January 1, 2024, is fast approaching. Did you set any New Year’s resolutions on January 1, 2023? If so, you're not alone. On average, 37% of Americans set New Year’s resolutions every year. How do you feel you did on your resolutions? Maybe you set a resolution to get healthier, do better financially, or spend less time on social media. The truth is that no matter what your New Year’s resolution is, keeping New Year’s resolutions is tricky.
The Tradition & History of New Year’s Resolutions
The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions has been around for a long time. In fact, some trace the beginning of this tradition back 4,000 years to the Babylonians. The Babylonians held the first recorded celebrations in honor of the New Year in mid-March when they planted their crops. They celebrated for 12 days and made promises to the gods. In ancient Rome, Julius Caesar established the start of the new year as January 1. January was significant for the Romans, as it was named after the god Janus, a god who looked backward into the previous year and forward to the new year. Romans offered sacrifices to this deity and made promises of good behavior for the new year.
Making New Year’s resolutions today look a little different. There are no multi-day festivals or sacrifices to deities, but the idea behind it remains the same. The end of the year signals a time for reflection on the past year, what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished, and how we feel about what’s transpired. We look forward to the coming year when we make our New Year’s resolutions and set our intentions for the coming year.
The Challenges in Keeping New Year's Resolutions
In all honesty, when I looked at the average number of people who make New Year’s resolutions, I was surprised to see 37%. I thought it would be way higher, and I think it is. Of those 37% who make New Year’s resolutions, only about 10% feel they’ve kept them by the end of the year. For the rest of them, about 27%, what stops them from keeping their New Year resolutions? What are the challenges they face?
The most common challenges in keeping New Year’s resolutions are:
- Being too ambitious - having too many resolutions.
- Focusing too much on the outcome/result and not enough on the behavior.
- Looking at setbacks as failures.
- Starting with too large and broad of a resolution.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
We’ve all heard that it takes 21 days to make a habit - but many experts and research today show that, as a myth, it takes a lot longer. What’s more important than how many days it takes to make a new habit or to stick to your resolution are the action steps you’re taking toward your resolutions. Below are seven tips for setting yourself up for success in keeping New Year’s resolutions.
1. Set realistic and attainable goals.
Some people set a New Year’s resolution to eliminate junk food or sweets, which sounds good in theory. Still, I think we can all agree that it’s not realistic or attainable. What happens when you eat that bag of chips or order the dessert? Does that mean you failed? No. Going cold turkey won't be easy if you have a huge sweet tooth. Perhaps aim to only treat yourself to something sweet two times a week, which many may find more doable than total elimination.
2. Break down large goals into smaller ones.
Let’s say you resolve to be more healthy next year. That’s a pretty big goal. How can you break that up into small goals? Smaller goals could include starting an exercise routine or increasing an existing one. It could also look like cutting back on the amount of sweets you eat or drinking a certain number of ounces of water a day. These are all ways to improve your health. Simply saying you want to be more healthy can look overwhelming when you think of where to start. Start small.
3. Acknowledge and celebrate small victories.
Let’s keep going with the resolution to be more healthy. You’ve resolved to start an exercise routine and walk every day. We all know life happens, and there may come days when you don’t walk. Celebrate each day you go for a walk, and when you come to a day where you don't, resolve to start again the next day.
4. Shift from an all-or-nothing mindset.
Just as you should acknowledge and celebrate the small victories, you should also not give up if things go sideways. Please don’t make it an all-or-nothing resolution. You’ll sabotage yourself before you even start.
5. Learn from setbacks.
Yes - just because you stumbled or got off track does not mean you can’t get back on track. Perhaps when you set out to walk every day, you set the time to do that in the morning, but then mornings get away from you, and before you know it, you’ve reached the end of the day, and you didn’t walk. You can learn that morning may not be the right time for your walks. Change it up. Try afternoon walks or even after-supper walks. What can the setback teach you?
6. Take care of yourself.
While trying to stick with your New Year’s resolutions, prioritizing self-care is very important to your success. Self-care replenishes your physical and mental resources and enhances your ability to stay committed to your resolutions all year. Self-care can be getting adequate rest, fueling yourself with good nutrition, and managing stress. You can learn more about the benefits of self-care in my blog on the 8 Elements of Self Care. As I like to say, you can’t pour from an empty cup, and sticking to your New Year’s resolutions can feel like it and take more work if you’re feeling depleted physically and mentally.
7. Set up your environment for success.
When you resolve to be healthier and eat less sugary treats, you will have a more challenging time if you don’t get rid of your secret candy stash. Remove them all together if they are too tempting to have in the house. Setting up your environment for success doesn't just mean your physical environment but the people you surround yourself with. Recruit family and friends who will support you and may even join in.
Cheers to Keeping New Year’s Resolutions
Deep down, I think every one of us makes some New Year’s resolution, whether we call it that or not. We all hope that as we end one year and welcome another, we will see more joy than sadness, more love than hate, and more stability than uncertainty. So, as 2024 draws nearer, I wish you much success for the coming year and many blessings for keeping your New Year’s resolutions. Cheers to your success!