13 Short Steps to Setting Resolutions that Stick

January 18th, 2021 | Posted in Info

If you’ve read New Year’s Resolutions for the Greater Good you’ll understand the benefits of setting goals that benefit others as well as the self. Here we’ll look at simple strategies for changing habits in a lasting way. See also blog post 13 Positive Dietary Resolutions for ideas for focusing on nurturing, rather than punishing, resolutions.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Resolutions

One of the reasons why most people don’t succeed at their New Year’s Resolutions is because they are the result of external pressure; from family, friends, society and the media rather than one’s own intrinsic values. You may value health and vitality but we live in a society that celebrates thinness – these are two different things. Pursuing freely chosen goals that are internally motivated enhances well-being. Goals that are externally motivated are associated with psychological distress and are less likely to be achieved. Examples of external motivation include doing something because it might please someone else, or to avoid shame or guilt that may arise if you don’t.

How to Discover What You Care About

The New Year provides an opportunity for reflection and growth. Take time to reflect on your life, your past, present and future. Think about the things that have been meaningful to you and what matters to you. Think about what you would like to change. Be open to that inner voice. What do you keep coming back to? What choices and possibilities are there for you. Which of your excuses are valid and which are just excuses.

Most of us in the western world have a reasonable amount of control over our lives and can make changes that improve our lives, as well as those of others.
Reflect on your Values and What Brings you Joy

  • Reflect on the year just passed. 2020 brought lockdowns, isolation, grief and job losses. Whilst these are, without doubt, difficult, and sometimes tragic things to bear, personal growth can stem from such experiences. Surviving difficult times can build personal and community resilience, lead to a greater appreciation for life and a deeper level of self-awareness.
  • Reflect on your values and set resolutions that honour these. You may value health and being able to live independently, in which case setting a health based resolution is more likely to endure than if you are doing it because you want to fit into a particular pair of jeans.
  • Many goals do not make people happy even if they are achieved. For example being richer usually means working harder and longer and spending less time with friends and family. Being thinner may mean there are things you can no longer enjoy for fear of gaining weight. Achieving a goal should bring joy and satisfaction not fear and disconnection.

13 Short Steps to Setting Resolutions that Stick

1. Match your resolutions to your deeper values – this will keep you motivated and is likely to lead to increased personal well-being.

2. Set resolutions you want to pursue, rather than those you think you should

3. Identify and imagine your desired positive outcome – visualise what you want to achieve.

4. Set new resolutions – if you want to pursue a resolution from a previous year spin it in a different way.

5. Be realistic – this will increase your risk of success and enjoyment.

6. Be specific and plan – set goals that are clearly defined and achievable. Factor in time, place and people. These each provide mental cues that trigger behaviour needed to stick to our goals. Being specific and well planned is less mentally taxing and time consuming than vague plans that require further thinking.

7. Make achieving your goal enjoyable. For example, arrange to go for a walk with a friend each day or share recipes with friends who are also trying to eat more healthily.

8. Include another person – this may be someone with similar goals to yours or it could be someone you are inspired by who you can report your progress to each week. This creates a greater sense of responsibility and accountability.

9. Break it down into small, achievable steps – work out what the steps are that will lead to success.

10. Reward small gains along the way – this makes it enjoyable and helps to stay motivated.

11. Be flexible – adapting resolutions to the changing situation is positively associated with mental well-being and a greater chance of sticking with it.

12. Be kind to yourself – there are likely to be set backs and lapses. When these happen treat yourself with compassion..

13. Learn from your experience – examine what went well and what didn’t. Learn from your set-backs and from your successes. Get to know what works for you and what doesn’t. Then adjust your strategy taking into account your greater self-awareness.