New Year resolutions have been made since the beginning of time. The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. In the Medieval times, the knights took the ‘peacock vow’ at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
It’s now getting close to the end of January, and the New Year and any resolutions we may have made seem like such a long time ago. We might have promised ourselves go to the gym more often, get up-to-date with the DIY, drink less, join a club, learn a new language or even fall in love.
So, did you make a resolution and keep it, or did you, like so many other people give up after a couple of weeks?
It’s pretty common at this time of year to find people breaking their New Year resolutions. A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman at the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people found that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions failed, despite the fact that 52% were confident of success at the beginning.
Last year, an Interflora New Year resolution survey found that just 33% said they expected to keep their resolutions for the whole year, 56% were unsure and 11% said that they expected not to keep their resolution. Those sceptical ones were proven right, of the 39% who said they made a resolution in 2011, just 5% managed to keep theirs for 9-12 months. Over a third of last year’s resolvers lasted less than three months with their New Year aims.
What kind of resolutions do people make and break?
Year on year, the top resolutions don’t really change very much and according to the University of Scranton, USA, the top resolutions for 2012 were:
- Lose weight
- Getting organized
- Spend less, save more
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Staying fit and healthy
- Learn something exciting
- Quit smoking
- Help others
- Fall in love
- Spend more time with family
Why are we so bad at keeping resolutions?
According to Forbes.com, some of the reasons New Year resolutions didn’t stick were:
1. Didn’t make a plan for it – A lot of people forget that a resolution is really just a goal and it requires structure, otherwise, it’s just a wish.
2. Forgot the reasons why you were doing it – Motivation matters and if you don’t know why the goal is important, it’s easy to drop.
3. Didn’t plan for setbacks – No one is perfect, we all fall off the wagon at some point. You need a plan for what to do when this happens and how you’ll get back on that horse.
4. Didn’t have a strong support network – Support is important with any goal, it’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in what you’re doing and want to see you succeed.
5. Took on too much too fast – Many of us get a little over-keen around the New Year, we want to make huge leaps of progress overnight, but real growth is a slow and steady journey.
6. Weren’t accountable to anyone – it’s easy to get persuaded by that nagging negative voice inside your head that says you’re not cut out for this. An accountability partner helps keep you focused and on track, even when you think you’re ready to throw in the towel.
7. It wasn’t that important in the first place – Perhaps you set a goal that others wanted you to set or one you felt you ‘should’ set. It’s easy to give up on something that never really mattered that much to you in the first place.
So, what are the hints for keeping your New Year resolutions?
1. Choose a goal that matters – Don’t do it for anyone else but you. If it’s not something you truly believe in, you’ll never succeed. Take some time out and reflect upon what you really want to achieve.
2. Avoid previous resolutions – Often re-visiting a past resolution sets you up for frustration and disappointment. Choose something new or approach an old problem in a new way. For example, instead of trying to lose 3 stone in weight, try exercising more.
3. Plan ahead – Look for possible obstacles and prepare for how you’ll deal with them.
4. Take it one step at a time – Often people make the mistake of trying to achieve too much. The chances of success are greater when people channel their energy into changing just one aspect of their behaviour.
5. Recognize that things will get hard – Unexpected obstacles will get the better of you but that’s no reason to give up completely, find ways to forgive yourself and keep motivated.
6. Gather your supporters – Let them know what you’re doing and why and ask if you can count on them to help you reach your goal. Joining a club or group is a great way to get support from like-minded people and help spur you on when you feel like giving up.
So, if you want to improve your health consider doing classes – Aerobics, Zumba, Sh’bam and Pilates are popular ways to get fit and help lose weight. There’s also the group mentality, which is perfect for that extra ounce of moral support.
Want to meet new people and try something new? Then joining an existing activity group or club could be what you need.