A new year is around the corner. And many use this time to make New Year’s resolutions. Why do people do that, you might ask?
“It’s a new calendar year,” said Mandy Doria, a certified counselor at the University of Colorado, speaking with The Associated Press. ‘We have a chance to leave behind all of the old stuff, good and bad, from the previous year and move forward and start to make new plans, new goals, and we may feel excited and recharged by that.”
That feeling of hope can dissipate amid day-to-day stressors but there are ways to set goals without feeling like you’re setting yourself up for failure, said Doria.
“There is a concept called smart goals,” she said. “So smart goals should be specific. They should be measurable. They should be attainable. And they should be reliable as well as time-based. So, for example, I might want to move my body more, and so I might start by going to the gym or going to yoga once a week. And then after three weeks, maybe I build on that so I can make time specific goals as well. And then it’s measurable and it’s specific.”
Knowing why helps
Christine Whelan, a clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the author of an Audible Original 10-lecture series called “Finding Your Purpose,” said if people know why they’ve set goals, they’re more likely to reach them.
“Why is it that you want to make a change?” she asked. “These are questions of purpose and values and meaning. So maybe you do want to go to the gym and lose a couple of pounds. But why? And if you can get to that core reason for why, research finds that you are much more likely to actually follow through on your goals and make it happen.”
Whelan said there are other ways to start the new year by making it more of a reflective exercise rather than an intimidating to-do list.
“Rather than New Year’s resolutions, one thing that I’ve loved to do over the years is write a letter to myself at New Year’s — the next year (2023),” said Whelan. “And in that letter, what I do is I think about where I want to be, where I am right now, the things that are important to me, my values and purpose statement, my hopes and goals for the year ahead.”
A goal is a process
In an interview with the AP, Edward Hirt, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University, said to be successful at sticking with a New Year’s resolution, one must understand that pursuing a goal is a process.
“Because I think most of the time in many goal pursuit situations, we are really hard on ourselves if we don’t get what we anticipate we should be,” said Hirt. “If we can kind of break down the goal pursuit process into sub-stages, sub kind of goals along the way and can sort of see ourselves meeting those things and take pride in accomplishing those pieces of the larger process, it’s much more reinforcing to us.”
Hirt said people should also reflect on their progress to see how far they’ve come rather than only focusing on the endpoint.