How to Renew Your New Year Resolutions
By: Niyatee Sukumaran, Ph.D. | February 17, 2023
It is that time of the year when many of us resolve to make changes in our lives. Inevitably, over the course of a few months, the enthusiasm and zeal to stick to our New Year’s resolutions starts to fade. Like many of us, I am not immune to this cycle, and I have often wondered why.
Why Most New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Stick
No matter how good our intentions are when we establish resolutions, it’s tough to stick with our intended changes. Here are five common reasons why:
1. Life is unpredictable
Rarely does life happen the way we imagine it, and no matter how hard we try, we cannot predict what life has in store for us. What we think is important at the beginning of the year might change with new events that could change our priorities.
2. Resolutions are too rigid
The word resolution is derived from “resolute,” which implies inflexibility. Most of our resolutions are set too rigid and narrow, and we tend not to alter them. We may also prematurely commit to them.
3. Poor expectation management
Resolutions are often based on an ideal version of what we think our lives should look like, without the appropriate consideration for the reality of our circumstances. As such, we are likely to feel disappointed when we are unable to follow-through with well-intended changes.
4. Resolutions are externally motivated
Resolutions are typically extrinsically oriented, which means that they are driven by the desire to seek validation outside of us. We are far less likely to stick with our resolutions if the focus is on the outcome and external gains, rather than the steps taken and an internal reward.
5. Difficulty coping with failure
When resolutions are not met, it is often discouraging and disappointing, and increases the possibility of self-blame and a negative view of oneself. For some, this can negatively impact their self-worth. When we blame ourselves and are overly negative, we are less motivated to keep trying.
What are Alternatives to Making Resolutions?
Experience is your friend! Take time to reflect on the events that occurred during the past years and ask yourself what worked, and what didn’t. Building on the lessons that you learned and considering what you might do differently will help better your chances of making your resolutions stick.
Adopting a growth mindset will help you create meaningful and attainable goals for the new year.
Coined by Dr. Carol Dweck, a growth mindset is the idea that to be successful in the future, we must be willing to learn from the past. This approach includes having confidence that you intrinsically have the ability and skill set needed to achieve your goals.
Adopting a growth mindset helps us focus more on the journey of achieving our goals, rather than prioritizing the outcome. As such, our efforts are more deliberate and inherently rewarding. By understanding our strengths and limitations, we can set realistic and achievable goals for ourselves, and cope with unsuccessful attempts.
How to Develop a Growth Mindset
1. Ask yourself what’s important
Connect with your internal source of motivation to accomplish your goal. For example, if your goal is to exercise 4-5 times per week, you may also ask yourself why exercising is important to you. Ask yourself how you feel when you follow an exercise routine, and what it will help you achieve in your life.
2. Create a realistic plan
To achieve your goal, first assess what are the actual resources available to you. For example, to exercise 4-5 times per week, you must first identify a day and time this is feasible, while giving yourself the number of hours of sleep required to accomplish this goal.
Plan what you want to achieve and try to do what you plan.
3. Take small steps
After assessing your resources, approach your goal by building up to it. For example, take small steps such as exercising 2 days in the first week, and incrementally increase it to 3-4 days the following week, and eventually exercising 4-5 times per week. As you move along, reflect on what contributed to your success, and what are the obstacles in your way. By identifying and learning about your obstacles, you can work on overcoming them with intention in the next week.
4. Practice self-compassion
Cultivating self-compassion helps you be gentle with yourself, which helps you overcome critical, negative self-talk that can hold you back. When you gauge your progress against your plan, try to acknowledge your feelings in the present moment. Use kind and encouraging words towards yourself and appreciate the efforts you have made. Having a compassionate stance is not a justification for the lack of effort or failure. Instead, it boosts your morale and encourages you to take more fruitful steps towards your goal.
If you are having a difficult time sticking with your resolutions, meeting with a San Diego Psychologist at Therapy Changes can help you identify, and overcome, the obstacles in your way. The support and focused guidance of a therapist can help you stay on track by addressing maladaptive thoughts and behavior patterns. Contact us to meet with a member of our talented team and start your therapy journey today.