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Reflecting on New Year’s Resolutions: Successes and Failures

BySarah Shaw

Feb 20, 2019

The beginning of January 2019 – just as in 2018, 2017, 2016 and so on – was punctuated by friends and family all stating their New Year’s Resolutions and self-improvements that were to come throughout the year. The resolutions made were old classics: loose weight, exercise more, work harder, try to be a better person. By late January most people have come back and said the various ways in which they have cheated, failed, or simply given up. Very few of our resolutions are a success, so why do we continue to make them year after year? And more importantly, how can we change these goals to make them easier to keep?

The new year represents a new beginning, which provides a starting point for people to move towards self-improvement. The prospect of a blank slate provided by the new year has always facilitated reflection on one’s life and what could be changed. This manifests itself most notably with the phrase ‘new year new me,’ as people aim to make significant changes to their life through the introduction of apparently simple resolutions. The resolutions themselves make sense, especially with the masses of food and drink available through the Christmas period, thereby giving resolutions to eat healthier or drink less alcohol, particular significance. The social aspect of resolutions may further increase interest, as having a mutual goal with friends and family provides a great reason for keeping in touch and maintaining solidarity.

With this reasoning behind resolutions, it must be asked why people struggle to keep them. The prospect of beginning the year as you wish to continue it brings a lot of pressure into immediate performance regarding resolutions. Initial failures can take on a bigger significance as people begin to believe that if they can’t last the first couple of months it must be impossible to continue for an entire year. Another issue is with the types of resolutions made. What sounds like simple goals, such as to exercise more or to eat less, actually involve large lifestyle changes which are difficult to integrate into everyday life. These goals are often over-ambitious, which means that occasional failures to keep to them are inevitable. Considering the high number of people who feel like they have failed to keep their New Year’s resolutions, it would make sense to change the way in which we think about resolutions and to begin to make goals which are easier to achieve.

There are many ways to adapt resolutions to fit your own life and to feel more confident in success. Resolutions like ‘exercise more’ are very broad and therefore can feel impossible to maintain. By changing the resolution to become more specific, such as to run three times a week or to walk rather than getting buses, these create more achievable goals in the short term, which can allow for a more immediate feeling of success. The main issue is in having to break old habits and create new ones, so it is important to keep in mind that initial difficulties are to be expected and that failures early on do not mean that the resolution is impossible. Ultimately, if resolutions prove too much pressure there is no need to keep making them. Changes can be made at any point in the year, and there is no need to begin the year with the panic of new resolutions simply because it is a new year.

Image: Natalie B via Pexels

By Sarah Shaw

Features Writer

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