How to be Happier in the New Year by Reframing New Year's Resolutions

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Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something.

In 2013, in an article by Forbes, only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s Resolutions (abbreviating NYR).


In 2017, roughly 80% of people fail by February in achieving their NYR.


Health or Fitness goals are the most popular NYR (weight loss, stop drinking, exercise more, stop smoking etc).

Have you set a NYR before? Maybe you already have one going into 2018. In this blog post, I hope to explain why so many of us are unsuccessful, why I suggest adjusting how we set NYR, and how we can  better set ourselves up for success.

Why are we successful?

One of my favorite quotes regarding success is:

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." 

When we look at areas of our lives where we have been successful, we may have found the following:

  1. Mistakes are frequent
  2. Failure is the norm
  3. Repeated consistent efforts
  4. Enjoyment + Engagement
  5. Constructive Self Reflection aids in growth
  6. Support and lots of it

Yet, for some reason, when approaching New Year's we tend to lose sight of our human traits. 

Ignoring our Humanness and Defaulting to Perfection:

Here is the pattern I typically see when the New Year approaches. First, there is a lot of excitement: “A New Year. A New You!” type of mindset. In many cases, we instinctually disregard our humanness and fall back on expecting perfection. We forget that failure is the norm and making mistakes is often a daily occurrence. Say we "fail" in week one, what happens now? Do you find yourself, getting discouraged, quitting and potentially rehearsing the thoughts: “what’s wrong with me? I’m such a failure. I will never achieve this”. I’d like to remind you that you’re not alone. I have said the exact same things to myself when I've failed.

If you’ve failed, have gotten frustrated and quit, please remember that we ALL fail, get frustrated and quit. Success isn't a smooth ride, often times it's a lot bumpier than we envision it to be.

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I’d encourage you to remember that failing will be a part of any growth or achievement process. The more that we as a society can normalize failure the more confident I feel people will be when trying to approach a new task and the less discouraged I feel they will be when things get tough. 

How many times have you failed?

How many times have you been frustrated?

How many times have you learned a thing or two about what NOT to do or what to do as a result of failing? Remember that reflecting after failure leads to more growth. Please refer to Coach Marc Santos' article "They Said Focus on the Process", where Coach Marc discusses how to constructively self reflect. 

I was once told, “I hope you fail often”. The intention behind this comment was not so that I would struggle, but more so, so that I would be challenged and would continue to grow. Hence, failing often would give me the opportunity to learn. I wish the same for you.

Keep in mind that not much should change when we set NYR. Make mistakes, make them often, then take a moment to reflect on what you learned. If we can learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, learn to embrace our humanness and make mistakes as often as we can success is within reach. 

Goal setting:

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I’m going to assume that you have probably set a goal before reading this. Whether it was a goal when you were eight to pass science class or whether it’s been to run a half marathon in under two hours. Goals are often set as a way to direct our focus. Often times I hear people say I just need a goal, then “x”….. Believe it or not, there is a tactic on how to be a successful goal setter.

  1. Tap into how you want to FEEL:
    • Make a list of what you want to FEEL like, not necessarily what you want to achieve, or look like. Often times focusing more on a feeling helps keep us motivated when visual, scaleable change is slower.
  2. Brain dump:
    • Complete a quick brain dump of what some goals are that you have in mind. A brain dump is just a quick transfer of thoughts. Try to not overthink it and just write.
  3. How does this fit into the context of what I value?
    • Value- is simply defined as a person's principles or standards of behavior. For example, I value authenticity and kindness and aim to act in a way that is in line with those traits.
    • Each of the goals you write down should fit into what you value (a longer blog post to come on why establishing your value system is key).
  4. Is this realistic?
    • Often times what sets many people up for success is setting a realistic goal. For instance, a mom of three kids may be more successful setting a goal of implementing 25 minute morning walks twice a week verses hitting the gym 6 days a week for an hour. There’s nothing wrong with being realistic about your situation. More often than not, it’ll help you be more successful.
  5. How could I potentially fail? How can I better prepare?
    • Taking a moment to analyze where your short comings are may be helpful when setting goals. If you’re not a morning person, maybe setting a goal to workout later in the day will be more beneficial for you. Basically, playing to your strengths.  
    • We must also pay close attention to the preparation involved when setting a goal. For instance, if your goal is to drink more water throughout the day, it may be helpful to breakdown how that will happen. For instance, making sure you have a water bottle, having it in sight, setting an alarm to remind you, etc. Embrace the problem solving and open yourself up to planning for how you will succeed.
  6. Shorter term:
    • Often times smaller, short term goals with multiple steps will be more digestible, than long term goals (ex. Weekly intentions versus monthly or yearly goals). Our brains have a better chance at creating habits around smaller behavior changes, than larger ones. 

Support System

Ok, now that we have a better idea of how to better goal set, the last step is identifying your support system. Friends, family, co-workers etc. play a role in how well we will succeed in our goals/life. There’s a saying “you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with”. Therefore, it’s important to make sure the relationships around you are conducive to the life you want to live. 

 January 2018 with my Family

January 2018 with my Family

Below are some questions to reflect on:

Who am I surrounded by the most?

What are my values?

What are their values?

How do I feel around them?

How do I want to feel around them?

Have a discussion with close friends and family about what you’re intentions are going to be leading into the week (remember short term). It would help them to learn how they can best support you, therefore if you recognize where you may need more support, this would be the best opportunity to explain how they may help. Opening up a clear line of communication can help both sides feel supported. If you’re looking for tips on how to improve communication lines, Barbara Patcher author of “The Power of Positive Confrontation” is a great starting point. 

So in conclusion, if we learn how to set better shorter term goals, learn how to ask for help, and also learn that this is an entire process of growth we may be happier and more successful in the New Year. 

Lastly, if we were to redefine “resolution” my revamping would read something like this:

“Resolution”: an experiment to do something, fail, learn and continue to strive for growth.

I just want to remind you that the growth and problem solving skills one develops when pursuing a goal is what having a goal is all about. How did you grow as an individual? In my opinion, the goal is the bonus, and your growth is the actually prize.


References:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/#143c872596b2

http://www.businessinsider.com/new-years-resolutions-courses-2016-12

https://www.caloriesecrets.net/dont-set-weight-loss-goals-in-your-new-years-resolution-list-unless/

https://www.bradsdeals.com/blog/how-to-keep-your-new-years-resolution