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The Truth about New Year’s Resolutions

Whenever we get into a conversation about the New Year, sooner or later we will speak about whether it’s better to set or not to set New Year’s Resolutions. Some of us, who have a more Zen approach to life, prefer to take every day as it comes and let life surprise them with what it has in store for them. On the other hand, those who are performance oriented and like to measure and track their success, would always set very specific targets and New Year’s resolutions.

If we look at statistics, only 8% of the people manage to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions. You would think that is already quite a disheartening piece of information. So then, what’s best? To set or not to set New Year’s resolutions?

In reality the problem is not whether to do it or not, but rather how to do it. By setting resolutions on the occasion of the New Year, we limit the success of achieving them to a single day in the year and thus they are doomed to failure even before we started. That’s because the secret does not lie in setting the intention or in formulating a goal in the first place. Setting a resolution at the beginning of the year will not magically help achieve what we have not managed to achieve during the whole year that just ended. It rather comes down to our daily habits. In order to change them, we have to rewire our brain.

Scientist have shown, that our brain creates neural pathways that dictate how we take decisions. Trying to block these neural pathways by resisting an old habit, will only force us back into it and repeat it over and over again. Success is only reached when we create new neural pathways by consciously creating and following new habits. So before we give up achieving our New Year’s resolutions, we should keep on trying and failing, until we create the new neural pathways. It’s like learning to walk: it is normal that at the beginning we will fall most of the times; the first success will be to walk from the sofa to the table, then we will want to get even further to the kitchen and we will be falling a couple of more times before we do it, but with persistence eventually we will be able to get as far as we want.

Considering that and if you really want to make a difference in your life this year, do set New Year’s resolutions, but set them well. In order to do that, take the following points into account:

1. Keep them positive - for example say ‘finish my first 10km run’ instead of saying ‘lose weight’ (which can get you connected to a negative feeling you might be having around your body image)

2. Make them as specific as possible - saying for example ‘read more’ will not necessarily make you feel you achieved your resolution, even if you might read more; instead specify what ‘more’ means to you, ‘read 30 minutes per day’ or ‘read 1 book per month’

3. Instead of having 80 things you want to do differently, try to stick to your 1 to 3 most important things and focus on those

4. Create a plan splitting your main goals into subtasks - make sure you give enough time to planning it well, even if it might take until the next month (‘remove sugar from my diet’ subtask of ‘eat healthily’)

5. Start your subtasks one by one, giving them enough time - wanting to make a drastic change from one week to another will likely sabotage your success and will demotivate you from moving forward

6. Involve a friend - having somebody who can help you take accountability or encourage you to move forward when it gets difficult, or even better, who works on the same resolution, makes a tremendous difference in building the path towards success

7. Practice self-forgiveness - be realistic and accept from the beginning that there will be times when you will not follow through your action plan; the sooner you have forgiven yourself for that, the sooner you can recharge your energy and try again

8. Track your progress - tracking your progress in whichever way will build a rewarding and motivating momentum for you (whether it’s keeping a notebook next to your bed and writing your achievements down before you go to sleep or whether you use an app such as Grid Diary)

9. Make sure it’s meaningful to you, that you have a strong WHY - your chances of success are proportional to the level of importance this change has for you

10. Don’t expect immediate miraculous results - if it had been something easy and fast, you would have already achieved it by now.

Hopefully you have found these tips useful and I look forward to hearing from you about your first steps taken towards your New Year’s resolutions. And remember: you don’t need a new year to make a new resolution.

Happy New Year!

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