here's how to win at your new year's resolutions
don't slide back this year
photo courtesy of hbo
At this point, New Year's resolutions are something of a tired cliché. We make resolutions to lose weight, to be more organized, to not get stressed, etc.—but a few weeks later, we've completely slid back into our old ways. It's like the time I went to the gym with my workout fanatic friend in the first week of January, and he chuckled, "Most of these people won't be back next week."
So how can we approach our resolutions for 2016 a little more, well, resolutely? The secret may lie in being a little less optimistic and a little more secretive. According to Dr. Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, the reason we find our resolutions so difficult to follow through with is that they are often too grandiose. Whether it's because we're drunk off the endless possibility of a new year or just too much Champagne, we get wildly ambitious and set goals for ourselves that become too daunting in a week or two when the allure of a new start wears off.
Instead, Dr. Ferrari suggests setting goals that are "observable, specific, and behavioral." In other words, don't have a target that you are mindlessly trying to attain—e.g. "I want to lose 20 pounds by the summer"—but rather apply behaviors to your life that will ultimately help to reach a goal. If you implement specific steps, like working out three times a week, the resolution becomes more realistic and possible to fulfill.
And once you have your resolutions, it's common to want to shout them from the rooftops. In the past, this has been encouraged as a method to anchor your goals by way of letting others know they exist. And while it could be helpful to share resolutions with friends and family so they can hold you accountable, there may be merit in keeping your goals to yourself. According to Scientific American, research stretching back 80 years suggests that when you share your goals, you're filled with a sense of progress—even though you may not even have done anything to complete those goals. When you go public about your resolutions, you may be less inclined to do the work needed to achieve them because you've tricked yourself into thinking you're already almost there.
Ultimately, it's about what works for you. If you've made resolutions in the past that you've stuck with, then why fix what's not broken? But if you're one of the many who will inevitably sink back into old habits in a month, give these tips a try and maybe 2016 will surprise you.