Why do we believe that the beginning of a year is the best time for changes? Psychologists say it is so because the new year is perceived as the new chapter of our lives. Humankind labeled the beginning of the year as a new start on the track of our life run. But the promises to us often lose the status of finish tape. And they stay only dreams. Why is it so difficult to keep New Year’s resolutions? Because we do not approach them systematically. Let’s change our approach this year. Here is the recipe for how to do it.
Every year, we imagine living the most colorful life after midnight strikes. Many of us lie to ourselves that we can change our lives completely during the following 365 days. While we are neglecting our past and present, we keep convincing ourselves that the new year is going to be completely different from the ones that passed. Many of us don’t treat the new beginning as a small unit of time in one’s lifetime. But rather as its turn-off. A turn-off of oneself.
The opposite is true. A new year is, indeed, a new step forward. However, it is most importantly a part of a long staircase.
That is why we stress out right after stepping into 2024. Stress stems from all the promises we make to ourselves. We feel isolated and sometimes even claustrophobic. Our resolutions aren't beautiful imagination anymore. But an omnipresent time anxiety.
Often, we set unreachable goals. Or there are too many of them to achieve in just one year. And that’s why we panic. The need to complete everything in a certain time frame puts us in a situation where we start doing all the resolutions at once. Without a plan or any kind of schedule. Due to putting all of our energy into the tasks, we run out of it in the first quarter of the year. And all of this happens just because we don’t move ahead systematically. Neither are we consistent.
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The Feeling of Time Is Not Innate
Hallowell argues that human beings are not born with a “temporal sense.” He points out that time as a unit is culture-based. Why is it important to realize this? To stop putting our resolutions into unreasonably small-time frames. Especially into the one year long.
Studies show it can take up to 66 days to build a habit. Therefore, be patient and consistent when working on your resolution.
We all know what happens if we want to rush things up. We are disappointed when not seeing the desired results immediately. Let's take exercise as an example. When starting with a fitness plan, it can take up to 2 months till you see the first changes in your physique. And the same applies to other types of resolutions.
If you want to build a new Instagram account, it can also take months to get the first 1K followers. Of course, the speed of our progress depends on many factors. If we should examine the two examples above, our improvement in sport depends on whether we have muscle memory, if our diet is balanced, or if we practice the exercises correctly. When it comes to building an Instagram account, there are factors such as how popular you or your company is, what kind of product or service you offer, and if you do it all yourself or you seek help from a social media expert.
When not satisfied with the speed of keen results, many of us stop trying. Our focus and effort drop from 100% to zero. We throw in the towel and say goodbye to our better selves in the first half of the year. In the end, we tend to come back to what we already know.
How to work with resolutions, how to treat them, and how to keep them? Psychology holds all of the answers. So let's dive into it.
Say No to These Resolutions
If possible, do not make resolutions that are too binding. Rather wider the borders of activities. Examples of binding resolutions are “I’m going to go jogging twice a week”, or “I’m going to stop using Instagram.”
Why are they dangerous? They are too specific or radical. If you aren’t able to go jogging twice a week (maybe due to bad weather), you won’t do any exercise at all. Why? Because there is not any other activity that would be part of your resolution. And even if you’d be able to ignore the Instagram app on your smartphone, you can continue being addicted to social media by using some other app. Such as TikTok, where the content is very often similar or the same as that on Instagram or Facebook.
To avoid these issues, learn about inversion. Thanks to inversion, you will have more freedom in keeping to your resolution.
How does it work in practice? Instead of using the positive I’m going to use the negative I’m not going to. If taking into consideration the examples above, instead of telling yourself you should go jogging twice a week, promise yourself “I’m not going to sit down and watch TV when being free for more than 30 minutes”, and instead of trying to quit using Instagram, focus on cutting the time spent on all social media platforms.
Thanks to inversion, you’ll be able to better understand your desires as well as needs. And it will help you with keeping your resolution.
One Recipe Is Enough
1. Chase only the things you REALLY want
Don’t make decisions under any kind of pressure. First, ask yourself whether you really want to make such a change. Make sure you are serious about it.
If you push yourself into something without thinking about it thoroughly and aren’t ready to take all that comes with it, you will probably break the resolution after a few days. And all your energy will be wasted in the end.
2. Keep goals small
Be careful with making too big bites. You might not be able to chew them. And rather keep your goals small. How to do it? When wishing to change your diet and eat more vegetables, try to incorporate one at a time. After feeling comfortable cooking with the vegetable, you can add one more. When it comes to exercising, try to prolong your activity with a few more minutes. It might sound a bit silly, but small goals work very well!
Take small steps. And after mastering them, add new ones throughout the whole year. Trust me, you’ll have a better overview of your improvement and won’t be under such pressure.
3. Build on existing foundations
Continue working on what you’ve already started with. How? Make use of what you’ve already achieved. It will be so much easier for you to keep the resolution when knowing you cannot lose everything.
Don’t perceive 2024 as a new piece of paper which lies on your desk. See it rather as the next page of your lifetime book.
4. Find your own ways
Don’t be deluded that what works for others is going to work for you. Do quite the opposite. Listen and watch your body and mind. And try to find your own ways to keep your resolution.
Find your own pace and employ your already gained knowledge.
There is never only one correct way to do things. There are actually plenty of them. And each of them suits each of us differently.
5. Make a detailed plan
Plan every step that needs to be taken in order to achieve your goal. Think about how you must behave to get what you really want. For example, when building an Instagram account, you should plan how many posts you’re going to publish each day. And follow this plan.
Thanks to a plan, you'll be able to make estimates on how long it takes to be at the finish line. Then you can write down a realistic date of your deadline. As mentioned above, always try to go step by step. And add new smaller resolutions throughout the year.
Trust your plan and schedule and make a routine based on it. Be goal-oriented and believe in yourself.
A plan is also great for focusing on each step made. And it will help you to prevent stressful situations.
In a few months, you will notice that the routine you built is absolutely natural to you. And after achieving your goal, you’ll want to continue with it. Your 2024 resolution can become a stable base for the next one in 2025. Simply, this year’s resolution will be a foundation for any resolution made in the future.
6. Don’t let your mood decide
Keep the promises you made to yourself. Don’t let your mood decide what to do and when to do it. Go according to your plan.
When feeling lazy and not wanting to work on your resolution, don’t think about your feelings but rather about what is the right thing to do. In such moments, focus on how you feel before and after, e.g. the following day. Quite certainly, you’ll feel great and in a better mood after keeping the promise.
Remember, your mood should not affect what you do. But your actions always affect your mood.
7. A mistake is a lesson
Don’t be scared of mistakes. No one is perfect. Each of us has so many mistakes to make. Small and big.
All successful businessmen learned how to squeeze the most out of their mistakes. What makes the difference is that they see their mistakes as lessons. Get inspired by this approach.
Don’t be devastated after making a mistake. Be appreciative. A mistake always shows new solutions. Always think about the new solutions and apply them in the future.
Include mistakes in your process of growth.
8. The right time is now
New Year, new me is not a functional concept. It is tragically unproductive to try to change oneself based on your wish made in one day of a year. There are 365 days to make a change in your life. So why should we make a random decision on the 1st of January?
New Year’s resolution is a human tradition many of us stick to.
Try to work with it a bit differently this year. Perceive the step into the new season as an opportunity. But don’t give it too much of a meaning. And decide on changes anytime you feel it is necessary or needed.
9. Tomorrow is another day
When it comes to activities, do your best to follow your plan. But don’t punish yourself if, for some reason, you won’t manage to do everything as intended.
As they say, Man proposes, God disposes. Therefore, if something comes your way that does not allow you to do your planned activity right now, schedule it for a bit later. For some other hour or even for tomorrow.
When such situation occurs, do it as soon as possible. Thanks to this approach, you won’t be that stressed. And resolution keeping will be much more enjoyable for you.
My Little Advice
Some people advise all of those with New Year’s resolutions to share their goals with others. Nowadays, often on social media. Even though some statistics show that sharing it might help you with sticking to it, I would be careful here. And I'd suggest keeping it to yourself. Especially if you’re the kind of person who, after saying things out loud, forgets about them. I believe that improving in adhering to our promises is something indispensable.
Rather than social media, use your diary or manifesting. These two will help you to think about your goal in vivid colors for months.
Also, keep in mind that each of us is different. And that what works for me, might not work for you. A disciplined person won’t have a problem keeping a very strict plan. On the opposite side stands a rather gentle person, who might be slower and needs more time to absorb all the changes happening around them.
Most importantly, don’t act like this year is the last one of all. Think of the change as something that is going to evolve in the future. In 2025, 2026, 2027 and so on. It should be something which will make your whole future better.
My last note would be that to achieve your goals, you should think of every step you take. Every step you take each day. Think of every activity in your day. Is everything you do an investment in the future self? Is there something you should improve? Should you do something else than this particular activity?
Keep asking yourself such questions. And you’ll see that your brain will automatically evaluate your activities based on the benefits it can bring you.