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It’s the time of the year again… New Year’s Resolutions (and why they fail)

It’s December 28th today, and that means: almost New Year! Hurray! Everyone who’s ever even glanced at Facebook during this week has probably rolled his eyes at least once, because it is also time for *that* one tradition of New Year: the Resolutions. Now this could be a good thing, since it’s a great way to push yourself to a new limit. New year, new me, that sort of stuff. I’m saying it *could* be a great thing, because usually, it’s not. Why do resolutions almost always fail?

I will do it… Tomorrow

Don’t we all have that one friend on Facebook who promises himself every year that he’s going to quit smoking for real now, only to write a new status on January 1st saying “whoops, smoked a cigarette this morning on accident, better try again next year”? Or that one friend who’s “really going to start working out now and start eating healthily”, only to see her sipping on a full fat large (or should I say grande?) Starbucks Frappuccino with extra full fat milk and whipped cream after a week? After, how could I forget, having shared hundreds of images with fit girls and fitness quotes?

Resolutions don’t work. But why? I found this great article of Psychology Today . A little quote:

“Researchers have looked at success rates of peoples’ resolutions: the first two weeks usually go along beautifully, but by February, people are backsliding and by the following December, most people are back where they started, often even further behind. Why do so many people not keep their resolutions? Are people just weak-willed or lazy?”

Why does my New Year’s Resolution fail?

According to this article, well, as you might have expected, the answer is no, people are not weak-willed or lazy. The problem is that we might be not ready to change our bad habits and set up unrealistic expectations, according to Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at the Carleton University in Canada.

Yeah, might as well just laugh about it.
Yeah, might as well just laugh about it.

And it might be true that we are just not ready to change our bad habits. There’s a reason why most websites, let’s take quitting smoking for example, argue that you need to stop RIGHT NOW, and not tomorrow, next week, Monday, or next year. I can agree with this. For example, I have smoked for five years and had never thought about quitting before, until I woke up one day and wanted to find out how long I could survive without a single cigarette. To this day, I have never touched a cigarette again. The strange thing about it was that I didn’t have the desire to smoke at all. I kept my cigarettes in my purse for days, just in case I felt like having a smoke, but I didn’t feel like it. In one day, I went from 12 cigarettes a day to zero, without any difficulties. While at the same time, I had never thought I would ever decide to quit smoking.

Changing your bad habit

I was ready to change my bad habit, even though I hadn’t even realized it yet myself. I didn’t need a first of January or some Facebook friends pressuring me into coming up with some New Year’s resolutions. And that’s what set me up for success – just me, myself and I, and no desire to share it on Facebook until I actually realized I might actually succeed in quitting smoking even though I didn’t even want to.
By reading the article from Psychology Today, I came to the conclusion that New Year’s Resolutions fail not only due to this. It is also because people are, indeed, setting up unrealistic expectations. But Liana wouldn’t be Liana if she didn’t have a name for the solution to this – oh, do I have a term for that. Baby steps, or the Principle of Enactment!

Just take some baby steps!

It’s all about the little things! Start off with a small thing, and you’ll find things are easier when you start building up from that. In other words: when following a recipe, simply “add milk” is much easier than “add eggs, add milk, stir, add 40 grams of sugar, stir again”. One step at a time, you’ll slowly but surely reach your goal, and it will feel like less of an effort. Also, when starting off small, you’re practicing yet another principle called Set Completion. Once you started something, you want to finish it.

Combined with Baby Steps you’ll find this easier, as it is easy to complete one single step, adding to the one big step you’re making to a better life.
A great example of this is the 52-week Money Challenge. It’s kind of a New Year’s Resolution too, as it takes precisely one year to complete. Using Baby Steps and Set Completion, you will deposit a certain amount of money every week, and in the end, you’ll be rich. Well, it will feel like you’re rich. Because it’s just little steps, and one dollar more every week, it will feel like you’re not “losing” any money at all.

And you'll be done in December, so you can spend those sweet 1300 dollars on booze again!
And you’ll be done in December, so you can spend those sweet 1300 dollars on booze again!

Start off small, specify your goals

In conclusion: if you want your New Year’s Resolution to really work, it might be a good idea to start off small. Oh, and specify the Baby Steps for yourself first, so you know your destination and can look forward to that. Also, don’t wait until January 1st. I know, it’s December 28th now, but just suck it up and start improving your life. Now, not tomorrow.

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