Perhaps the best time to join a gym, Crossfit group, yoga studio or book club is not the month of January. As many look to the future of ‘self-improvement’ a la the New Year’s resolution, those with timely intentions will find these places less occupied in the month of December.
Ahhhh, the thought of a new year, new beginning and new you. The romanticism of it all as one reflects on the year left behind and embraces the possibility of the one that lies ahead.
Research shows that 45 to 50 percent of Americans subscribe to the act of New Year’s resolutions. Nielsen reported stay fit and healthy (37 percent); lose weight (32 percent) and enjoy life to the fullest (28 percent) as the top three of the 2015 year. Just three percentage points short of tying for third was equally popular, spend less, save more (25 percent).
The Journal of Clinical Psychology hosted a study which offers good news and bad news in the way of resolutions. The good news is that those who maintain the resolution tradition are 10 times more likely to change their behavior. The bad news is short term urges can present roadblocks to success. The study reports that 54 percent give up within six months and only eight percent succeed.
With such staggering statistics, what prompts a person to return to said tradition year after year? And what strategy can one employ to ensure success?
Peter Bregman, writing in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network states, “When we set goals, we’re taught to make them specific and measurable and time-bound. But it turns out that those characteristics are precisely the reasons goals can backfire.
“A specific, measureable, time-bound goal drives behavior that’s narrowly focused and often leads to either cheating or myopia,” he continued. “Yes, we often reach the goal, but at what cost?”
Bregman believes creating an area of focus rather than goals breed greater overall success.
“An area of focus taps into motivation,” Bregman stated, “offers no incentive to cheat and encourages reducing corrosive competition.”
As one attempts to employ focus versus attempt a goal, Psychology Today offers a few basic tips. First identify one resolution rather than several and identify a measurable goal (for example: losing weight versus lose 20 pounds by May). Start now, if it is something which one truly feels committed to, don’t wait until the magic clock strikes midnight, make it a year-long process which starts on your calendar. Celebrate and reward yourself for the small victories. Mark milestones with something special to keep you motivated. Keep your focus on new behaviors and thought patterns. Lastly become mindful, physically, emotionally and mentally aware of your internal dialogue as external events create challenge.
Mostly don’t become too rigid or serious, keep it light and fun. A slip or setback is bound to happen as one works at breaking or creating new habits. Setbacks do not define the overall success of one determined to create a new focus.
“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.” – Henry Ford.