Exercise more! Learn a new skill! Travel more! Read more! Save money! These are a few of the top New Year’s resolutions and while motivation is strong for many during the first week of January, I can’t help but wonder how resolvers are progressing toward their 2019 goals, as we are nearing the end of January.
The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions dates back to around 46 BC when Julius Caesar established January 1st as the beginning of the new year. January derives its name from Janus, the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He is typically depicted as having two faces, which symbolizes looking to the past and future. Today, approximately 40-50% of American adults participate in the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions, with only 8% successfully achieving their goals. So why is that?
Well, I would like to start by saying that behavior change is difficult, especially behaviors with a long history of reinforcement. Next, there are a few things to consider when evaluating why our New Year’s resolutions may be failing. For instance, how realistic is your goal? A person who has smoked a pack a day for the last 20 years is unlikely able to commit to quitting cold turkey come January 1. Something else to consider is how clear is each goal? A resolution to “exercise more” is ambiguous with no clear direction to be able to move forward. So consider making SMART goals to empower you to make meaningful and sustainable change:
Specific – State what you will do using action words with context
Measurable – Ensure you can evaluate progress using metrics or data targets
Achievable – Set the bar slightly above your current performance
Relevant – Decide if this goal will help you create a rich and meaningful life
Time-bound – State when you will achieve your goal by (be specific)
My original New Year’s resolution was that by June 1, 2019, I will lose 10 pounds with a reduced calorie diet and exercise at least 3x per week. However, I now need to reevaluate this goal since learning that I am pregnant with my first!
As Steven Hayes writes, “Things won’t be perfect right from the start, and they don’t have to be. Mistakes will happen, but so will progress.” Be a person who takes action and if you stumble, don’t quit, pick yourself up and continue to move toward your values.
 American Medical Association. (1995). New Year’s resolution survey.