It may surprise you to learn that some 60 percent of us make New Year’s resolutions. The practice of committing to, and for many of us breaking, our January 1st resolutions has a rich history dating back over 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. They were the first culture to hold recorded celebrations in honour of the New Year, although, for the Babylonians, the New Year began in mid-March when the crops were planted and not in January. During the 12-day festivities, the Babylonians made promises to their pantheon of deities to pay debts and return borrowed objects. This was believed to keep them in good standing with the gods. Long considered to be a forerunner to our current custom of making New Year’s resolutions, no matter which country you call home, the practice of resolving to do and be better during the forthcoming year is universal.
Equally universal is our tendency to succumb to temptation and quickly slip back into our old habits. Numerous studies have shown that less than 25 percent of us will actually stay committed to our resolutions after just 30 days. This means that three out of four of us will have abandoned our quest for personal betterment before the first day of February. And for those who successfully get past this hurdle, less than 8 percent will actually fulfill their resolution before the next year rolls around. Surely we can do better?
Change How You Approach Your Resolutions
If you’re like most people, your resolutions centre on improving your health and finances. Roughly 55 percent of our New Year’s resolutions are related to health and fitness, with just under 20 percent tackling financial goals. Year after year, the top three New Year’s resolutions are eating healthier, getting more exercise and saving money. Losing weight, spending more time with family and friends and learning a new skill or hobby round out the top six personal improvements.
So what should you do differently to make 2020 your best year yet? For starters, forget about making resolutions and instead create goals. Resolutions are overly broad and lack definition, whereas goals are much more actionable. Let’s say one of your resolutions is to lose weight. Congratulations, you’ve made a commitment to improving your wellbeing. But where do you start? Losing weight requires planning and summons a host of questions that need to be answered. For example, how will you increase your physical activity? What strategy will you use to control food cravings? How will you stay motivated through the year ahead?
Setting SMART Goals
The act of creating goals necessitates that you clarify your intention, focus your efforts and use your time and resources productively to achieve what you want. To supercharge your goal setting, you should create SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. A SMART goal incorporates these five essential criteria to increase your chances of success.
SMART goals are:
Specific: Well defined and clear. Make use of real numbers and deadlines.
Measurable: You can easily measure your progress towards the completion of your goal.
Achievable: The goal is attainable. You want to select a goal that is challenging but also possible.
Realistic: Your goal should be realistic. Be honest with yourself, you know what you are capable of.
Timely: Your goal should have a clearly defined timeline, including a starting date and a target date.
Using the weight loss example above, a SMART goal would be: “I want to lose 15 pounds in the next 4 months. I will measure my weight on a scale to track my progress. I will exercise 6 days a week for no less than 30 minutes and follow the Mediterranean Diet, limiting my calories to 1,400 per day. Once I reach my goal, I will re-evaluate and consider setting a new target for continued weight loss.”
To make this goal even more actionable, you could define the type of physical activity you will engage in and what you will do should an unforeseen circumstance arise, for example, you become ill or the restaurant you’re at lacks a healthy, low-calorie alternative. Guided by this action plan, it becomes much easier to follow through and achieve your desired goal. And remember, when it comes to goal setting, less is more. For optimum results, limit your focus to two or three goals. Your chances of success will skyrocket as you will not become overwhelmed with making too many changes at once.
Is There An Easier Alternative?
If personal goal setting elicits feelings of boredom and disinterest, there’s another tool that personal change experts make use of: the power of small changes. The idea of small changes asks that you swap your ambitious New Year’s resolutions for small achievable improvements. With time, these bite-sized intentions can snowball into enduring behaviour change.
Let’s say your resolution is to eat healthier in 2020. Instead of overhauling your entire kitchen pantry and embracing the latest diet, you can create a list of healthy foods that you enjoy eating and post it in areas that you frequently look at. The fridge and around your computer screen would be ideal spots. Studies have shown that visual reminders can encourage us to make small changes to our daily routines, and over time, these changes can have profound effects on our health and well-being.
If you want to exercise more, leave your workout clothes and running shoes in a visible area. If getting more sleep is a priority, do some light reading, listen to a meditation, or write in a journal before you go to bed. This will help you wind down before bedtime and ensure that you fall asleep quicker. If you want to learn a new skill, set aside 5 minutes every day for the new task. As your new habit grows, gradually increase your scheduled time. This ensures that even the most time-crunched among us can still find the time to improve ourselves.
It is our hope that this post will help make 2020 your best year yet. May the New Year bring you and your loved ones happiness, peace and prosperity. From everyone at SolidTrust Pay, we would like to wish you a joyous year filled with much success!