Integrative Nutrition Blog

The Truth About New Year’s Resolutions (and Some Useful Alternatives)

December 28, 2015

Image via Shutterstock

The dawn of a new year often invites reflection on the accomplishments or shortcomings of the past, and renewed determination to reach new goals or improve ourselves in some way in the year ahead.

So what’s the real deal with New Year’s resolutions? Is it helpful to make them or are we just setting ourselves up for disappointment?

According to research by the University of Scranton, approximately 45% of people usually set New Year’s resolutions, 38% absolutely never set them, and everyone else falls somewhere in between.  Of those who set them, the most common resolutions include losing weight, becoming more organized, saving money, and enjoying life to the fullest.

Of those who set them, only about 8% actually achieve their goals.

But before you get discouraged, let’s dig a little deeper.

The suspected reason for this low success rate is that the goals are just too big, vague, unrealistic, and are rarely supported by genuine motivation, planning, or commitment.

 If you think about it, all of these goals require a significant amount of time and consistent effort, yet we often expect that the mere intention will transform us at the strike of midnight! When it doesn’t, we give up.

While no real change can happen overnight, it doesn’t mean New Year’s resolutions can’t still be a great motivator for creating positive change in your life.

Here are 3 alternative approaches to setting New Year’s resolutions:

Pick one word to focus on all year.
Rather than creating lofty goals based on something you don’t like about your current situation, why not choose just ONE WORD to symbolize the bigger picture of what you want for yourself? For example if you want to lose weight, your word can be “wellness”, and in this way you are inviting many different facets of wellness rather than focusing on the external body alone. If you seek to have better relationships, your word can be “love,” if it’s a new job you’re after then the word can be “fulfillment.” Make it a positive word, think about it often, and when making decisions throughout the year check in with your word and nudge yourself in the direction of having more of THAT.

Do more of what’s already good.
There is no New Year’s resolution rulebook that says you have to find something negative to “fix” or a problem to “solve”, in many ways that only serves to de-motivate you. Instead, take a moment to think about what’s already really good in your life right now, and how can you do more of that? Maybe you’re already healthy and fit but you hate your job, why not take your passion for wellness further by becoming a Health Coach? Or perhaps your health isn’t great but you have an awesome relationship with your family, maybe your resolution can be to spend more time with them and surround yourself with happiness. At IIN we have a concept we call “crowding out” which means that the more good stuff you take in, the less room there’ll be for the not-so-good stuff, which will fall away naturally over time. So what’s good with you?

Choose 12 mini-goals.
This is a good one for all the planners and list-makers out there. Rather than being vague and ambitious with one goal, break it up into 12 specific mini-goals, one for each month of the year. So let’s say your vague goal is to “have more fun” you can break that up into…

January - go somewhere you’ve never been before

February - take a dance class

March - spend more time with little kids

April – go to a concert

You get the idea, come up with 12 mini-goals that relate to your overall goal and put them in your calendar for the whole year to keep you on track. You can even go a step further and document your journey through photographs or journaling so you can share it with the world.

What has been your experience with New Year’s resolutions? Please share in the comments below!

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