outcome you really care about. Instead of a 6-pack, aim to be more active so that you live longer, have more energy for the kids and can go on a run with your partner – that’s a tonne more motivating long-term
- Think about the time needed. What’s your current schedule? How much free time do you really have available? And how much will you need to commit to this resolution? Be realistic and err on the side of caution to avoid disappointment
- Don’t keep it to yourself. We all know that person, every year, can be heard proclaiming a long list of life-altering changes they’re going to make next year. While they go too far, making your goals public is valuable. Share your goals with those close to you and they’ll help keep you on track when the going gets tough
- You don’t write them down. Your chances of sticking to a resolution is significantly increased when you put pen to paper. Do it and squirrel it away
- Change your habits. Our interview with environmental psychologist and world record breaking cyclist Dr Ian Walker is the perfect resource to learn how to make habitual changes that last. Learn how to change a habit and you’ll be well on your way to sticking with a resolution
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