Making resolutions for New Year’s comes with many mixed responses. For some, it’s a time to make plans they don’t bring up past February. Others treat them as jokes. Some have become jaded about resolutions and have stopped making them all together. A quick google search shows success rates of resolutions to be very low, some stats as low as 8%.
Not just with New Year’s resolutions, but with any kind of habit change, there are many opinions of the best way to go about them. Looking back to the changes I made that stuck, there are some commonalities.
The first one is the plan. For any kind of resolution, there needs to be the vehicle that carries you through. If the resolution is to “start yoga,” what does that look like? Is it once or three times a week? Where is the yoga studio? Where exactly does it fit into your schedule? What about when you inevitably fall off track? Do you make up for the day you missed or just go on to the next planned day? The more general your resolution is, the harder it is to execute.
The second commonality is the fuel for that vehicle. I find this fuel comes in for forms of both motivation as well as deeper intention or meaning. Everyone has different levels of discipline vs inspiration. My ability to follow through depends much more on inspiration than discipline. If I do not have motivation and meaning, I am unable to drum up the persistence to go through with my resolution, no matter how well planned out. Motivation and meaning can be very personal so will take some reflection.
We are all motivated differently,and you know how you are motivated. Whether it is telling all your friends so that they keep you accountable, or setting little rewards for milestones, plant those little boosts for when willpower is running low. We are not robots that take a plan and execute perfectly. There will be days that are mentally or emotionally hard, or physically exhausting. Days that discipline might not be able to push through. Implementing extra motivation can be a buffer for these days.
On top of motivation, it can be helpful for the resolution to have deeper meaning. Take some time to find what that meaning is for you. We all know what it feels like to hear or read or feel something that makes us jump to our feet and do something. This is often short-lived, but if we are aware of what it is, we can bring it back to mind through intentionality. Personally, my fitness-related goals were driven by a Socrates quote that I read, “it is a shame for a [person] to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which [their] body is capable.” This quote almost never fails to stir me into action and instill that sense of the temporary nature of the body. It doesn’t need to be a quote for you. A sobering health exam result can be a great wake-up call for working out. Not remembering what happened one night out can be good motivation for drinking less. And that doesn’t mean we need to be afraid, as consistent fear can be paralyzing and unhealthy. Take a moment to find the meaning from a place of knowing what is good for your wellbeing, if it’s health-related, or essential to fulfilment,if it is task-oriented, and find an effective reminder of the meaning. This stirring to action comes from a place of knowing what is important, that knowledge doesn't need fear. Motivation and meaning are both helpful when discipline falters.
The third commonality is being persistent enough for it to become a habit. Know that it won’t be difficult forever. Once the resolution becomes a habit, there is very little need for discipline beyond a few low days. You just become “someone who runs” or “someone who doesn’t drink.”The first month or more – depending on the resolution – of consistency feels like a plane climbing before it finds cruising altitude. It will feel turbulent and bumpy and tiring, but know that it won’t be forever. Not to say you can let go of any persistence once it becomes a habit, but it will stop feeling like everything in your body is working against you.
Even though the resolution success rate is low, not making one will guarantee failure. If we set a solid plan, find effective motivation, and keep going until it feels natural to us.