“New Year, new me”? Don’t set New Year’s Resolutions – here’s what to do instead

The start of a New Year exemplifies a new beginning. It is the first week of 2021 and most people are eager to set New Year’s Resolutions.

Research indicates that people are more likely to pursue their goals during times that feel like new beginnings (such as a New Year, Mondays, and birthdays) in their lives. After the challenging 2020, people crave newfound hope and motivation and we could all use a little more positivity in our lives.

A lot of people who make New Year’s resolutions generally find them hard to keep. The failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is about 80% (U.S. News & World Report), and the majority lose their resolution by mid-February. That is why I recommend that you don’t set New Year’s resolutions. The desire to truly shift your habits don’t correspond with a calendar date.

What should you do instead?

Set small, specific achievable goals for yourself throughout the year. Here are some tips for setting goals and make them stick:

1. Make a plan, not resolutions. A written plan with target dates is essential. Commit to your plan. If there is a hesitancy you are starting on the wrong foot. The fact that it is on paper is an act of commitment itself. It also minimizes procrastination and serves as a check-in point to make sure you are on track. When setting your goals, you must consider possible obstacles as well as ways to overcome them.

2. Is the goal worth it for me? Think about your motivations. Is this goal worth it for you, is this what you really want or is this what society expects? When asking the question “is this worth it for me?” is a test of genuine desire. It must be worth the risk, price or effort. If not, you should scratch the goal.

3. Be mindful of the language used and do not underestimates the impact of your words when setting goals. There is a distinct difference between “I want”, “I would like”, “I hope” or “I’ll try” compared to “I will”, “I promise”, “I commit”. Outline your goals in terms of what you are going to do instead of what you should not do. For example, say that you want to “go to bed a half an hour earlier” rather than saying you want to “stop going to bed so late.”

4. Set a target date. A deadline alerts your body chemistry to react to the timetable you have set. You think, act, and react with urgency. It helps you to focus and eliminate distractions.

5. Your daily routine, is the building block of your life. Charles Duhigg states “you can’t break a bad habit; you can only replace it”. Success doesn’t happen by accident or luck; it is about what you do every day. You will never achieve your goals until you change your daily routine. Therefore, your reward, when creating new habits, should be bigger than the effort it takes to achieve it. Consider ways to make the new habit effortless by minimizing or removing obstacles.

Other tips to support you with your goal achievement

1. Use confidence builders. If you made an achievable short-term goal it can act as a confidence enhancer when you reach the goal. This is not about setting an easy goal but rather an achievable goal in a short time.

2. A person’s power and the probability of achieving their goals directly relate to their level of integrity. This is the cornerstone of consciousness coaching and as a coach, I often remind people of this point. It means that “you do what you said you would do by when you said you would do it”. The awareness that our subconscious mind is a bookkeeper of promises given and promises kept, is a powerful element to be aware of during goal achievement.

3. Select an accountability partner or at least share your goal with someone else. Researchers say that sharing your goal does more than keep you accountable, it also makes you more motivated, simply because you care what this person thinks of you.

But what if I fail. How do I kickstart the process?

It is about progress and persistence over being ‘perfect’. 95% of what we do each day is done from habits. Use the “failures” data points and consider what to tweak the next day. So reset, refocus, re-adjust and restart as many times as you need to.

Give yourself some grace. 2020 was hard! Encourage yourself with gentle reminders. And be mindful of your words and language when you talk about the goals and to yourself.

Here is a link to the podcast interview done on 1 January 2021:

https://www.702.co.za/podcasts/176/the-best-of-breakfast-with-bongani-bingwa/395991/setting-new-years-resolutions-with-life-coach-anja-van-beek

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