It’s that time of year again… the time of year when you start gluing new pictures onto your vision board, journaling motivational messages and looking at yourself in the mirror while chanting, “I can do it. I can do it.” Yes, it’s New Year’s resolutions season. Maybe you’re making some resolutions for the first time, or maybe you’re going to carry over last year’s resolutions (but with more dedication this time around, of course). Before you post one more inspirational saying on your Facebook page, though, stop to consider these three reasons why making New Year’s resolutions might actually make it harder to reach your goals.
Your Friends Are Tired of Hearing about Them
We all have that friend who has publicly announced his plans to lose weight, stop smoking, find a partner, get a dog or renovate the kitchen for the past five years straight. And we’ve all smiled along and nodded supportively as he’s talked endlessly about his goals without ever taking any serious steps towards meeting them. And we’ve all glanced sideways at each other when deciding who to invite out for coffee because we just don’t feel like hearing any more about his grandiose plans. Your friends can only be so supportive, and it’s simply not enjoyable to spend time with someone who is always talking about a goal that they’re never going to achieve. By skipping the resolutions you can maintain your status as a caring, kind and fun friend, rather than one that sounds like a broken resolution record.
They Cause Stress
Research has proven that stress is harmful to your physical and mental health. The immediate effects of stress include insomnia, headaches, exhaustion and nausea. Stress that persists long term can even cause diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Unfortunately, nothing is more stressful than feeling like a failure, and that is how many people feel when they do not successfully achieve their New Year’s resolutions. The more unrealistic the resolution (“I want to lose fifty pounds before Valentine’s Day!”), the more likely it will lead to stress and its associated health complications. Instead of setting an unattainable resolution this New Year’s Eve, try treating yourself to a de-stressing treat like a massage or some gourmet herbal tea.
They Don’t Work
Research suggests that almost half of all Americans set New Year’s resolutions, and between 80% and 92% of them fail to achieve their goals. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself why you would want to do something that is almost guaranteed to fail. If your past resolutions have failed, why would this year be any different? After all, as Albert Einstein said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
So what should you do instead of making New Year’s resolutions? One easy solution is to separate the goal from the concrete actions that will lead to that goal.
If you want to raise your grade point average (GPA) you know you need to do more readings, spend more time studying and visit your professor during her office hours. Instead of setting a New Year’s resolution that is focused on your GPA, just start doing the things you need to do without worrying about your grades. Whether or not your GPA goes up, you will still have learned more and adopted healthy academic habits. Similarly, if your goal is to lose weight, replace soda with water, reduce your portion sizes, and add some more movement to your day. Don’t worry about weighing yourself, just trust that your good habits will benefit your overall health and well-being.
If you’re absolutely dead set on making a resolution, consider doing it at a different time of the year. Students and families might like to align their goal setting with the start of a new school year, while professionals might want to set goals that match up with the company’s fiscal year. After all, the winter holiday season is busy and stressful enough without the added burden of completely changing your entire life!