New Year’s resolutions are a popular method individuals use to resolve or change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their lives. We even often hear people say, “New year, new me!” Well sorry, it doesn’t quite work like that.
It turns out that a lot of us have real trouble staying true to our New Year resolutions. Despite starting off adamant to see our goals through to their end, the determination to get fit or write a novel tends to dwindle after just a few weeks. Does this sound all too familiar? Have no fear; help is at hand with these top tips from psychologists who know the ins and outs of the best-kept resolutions.
Don’t put it off!
The most important tip is not to wait until the New Year! Additionally, it turns out that for men, the key to success lies in setting specific goals and focussing on the rewards associated with achieving them. For women, the best way to keep a resolution is to tell everybody!
Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire conducted a study that tracked more than 3000 people attempting to achieve a range of things including losing weight, heading to the gym, quitting smoking or drinking less. At the start of the project, 52% of the participants were confident of success. It turned out that only 12% achieved their goals.
For the boys
Men were 22% more likely to succeed when they set goals for themselves, such as losing a pound a week rather than losing weight in general. Also, men tended to succeed when they focused on rewards, such as losing weight to become more attractive to the opposite sex.
“Men may be more likely to adopt a macho attitude and have unrealistic expectations, and so simple goal setting helps them achieve more,” said Wiseman.
Tips for the girls
Women were more successful at keeping their resolutions when they told family and friends about their plans. They also responded better to encouragement not to give up if they reverted to old habits temporarily – such as treating a chocolate binge as a setback rather than failure. Telling others increases women’s chances of keeping resolutions by 10%.
“Women might be reluctant to tell others about their resolutions, and so benefit more from the social support provided by friends and family once they have made their goals public,” said Wiseman.
He says that women could write down their resolutions on a big piece of paper, sign it and place it somewhere prominent at home. Family and friends could even provide helpful nudges throughout the year.
Make resolutions that count
Wiseman found that the resolutions most likely to succeed were: enjoy life more, which 32% of people stuck to; improve your fitness (29%); lose weight (28%); be more organised (27%); quit or cut down drinking (25%); quit or cut down smoking (24%).