Resolutions. One of the most popular words at the beginning of each year, right along with
‘Happy New Year’. But are they worth it? A new year carries with it the idea of a clean slate, a fresh start. You’re already familiar with the cliché ‘New year, new me’. However, there’s nothing magical about January 1 st . You can’t just press a button for things to automatically change. Successfully keeping resolutions requires deliberate action coupled with a solid plan.

According to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, only 8% of Americans succeed in keeping resolutions. I aver that the situation isn’t all that different for us in Kenya. Why is this so? The euphoria that results from the ‘out with the old, in with the new’ attitude at the start of the year is a big factor. People get carried away with excitement and set resolutions without thinking them through. They think that the high they have then will carry them through the year. However, by the second or third week of January reality sets in. They realize that hard work is needed. They weren’t mentally prepared for that.

Along with euphoria, people set very ambitious resolutions. Once the exhilaration wears off, they battle with changing their habits in a short time. Frustration sets in when they fail since it takes long to change a habit. Lifestyle changes are better when done in small, incremental steps. As Dr. Roberta Anding from Baylor College of Medicine says, “January 1 signifies a new beginning. However, each day allows for a new beginning, and hence it is a reset.” Instead of heaping so much on yourself at once, tackle your ambitions daily in bite-sized pieces.

Goals on the other hand, are usually laid out in a sober state of mind. The goal-setter is
cognizant of the hard work and deliberate action needed for success to be achieved. They are therefore armed with mental stamina to carry them through the days when they don’t feel like doing anything. True commitment to goals is tested when challenges arise. For example, a goal setter is likely to stick to their morning exercise routine on a rainy day as compared to a resolution setter, because they aren’t guided by feelings.

In contrast to resolutions, goals are personalized. They aren’t set in the ‘everyone is doing it’ frame of mind. A goal-setter analyses their life situations and decides which direction is best for that time. It has been my view for a long time that this makes more sense. Don’t decide you’ll go on a diet in the New Year because it’s popular. That may not be what you need now (metabolic needs, etc) and what is the motive for you doing it anyway? It’s easier to fall off the bandwagon when you have no clear goal.

Thinking of changing your life this year? You’re more likely to succeed by choosing the goals route. Make your targets clear, personalized, ambitious but not out of reach and work with someone you trust. Choose a ‘goals buddy’ whom you know will keep you accountable. Write your goals on a sticky note and place them strategically on your mirror, front door, or wherever you’ll see them often. All the best in the new year, and ferociously pursue those goals!


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