Psychologist Nine Gramberg will explain how to achieve your resolutions (and why you often fail at first).
Why New Year’s resolutions (almost) always go awry
“Humans are creatures of habit. Our brains like to keep doing things the same way,” explains Nine. We refer to this as being on autopilot. That’s basically how we function best.
Imagine a typical morning. You roll out of bed without thinking and unconsciously carry out a range of tasks before going about your day. It’s more or less the same every morning. Pretty straightforward, right? It doesn’t require a lot of brainpower and it’s over in a flash.
“This means it’s understandable (and totally normal) that you’ll abandon your New Year’s resolutions or new habits along the way. You’re trying to force yourself and your brain to break away from your default routines. To distance yourself from habits that are deeply ingrained in your system”, continues the psychologist.
And that requires a lot of brainpower. The consequence is that (in challenging moments) we tend to fall back into our old patterns.
💡 You’re definitely not alone here. Research by Franklin Covey shows that a third of New Year’s resolutions are broken before the end of January.
So, how can you do things differently?
If you really want to incorporate your New Year’s resolutions into your daily life, it takes time, attention and – above all – practice. It’s okay if you fall back into your old behaviours. Just as long as you then pick back up where you left off.
But how do you do that? Nine offers five steps for keeping your New Year’s resolutions.
1. Focus on one resolution
“We often want to change everything at once. We saddle ourselves with a long list of resolutions. But it’s complicated trying to integrate all these things into your life at the same time. As a consequence, you don’t do any of them properly,” explains the psychologist.
“The golden rule? Choose one thing and focus on that.” Because willpower isn’t an infinite resource, according to The New York Times. This means it’s better to pick one resolution and focus all of your willpower on that.
💡Here’s something you might find interesting: Re-discovering Your Purpose in Your 30s and Beyond
2. Get your motivation crystal clear
“Make it crystal clear to yourself why you want to do things differently. How is your new behaviour going to help you? And what is the value of that? Changing your behaviour actually starts with your motivation. And if you don’t have enough motivation, your brain is going to pull you back to your old behaviour”, explains Nine. This means that you need to regularly remind yourself why you want this and how your resolution will benefit you.
3. Set realistic goals
Now it’s time to get to work on your resolutions. Nine: “At this point, it’s important that you don’t try to accomplish too much too fast. Start small and begin with a realistic goal.”
In other words: don’t go from never exercising to working out three times a week. Start with one evening. Keep this going for a while until it feels natural. At that point, you can adjust your goal upwards.
4. Take your time with your resolutions
We’ve said it already: integrating New Year’s resolutions into your life takes time. So, give yourself this time. “You need time to practice. To create new connections in your brain and to adopt new behaviours as habits,” Nine reveals.
Has it all gone wrong after a few days or weeks? Don’t give up. Remind yourself that you’re willing to put in the time and effort – that it’s totally normal for things to go awry for a while. You just need to pick back up where you left off.
5. Be kind to yourself
It might sound cliché, but be kind to yourself. If you judge yourself harshly every time you don’t succeed, it will quickly stop being fun.
“Remind yourself why you wanted to do this in the first place,” advises Gramberg. “Adjust your plan if necessary and start again.”
See these moments as an opportunity to show yourself how important this is to you. Changing your behaviour isn’t a linear process.
Tip: Have a chat about your resolutions with a psychologist. They will help you find the right approach to make your intentions come true and support you like a trainer on the sidelines.