We may be halfway through January, but it’s not too late to make a new year’s resolution.
“It’s human nature to set goals at the start of something new, making the start of the new year a popular time to set new goals and expectations for the year ahead,” says psychiatrist Dr Charles Herrick.
While much is made of making – or not making – new year’s resolutions, it hasn’t stopped some 16.1 million Australians from doing just that.
Self-improvement seems to be the overarching theme of 2021, according to a nationally representative survey.
More than half the adult population (51 per cent) want to lose weight gained during lockdown, with fitness and weight loss goals at the top of their new year’s resolution list.
More than one in three people (38 per cent) say they will eat better and two in five (42 per cent) want to be better with money by saving or reducing their spending.
It seems Aussies are eager to leave 2020 behind and make a fresh start.
“Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession, it’s been a tough year for all of us,” says personal finance specialist Taylor Blackburn.
“Whether it’s losing weight or getting on top of their savings, Aussies are ready to bounce back in 2021.”
It’s one thing to set goals but achieving them can be challenging and usually requires creating new habits and breaking old ones.
Old habits are hard to break.
According to Dr Herrick, there are many reasons people don’t stick to their resolutions, but they can largely be narrowed down to three issues.
“Difficulty breaking old habits, focusing on specific outcomes, and problems with purpose,” he says.
Mr Blackburn has his own thoughts.
“Most people ditch their resolutions early on because they haven’t created a plan, so it’s important to set clear goals and a timeline,” he says.
“Creating unrealistic expectations is setting yourself up for failure – make small changes to your daily habits instead.”
Top new year’s resolutions for 2021
|Improve fitness/lose weight||51 per cent|
|Save more money/spend less||42 per cent|
|Eat better||38 per cent|
|Travel/travel more||20 per cent|
|Get out of debt||14 per cent|
|Sleep more||13 per cent|
|Work less/have a work/life balance||11 per cent|
|Volunteer||8 per cent|
|Find love||8 per cent|
|Quit/reduce smoking||5 per cent|
|Quit/reduce drinking||4 per cent|
|Take more risks||3 per cent|
|Other||3 per cent|
Further research shows there is another way to succeed at sticking to your optimistic plans – rephrase your resolution.
Results of a study published in the American scientific journal PLOS ONE show how you formulate your resolution is of great importance to the final outcome.
Rephrasing your resolution from “I will quit/avoid” to “I will start to”, will give you better odds at achieving your goals.
The study analysed participants who formulated resolutions and were divided into three different groups, with each group receiving different amounts of support – no support at all, some support and extended support.
It seems support is of no consequence.
“It was found that the support given to the participants did not make much of a difference when it came down to how well participants kept their resolutions throughout the year. What surprised us were the results on how to phrase your resolution,” says Professor Per Carlbring, from Stockholm University.
Participants with an ‘approach goal’ – attempting a new habit or introducing something new in your life – had the highest rate of success.
Those with ‘avoidance goals’ – avoiding or quitting something – had lower success, revealing how rephrasing your resolution to an approach goal could increase your odds of success.
“In many cases, rephrasing your resolution could definitely work,” says Prof. Carlbring.
“For example, if your goal is to stop eating sweets in order to lose weight, you will most likely be more successful if you say, ‘I will eat fruit several times a day’ instead. You then replace sweets with something healthier, which probably means you will lose weight and also keep your resolution.
“You cannot erase a behaviour, but you can replace it with something else. Although, this might be harder to apply to the resolution ‘I will quit smoking’, which is something you might do 20 times a day.”
What’s your new year’s resolution? Or don’t you believe in making them? What do you think of the suggestions for sticking to set goals?
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