How not taking New Year Resolutions too seriously can actually help you achieve more.
At this time of year you cannot move for the articles, blogs and videos from all sorts of professionals selling their wares, encouraging you to achieve your goals, smash your targets and stretch yourself further than you have ever stretched.
This time last year Strava (now they don't have a product to sell do they?) released some data suggesting that the 12th of January was what they identified as "quitters day" where, you guessed it, people quit their New Year Resolutions. Other statistics from other research suggests that 88 percent of people who make New Year resolutions fail (a 2007 study from the University of Bristol). In 2015 BUPA found a slightly better 63 percent of people failed. They also found that 80 percent of people didn't make it to the end of March before going back to their old ways.
No wonder that in 2018 YouGov found that only 22 percent of us were actually making new year resolutions.
What's different here?
It would be fair for you to point the "what are you selling?" finger at us and accuse us of hypocrisy. I'd like to defend that quickly.
If you have not had a look around this site you may not be aware that we want to help people help themselves. In other words we want to help raise your awareness, give you the tools to take action and simply leave you with more choice than you had before you worked with us. That also means that whatever, whenever or however you choose to make changes is down to you. The goals and the targets are down to you, and how and when you follow through are down to you.
We simply offer insight, awareness and some really good tools for you to take advantage of.
Finally, we don't believe that change starts only once a year. We believe it starts when you feel the need to change and feel committed to making a change, and that is up to you.
Before I wrote this article, I had a chat with a good friend. I shared with him that I was going to use the power of "ish" this year and he had a different view. His view was that he was not going to commit to changing his lifestyle just for the time of year and just because everyone around him was doing the same. He knows he will only change if he is ready to change, and the time of year and the coercive power of the pack mentality is not going to impact him. I respect him for that strength of conviction and his own self knowledge.
More problems with New Year Resolutions
There are other issues with resolutions which increase the chances of failure, for many of us they are as follows:
Black or white mentality
The idea that I have succeeded or failed, hit my goal or missed it, and there is everything to win is a myth. Goals are good to drive you forwards but they should not become punitive, unenjoyable and dictate how you feel about yourself. A goal almost achieved is better than no change, but one attacked in a win or lose mentality is more likely to be missed and dropped, with old habits and behaviours returned to.
The sense of denial
So many of our goals at this time of year involve giving things up. Smoking, drinking, eating meat, eating...
Giving something up is an absolute act. By its very nature it either succeeds or it fails and this continues forever. That very sense of denying myself something can turn me into a victim and before you know it the victim in me is demanding its right to eat meat and the battle is on.
Giving into peer pressure
Many of us, too many of us, commit to change because we feel others expect it. In this world of social media sharing this pressure is intensified and we can find ourselves signing up for things that we were not really committed to. If we are not committed we will not succeed in making change.
Added to the peer pressure are the adverts that are around at this time of year. Dating apps, dieting apps, gym membership to name just a few. The pressure to make a change is everywhere but the person who is responsible for following through is you.
The Power of "ish"
I discovered this when I gave up smoking 18 years ago. I had previously tried many times to quit smoking and despite wanting to, I still failed.
What was the difference this time?
I gave myself permission to fail. I acknowledged in advance that I may have a cigarette and that this did not make me a smoker again. It simply meant I had a cigarette and I would go back to being a non-smoker again. I even allowed myself permission to have the odd cigar at celebrations. The result? I stopped smoking. Did I have the odd puff when drunk? Absolutely, but it was rare and I did not shame myself for it. I simply picked myself up the next day and went back to being a non-smoker.
This year I wish to help my body by reducing the amount of alcohol I drink. I am going to kick start it in January by dramatically reducing my consumption of alcohol and having a dryish January. As I write this, a whole 2 days in, I have not had a drink and I will continue that way. I can see, however, later in the month a social engagement I am already committed to where I will enjoy it more if I have a drink. I will have a drink there and go back to a dryish January.
My daughter wishes to try out Veganuary. Since it is easier from a cooking and shopping point of view for us all to go along with it, we have committed to it as well. There is however an exception. Despite trying every milk substitute, I cannot drink tea without milk. So, I am going to have Veganish January and the end result will be that my meat and general animal products consumption reduces drastically, and my impact on the planet with it.
I am sure you get the picture now.
By all means chose to make changes. Also be aware of over committing, being ready to change and allowing yourself to slip up. It is, after all, human.
Remember the power of "ish"