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New year's resolutions

Starting the year with a long list of new goals? Beware of certain pitfalls

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Materiały Prasowe,
30.01.2024 16:58

The so-called New Year’s resolutions are popular among many people. To some, they are a great way of setting new goals or (re)discover their most secret dreams, but a lot of people also encounter certain challenges when making plans for the upcoming year. How to avoid them and what to do to make sure that New Year’s resolutions do not end in self-disappointment?

Do not rush to keep New Year’s resolutions

According to Maksim Reznikov, project manager and partner at marketing agency Fabula Rud Pedersan Group, the tradition of New Year’s resolutions is still alive and kicking all over the world: millions of people promise to change their lives and/or pursue new goals and dreams from the 1st of January.

"Usually, the resolutions vary greatly: start working out, eat healthier, change job, lose bad habits, or do something grand. Some of them are aimed at learning good habits, others – at kicking bad habits, for example, smoking," he said.

But according to Reznikov, you should not dive headlong into changes. He mentioned the great Australian psychologist, Jacqui Manning, who says that starting too hard may actually kill your motivation to change.

"Numerous research show that come the end of the second week of January, the determination to pursue new goals starts waning, and you may begin contemplating whether it is worth the effort," he added.

Reznikov noted that several simple, but very important things could help avoid this. First of all, people have to understand that although many set the start-date of new goals as the 1st of January, any other date will do just fine, if it fits the personal life agenda better.

"When evaluating the various plans people make, Manning states that resolutions may be postponed for later and that you don’t necessarily have to start in January. She notes that usually the very first days and weeks of a new year lack harmony and are tense because people have to return to the normal rhythm of daily life after the holidays. The very first weeks at work may be stressful; therefore, it will be difficult to concentrate and remain motivated to seek major life changes," Reznikov added.

According to him, if you really want the 1st of January as the index point of changes, do not expect to implement them already during the first month of a new year.

"Manning says that powerful starts tend to end in early failures because the desire to just quit grows very strong due to the lack of quick results. Eventually, you end up feeling disappointed with yourself and your efforts," he continued.

Reznikov also said that if you start your journey of change in January, you will end up competing with millions of people who are doing the same, and this may lead to unhealthy rivalry.

"Getting asked by your friends about the progress towards new goals as soon as the 2nd of January may feel very uncomfortable. But no one is forcing you to participate in this mass race – just choose any other date and keep moving forward without peer pressure, focusing on controlling your behaviour and alternative choices," Reznikov suggested.

It is important to set achievable goals

Reznikov has noticed that many people give up also because they overestimate their capabilities of implementing certain decisions because when planning ant harmonizing major life changes, often just the end goal is seen, but possible obstacles that will have to be overcome are not anticipated.

"When the goal is grandiose in scale and long-term, the risk of the so-called hyperbolic discounting, i.e. when people are more inclined to evaluate rewards that are closer within the timeframe than further, arises. For example, you skip going to the gym and spend the evening watching TV instead. The second option is more attractive because the result – new experiences – is pretty much instantaneous, but it takes much more time (and consistent training) to see an improvement in you physique and well-being," he explained.

Reznikov also gave some advice.

"A tangible and easily measurable goal may be the number of training days, days spent without smoking, or eating healthy food. For successful progress towards long-term results, small incentives can be introduced, if they do not jeopardize the goal itself. And you continue reaching the goal or set another one, more ambitious," he suggested.

Decreasing harm is just as important as increasing benefit

By starting from smaller and clearly understood goals, we can evaluate more easily the amount of effort it may take and plan accordingly.

"Challenges that are easier to overcome allow avoiding cases when people fail to stick to their plans due to the inability to assess the situation or failure to foresee how things could work in the long-term perspective," Reznikov stated.

He also mentioned that it was worth considering another important element.

"When planning the introduction of new habits (for example, start running) or kicking old habits (e.g. smoking), people should contemplate the possible variations of the new habit and alternatives to the old one, so that lifestyle changes bring more benefits or less harm. According to psychologists, efforts to minimize harm are just as important as the strife for benefits," he added and gave several examples.

"For instance, if you notice that running five kilometres is hard, at first try covering the distance by simply walking briskly. Eventually, the body will get stronger, and you can switch to running. In other words, moving will be more beneficial than sitting on a sofa with your mobile phone in hand no matter what," Reznikov noted.

According to him, a similar principle works when trying to break harmful habits.

"You can consciously slowly decrease the number of cigarettes you smoke a day, recognize situations when the desire to light one up is the strongest and redirect your thoughts elsewhere or simply find alternatives that are less harmful to the body than cigarettes," he said.

By lowering harm, we lower the risk of failure as well

Even though we tend to start a new year with high expectations in terms of life-altering changes, according to Reznikov, every person who has made New Year’s resolutions should understand and remember that the bigger the promise, the higher the chance of throwback, and the risk of failing to meet the goal increases too.

"For this reason, looking for ways to implement changes and alternatives is an important part of the process. The alternatives serve as stepping stones when switching from one lifestyle model to another, but the changes have to be small – take it slow, with less stress," he continued.

Reznikov thinks that big and seemingly radical goals are always worth fragmenting into smaller ones, ensuring continuous progress and a consistent journey of change: "Smaller goals are easier to achieve, and the feeling of success allows maintaining motivation. Another equally important thing is the fact that by consistently pursuing goals we develop a habit, so the behaviour that used to require effort eventually becomes part of the daily routine."

What is more, creating a certain system to evaluate the progress achieved so far may help stay on the road to changes.

"It can be notes, e-diary, photos, or any other means of recording results. Simply speaking, even when aiming for the biggest of goals you should also celebrate small victories and remember to enjoy your achievements because this helps remain motivated and focused," he concluded.

Let your New Year’s resolutions journey be smooth, without disappointment, and, most importantly, result in happiness and emotional completeness!

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