New Year’s Resolutions for the Greater Good
There’s a lot of pressure in January to resolve to be a better person. The excesses of the festive season are over and it’s time to get serious about who and what we really want to be. We resolve to eat better, exercise more, meditate daily and get to bed earlier. However, studies suggest that a high percentage of people’s resolutions have lapsed within a month. Often we set the same or similar goals year after year.
But not all resolutions fail. Research suggests that January is the best time of year for fresh starts. Here we will look at how setting goals that improve things for others and that go beyond our immediate circles can do more for well-being than setting goals that are entirely self-focussed.
It’s What you Give
When people are set on giving to others they experience deeper satisfaction than when their goals are more self-centred. Doing something that benefits others, even when you will never meet the beneficiary, increases positive mood and energy.
Think Global, Act Local
A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that happiness increases as one’s focus of concern gets wider. They found that those who are disengaged from relationships and health are less happy than those who are concerned with their family, their relationships and their wider community. Further still, those with concern for the wider world beyond their own community, as well as their own interpersonal relationships, are likely to experience the greatest well-being (1).
Why Helping Others Improves Our Lives
It’s clear that Intentions that aim to help others tend to increase one’s own well being. Self-Determination Theory provides a framework for the study of human motivation and personality. Scientists working in this field believe that willingly helping others satisfies all three of the basic psychological human needs identified in their research (2):
1. The need for autonomy – meaning you engage in activities that you choose and that you value.
2. The need for competence – means feeling effective and having a sense of accomplishment.
3. The need for relatedness – means working with and feeling connected to others.
So, if you want to make a New Year’s resolution that improves your well being think about the ways in which your talents, skills or experience can contribute to the world. You’ll be more likely to succeed and the benefits could be wide reaching.
1. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. A configurational approach to aspirations: The social breadth of aspiration profiles predicts well-being over and above the intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations that comprise the profiles. Bradshaw E et al.
2. Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Self Determination Theory. June 2017. Legault L.