Ailts: Don’t give up on your New Year’s resolution just yet

If you want to change your behavior, first change your mindset.

by Ellen Ailts

As we all begin to settle into 2018, the excitement and determination we have to stick to our New Year’s resolutions can wane. If you’re struggling, you’re not alone — 80 percent of people give up on their resolutions before the second week of February. The most popular resolutions include losing weight, exercising more and quitting smoking, but changing our behavior can be frustrating, especially if it’s a habit we’ve lived with for a while, or one that has helped us cope with hardship in the past. 

The arrival of the New Year might inspire hope in some, yet in others it might bring about feelings of stress or self-criticism. It’s a reminder that time is passing, whether we’re taking advantage of it or not, and we’ve perhaps made less progress in moving toward our imagined ideal self than we’d like. But passing a benchmark in time gives a sense of a fresh start, and we can capitalize on that feeling by reflecting on the gap between where we are and where we want to be. 

New Year’s resolutions might be written off by some, with only about half of all adults partaking in the tradition. Still, setting goals and taking concrete steps to achieve them is crucial to self-growth, whether you frame it as a New Year’s resolution or just a personal goal. The way we frame our resolutions in our minds is crucial to whether we’ll achieve them; overthinking what we should do only makes that thing seem way more daunting, and breeds guilt and shame in the moments when we slip up. Instead, framing it as something you will do, or even get to do, creates possibility for empowerment and focus. Another reason people don’t see their resolutions through is “false hope syndrome,” which is characterized by unrealistic expectations about how easily or quickly they’ll be able to change a behavior.This might lead to a sprawling list of resolutions, all of which are too vague and lofty to realistically achieve. For example, if you say you want to lose 20 pounds or get an A in your hardest class but don’t have a defined strategy or plan of action to make that happen, it’s less likely you’ll be able to. The key to keeping resolutions is to be realistic. Take things one step at a time and reward yourself along the way. Cutting out bad habits cold turkey only serves to make things a lot more difficult.

Focusing on changing your character and your mindset is a worthy goal, no matter what time of the year. Instead of resolving to change something superficial, like “lose x pounds,” focus on the root of the problem, whether it be bad habits with time management, avoiding your fears, a lack of self-confidence, etc. Instead of beating yourself up for your shortcomings, focus on self-care and self-love, and frame your goals around changing not because you don’t like yourself but because you know you deserve better. In truth, we shouldn’t take our resolutions so personally. They should be used as a tool, a goal that inspires us to be mindful of our behavior — there’s no reason we should expect overnight changes, or changes that will receive external validation. Be patient with yourself, and do it for you.