New Year Resolutions: Hope Or Hype?

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New Year Resolutions: Hope Or Hype?

| Updated: December 30, 2023 15:52

While some people are still making New Year resolutions, others prefer to set short-term goals for themselves

There is something about the New Year. It brings a sense of hope, a feeling of resurgence and a quest for new beginnings. That’s probably why people make New Year resolutions. They seek to change old habits, don new hats and take on the coming year with positivity and optimism. 

But do New Year resolutions really work? Are they harbingers of hope and change or are they just trivial hype? Is making a resolution at the beginning of a year an effective strategy or a worthless practice? The answer seems to lie somewhere in-between.    

Dr Carlos Alos-Ferrer, an expert in human decision-making, writes in Psychology Today that New Year resolutions are goals, and motivation psychology shows that goals alone do not work well. The problem is that the more impulsive, short-term-oriented part of the brain, the one that sustains habits and takes over day-to-day actions, thwarts long-term goal making, he explains. 

However, there are two ways to make resolutions work, according to Dr Alos-Ferrer. One, to have SMART goals where SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Related. Two, to set ‘action triggers’ for ourselves. For instance, when we order a burger, we immediately think of buying a salad too to make the meal healthier. Another example of an action trigger is when we find ourselves getting angry, we change the topic (it can be discussed when we feel calmer).  

Top five resolutions 

What are the most common New Year resolutions people make? An October 2023 survey from Forbes Health/One Poll of US individuals has revealed that the top five resolutions made are improved fitness (48 per cent), improved finances (38 per cent), better mental health (36 per cent), weight loss (34 per cent) and healthier diet (32 per cent). Participants in the poll could select more than one resolution.  

Among the other resolutions were – make more time for loved ones (25 per cent), stop smoking (12 per cent), learn a new skill (9 per cent) and improve work-life balance (7 per cent). 

When asked how many resolutions they are planning on making for 2024, 45.5 per cent of the participants said three, while 19.5 per cent said two.  The poll found that 22 per cent of the respondents generally stick to their goals for three months and 13 per pent last four months. 

We spoke to five Amdavadis about what they think of New Year resolutions and how to stick to them…   

Commitment to self

Parasharan Chari

Parasharan Chari, an entrepreneur in the pharma sector, says: “Every New Year is a milestone. That’s why it’s a good time to make resolutions. I think resolutions are very important. A resolution is basically a commitment you make to yourself after assessing what matters to you and to your happiness. I have made financial, organisational, health and spiritual resolutions over the years. At the end of the year, I analyse where I stand in terms of these goals.”  

“The best ways to keep resolutions are to set goals that you can achieve slowly in a stress-free manner. Making resolutions should not be pressure driven. Vague aspirational goals usually do not work. Goals have to be tied to your day-to-day activities. For instance, I wanted to spend time with my daughter. Till I got into the routine of reading her a story and tucking her into bed, I could not achieve the goal,” elaborates Chari.  

Not just hype

Love Joshi

Love Joshi is a certified mindfulness meditation trainer and energy healing therapist.I do not think New Year resolutions are just hype. Many people believe in making resolutions at the beginning of the year and are committed to sticking to them. American writer James Clear has said in the book ‘Atomic Habits’ that you should start small but remain consistent. For instance, if you want to start doing meditation, begin with five minutes and continue this for one week,” says Joshi.  

“I tell people to make a resolution for 21 days first till it becomes a habit. Next, they should continue for 90 days till the habit becomes part of their lifestyle. Keep a long-term vision but break it up into small, achievable goals. And, reward yourself for sticking to a resolution. If you can’t implement a resolution, try and understand why you failed. But don’t beat yourself up for faltering. Just start again the next day,” he advises.   

Regular reminder 

Indu Capoor

Nutritionist and founder of the NGO CHETNA, Indu Capoor, says: “It’s important to make New Year resolutions as a means of goal-setting. At the end of the year, you should know what you have done and not done during the year. Write down your resolution and keep it where it is visible to you most of the day. It has to be a regular reminder,” she says. For instance, one could pin it to a soft board near the work table. Or fix it with a magnet to the fridge. 

“Other ways of sticking to a resolution are sharing it with a friend or family member and making a trusted person your accountability partner. This is of critical importance. Seeking help and support will make the resolution easier to keep. Again, it is important to be specific and plan how to implement a goal. For instance, if the resolution is to go on a healthy diet, you need to be specific about how much oil you can consume in a day, avoid potatoes and curb eating out,” says Indu.

Social convention

Nandu A. Kumar

Finance professional Nandu A. Kumar is of the view that New Year resolutions may or may not work. “They are a social convention. Person may be motivated to make a resolution because friends are doing so. However, after February or March, many individuals are not able to stick to their resolutions. That’s why I started making resolutions whenever I thought I needed to do so and not during the New Year,” he says.

“As far as sticking to a resolution is considered, the first factor is to keep your goals realistic. For instance, a weight loss target should be achievable to motivate a person to go on. Two, there should be frequent reviews to see where you stand. Three, if you are working on an avoidance goal – say, planning to curb ordering food you could gradually taper it off rather than stop suddenly. Four, plan how you are going to implement the resolution,” says Nandu.  

Short-term goals

Parita Shah

Ahmedabad-based management professional Parita Shah, has stopped keeping New Year resolutions. “I realised I do not stick to my plans. Surprises mess up the goals. At times, work-related priorities and family obligations come in the way of long-term resolutions. I have not found the discipline or persistence to implement long-term goals. Also, long-term aspirational goals are difficult to keep as they may not be too realistic,” says Parita.

“On the other hand, I find it more useful to set myself short-term goals. I find them easier to achieve. The shorter the goal, the easier it is to implement it. For instance, I am likely to succeed if I set myself the goal to go to the gym regularly for the next three months – a period which is more predictable than a year,” she explains.  

Tips to stick to your resolutions

  • Choose one or two resolutions 
  • Keep them very specific 
  • Plan in advance how to implement them
  • Track your progress regularly 
  • Start small so that you can achieve what you are aiming for and feel motivated to continue
  • Get an accountability partner for support
  • Be patient as it takes time to form new habits
  • Link one new habit to another (for instance, going for a morning walk followed by a glass of juice)   
  • Use self-talk to motivate yourself 
  • View lapses as learning opportunities 
  • Reward yourself with something that doesn’t conflict with your goal 
  • Don’t get stressed about your resolutions 

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