How To Stick To Your New Year’s Resolutions
Illustration by Mr Giacamo Bagnara
A few tips for setting realistic targets for 2017.
New year, new you. At best it’s triggered by a Tigger-like start-of-term exuberance to begin on the “b” of bang. At worst it’s fuelled entirely by fear and self-loathing, having drunk, eaten and spent rather more than you should for the whole of December.
The quickest way to ascertain someone’s sense of self-worth is to ask them what their New Year’s resolutions are. You’re essentially inviting them to list their personal failings. By and large, resolutions are about quitting things, removing bad habits. “I must give up stalking my ex on social media” or “I must stop trolling MailOnline commenters” or “I must stop shovelling pie into my face”.
The chimes of the New Year are an alarm bell that reminds you to check your personal compass and look at the direction in which you’re heading. Harnessed appropriately, our natural human impulse for self-improvement is constructive. It’s a fine line though: if it’s allowed to get out of control, if we lose perspective and get too obsessively fixated on any one thing, it becomes destructive.
You might be full of the best intentions right now. But as any convent seamstress will tell you, good habits are hard to make. Just one in 10 of us will stick to our resolutions, according to a study by Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire – with most of us giving up by 23 January.
It needn’t be that way. The secret lies in how you frame what you’re aiming for.
Firstly, there are the vague promises to “lose weight” or “save money” or “spend less time watching cat videos on YouTube”. These targets lack the measurable specificity required to know when you’ve actually hit them.
Secondly, there are the wildly unrealistic resolutions to completely change your life just like that – to “lose 14 pounds by Valentine’s Day” or “run a triathlon” if you can barely run a bath.
An excellent tip from Mind Gym concerns New Year’s resolutions: the crucial factor when you’re conducting your own annual review and setting personal KPIs for the year ahead is to make the targets achievable and actively engaging. As Mr Elvis Presley might say, a little less conversation, a little more action.
So you want to get fit? Fine. But don’t say you’re going to work out seven days a week; you won’t. Instead, get online, find a 10K run happening in the first three months of 2017 and sign up for it. Then tell all your friends you’re doing it so that you put yourself under enough social pressure to actually follow through.
So you want to eat more healthily? Good. Bequeath your microwave to the nearest charity shop and install a NutriBullet in its place. Eating from fresh and starting each morning with a liquefied five-a-day will dramatically improve your diet.
Want to improve your social life? Make Thursday night dinner party night. Phone up four different sets of friends today and get the next month booked up.
Want to save money? Walk into your bank, open a new subsidiary account and set up a weekly direct debit from your current account – say $/£/€50. Chances are, you’ll hardly even notice it and you’ll end up with a nice lump sum at the end of the year.