I get it, I really do. One minute, it’s the end of an old, tired year, and in a matter of seconds, everything changes. We put a LOT of stock in the power of that final second but the fact is, there’s nothing magical going on. And somehow, this has led to people creating all kinds of excuses for dismissing and scoffing at New Year’s Resolutions.
Why People Dismiss New Year’s Resolutions
One guy blogged about why New Year’s Resolutions suck. I won’t repeat his words here, but I’ll address a few points:
First, it is precisely because people put so much energy into new beginnings that the new year is a good time to start a goal. People tend to start things at the beginning of a week, so why not at the beginning of a year? Especially long-term goals? (Keep reading and take note of the part below where I talk about the fresh-start effect, because I didn’t make it up.)
Second, I know how to set SMART goals (also SMARTER and SMARTEST goals) and do so on a regular basis, despite the insinuation that I must have never heard of the concept or am incapable of using Google to figure it out. Further, I’m pretty sure we all know we can’t make a long-term goal happen in a day or two.
Next, whether it’s a goal, a “life resolution” or a new year’s resolution, there will always be people who support you, and those who make it more difficult. There will be people who are serious about their goals, and those who are more serious about comfort, no matter what’s at stake. All true, but this has nothing to do with a new year.
Finally…oh. Just, wow! Okay, my personal success is very much about me, and of course my personal goals or resolutions focus on me, because it would be ludicrous to make them for anyone else. Yes, ideally, my success in one way or another can also indirectly benefit someone else. But Dear Reader, I promise I’ll never preach to you that your goals won’t “fill that massive void that exists in your heart and mind.” I’m not comfortable making those kinds of assumptions about my readers!
Well, his opinions are well and good, and I respect them as opinions. But we also have a few facts to consider.
What Science Says About New Year’s Resolutions
It’s true that most people (like around 90%) completely fail at New Year’s resolutions. This is because most people who make them don’t know about realistic goal setting.
It’s also because the fresh-start effect, which has us starting new things to coincide with temporal markers like Mondays or a new year, can measurably motivate behavior! These “fresh starts” have come right along with human evolution to hold amazing power of ritual. So there’s no magic, but there are thousands and thousands of years of habit marking a contrast between old and new, which is exactly the mindset a motivated resolution requires. That’s why so many people make resolutions, even if they aren’t prepared.
But wait, there’s more…
People who make New Year’s resolutions are ten times more likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t make them (Norcross, Mrykalo, & Blagys, 2002).
This might be because people who made resolutions scored better on self-efficacy, skills necessary for change, and readiness to change prior to the new year than those who didn’t. Those who made successful resolutions also thought about their actions more and their emotions less than those who were not successful.
So in the end, whether you call them resolutions or goals, the fact is that if you understand goal-setting, you’ve got a great shot at making real progress. If you’re resistant (or just happy making fun of people who make resolutions), it might mean you’re not ready for it yourself. But that’s no reason to be negative about the process.
There’s no bad time to start a new goal. It can be when you wake up on New Year’s Day, or it can be next Thursday in the mid-afternoon. And since there’s no bad time to start, that means if you want to make a new year’s resolution today – go for it! If you need any help to develop your goal or break it into actionable steps, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll be glad to help out!
In the meantime, if this post has given you something new to think about, please consider sharing it, or stop by Facebook to say hi and let me know how it’s going!
Norcross, J. C., Mrykalo, M. S., & Blagys, M. D. (2002). Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(4), 397-504. DOI: 10.1002/jclp.1151