Why you shouldn’t make New Year’s Resolutions

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?

We were talking today at work about what resolutions people planned to make.

The idea was that everyone would write down what they wanted to change and hide it away somewhere and then check again in three months’ time to see if everyone had stuck to their resolutions…. or if they had failed.

A few years ago I would have been up for this.  I’ve made many New Year’s Resolutions over the years, in fact normally the same resolutions year after year which I never kept.

These days I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions as such. Here’s why:

January is a shit time to make drastic changes

It’s cold, dark and everyone is depressed and skint after Christmas.  It’s a rubbish time to decide to suddenly make drastic and often restrictive changes to your life.  Result is you feel miserable two days in and give up.  Planning to give up chocolate on January 1st when you probably have a shed load of left over chocolate in your cupboards is practically setting yourself up for failure. Deciding not to drink in the most miserable month of the year so you’re left sitting on the sofa instead of going out to catch up with friends is going to become unappealing quickly.

Resolutions tend to be negative

Generally we say things like I’m going to give up… sugar, wine, chocolate, smoking.  It’s something we are NOT going to do anymore.  This means we feel like we are depriving ourselves.  Depriving yourself is rarely a long-term plan for success.

Resolutions tend to be vague

I want to lose weight, I want to get fit, I want to earn more money.  They are goals / outcomes we’d like to reach yes, but they aren’t very specific and how and when they will be achieved isn’t always clear.  How often do you make vague plans with a friend to ‘catch up soon’ only for that catch up to not happen?  It’s not because we don’t want to catch up it’s just because we’ve been too vague for anything to actually happen.  Resolutions can be a lot like that.

Resolutions end up leaving you feeling worse about yourself

The actual idea that got me thinking about this was based on hiding your resolution away and checking again in a few months to see if you have succeeded. The flip side of that is if you haven’t then you feel like a failure. Yet if you’ve hidden something away for three months how likely is it you will lose sight of it as a goal as life gets busy? You’re essentially setting yourself up to feel shit. 

Negatives out the way – I fully believe in improving things – here’s what I think is better than making New Year’s Resolutions and why:

Change when you are ready

There’s a popular saying that if you’ve thought about it you’re ready. It’s November – if you’re thinking about stopping drinking fizzy drinks – stop now, why wait until January? If you want to start running start running – these things aren’t banned until January 1st.  I get that over Christmas isn’t the smartest time to start a diet or new training regime – that in itself is potentially setting yourself up for failure.  You could however start to make some small changes to set yourself up for after Christmas.  Start walking more, logging your food intake a few days a week, drinking more water so that after Christmas you aren’t starting from scratch and you haven’t just spent a month feeling crap thinking I’ll sort myself out next year. If on January 1st you don’t feel ready to make a change but do a couple of weeks into the year start it then, or in February or August or October, you haven’t got to wait until 2020. New Year’s Resolutions have the idea of starting at midnight on 1st January – change can however happen at any time.  How often do you think I’ll start my diet on Monday and eat a weeks worth of food over the weekend knowing restriction is coming- you ‘could’ start a diet on Thursday (well we ‘could’ not call it a diet at all but that’s another blog altogether). Generally change that happens when you’re ready as opposed to an imposed time tends to be more effective.

Choosing to make positive changes

Positive changes are easier to put in place than ‘I won’t’ type changes. I will drink more water, I will eat vegetables with every meal, I will walk 10,000 steps a day.  These are things you are going to do – so you do them and you’ve created a change.  You might have also eaten ten chocolate bars but you’ve still eaten vegetables with every meal, the change has still happened. Positive changes make us feel better and so we are more likely to stick to them.

Goal setting over resolutions

I don’t make resolutions any more but I have sat down and done some goal setting for 2019.  I have decided what I want to achieve, these are specific goals so they aren’t things like ‘I want to get fitter’ they are set things I’d like to get done, some will be quick and relatively easy others less so.  Along with these goals I have made detailed plans of what I have to do to reach these specific goals and planned out realistic timescales for taking these actions. I’ve asked for feedback from people more experienced than me on these plans and discussed goals that include other people with them so we are on the same page.  I know what I need to do personally and professionally in 2019 and how I plan to do it.  I’ve got more chance of reaching these goals than if I left I chance.

SMART resolutions

Specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time specific.  If you goal ticks all these things you’re more likely to be able to reach it.  But taking this on a slightly different tangent being smart about what you decide to try and do AND WHEN will help you succeed.  I know I’ll eat more cake and chocolate than I normally would this month. I will move more to stop me feeling sluggish but I also know I will want a bit of a shake up of my diet and training routine in January to make me feel refreshed. Yet I also know that the first week of January is likely to be an extension of Christmas for me so I won’t do this January 1st. Instead I’m committing to joining in with a programme on 9th January which I know won’t drastically change my current lifestyle as I already follow a lot of the principles but will give me a bit of renewed focus at a time I will need it.  Planning ahead, being honest and smart with this planning will help you feel good about change.

Commit to creating habits / systems instead

If you want lose weight you could think of it as working towards creating habits that in turn help work towards weight loss.  Make drinking more water, creating a calorie deficit and training three times a week a habit and you will achieve your goal but you also find it is something that starts to fit into your everyday life as opposed to something you have to work towards constantly.  The benefit of this is you can pick one small thing to work on then once that has become a habit work on something else, building change gradually.

Re-framing how you think

‘I want to be get over my ex and for them to see me looking happy.’  You could re-frame this thought process to what would make you happy?  Seeing your friends more perhaps? So instead of I want to get over my ex you could say I want to go out and do something fun with my friends once a week / fortnight / month (commitment depending here).  Instead of focusing on becoming happy or getting over someone you could just commit to doing something that has the potential to make you happy and allow feeling happy and getting over them to happen naturally – all the time your still succeeding in your actual goal of getting out and socialising.  It sounds very self help book but when you start to habitually re-frame your thoughts, you start to find it easier to make changes.

I’ve made lots of changes to the way I approach things in 2018 – old habits die hard admittedly but by looking at making changes in a more positive light you can create a you that you are happier with and start 2019 not feeling the need to set resolutions.

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