New year, same you: why aren't you sticking to your new year's resolutions?

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RomarioIen / iStock
Katie Boyle
Insights Learning and Development
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As another year comes to a close, many of us inevitably begin to reflect on the year gone by and set intentions for the year to come.

Survey data supports that there actually is more of us talking about self-improvement during this time of year. In fact, according to the results of a 2015 ComRes survey of British adults, approximately one-third of those polled make annual New Year resolutions.

Unfortunately though, the same survey also showed only one in eight British adults will successfully achieve their resolutions. It seems somehow the farther we get from January 1st, the farther we get from what we said we’d do and who we said we’d be.

But what is blocking the connection between the intentions we set in the New Year and the results we achieve?

A couple ideas come to mind:  

1. Negativity

American cognitive scientist Art Mackman says, “one of the real difficulties with the resolutions people make is that they’re negative resolutions.”  When we make resolutions that revolve around negative things like losing weight or stopping a “bad habit”, we are negating the person we are right now.

By focusing on what we are NOT, we are reinforcing our inner critic, eroding our self-esteem and inhibiting our belief that we can make positive change. Author Wayne Dyer says that instead of forcing change from a place of lacking, “change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”

2. Unrealistic Expectations

While it can be good to ‘shoot for the stars’, the trouble with having lofty ambitions is that there’s a long way from where you are now to where you want to be. If you haven’t given yourself incremental benchmarks, your morale could easily take a nose dive somewhere along the journey.

When you break your goals down into smaller, more achievable steps, you begin to build trust in yourself with each small win. In contrast, when your goals are too big and you slip up, it wears away your self-trust and self-esteem.

So, what can we do to head into 2017 with a mindset that supports the realisation of our goals?  

Awareness

To begin the process of improvement, you have to have a conscious awareness of who you are now. Without this, regardless of the development intentions you set, you won’t be able to know how you’re doing, let alone if you’ve achieved what you set out to do.

There are many ways to do this – exploring personal assessment tools and learning solutions, like Insights Discovery, can be a great first step to increasing your level of awareness.

Acceptance

After you have a base awareness of who you are, you are charged with the difficult step of accepting yourself. Most people skip this step, but accepting who you are is an essential step in making sustainable change because it builds your self-belief and self-esteem. Instead of working with the limiting belief that you are not good enough, when you accept yourself you operate from the belief that you are worthy and deserving.

The payoff for accepting yourself is that you are able to find the healthy balance between understanding your strengths and making conscious choices for developing your weaknesses. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung said, “we cannot change anything until we accept it.”

Action

Like anything worth doing, achieving your goals takes work and dedication. Without action, even the most well-crafted intentions will go stagnant. There aren’t secrets to make this step easier, but we can set our action up for success when we keep it rooted in awareness and acceptance.

Similarly, we are empowered to change our circumstances when we take consistent action to do so.  As writer Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in her latest book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear”, “it’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.”

It’s time to throw away the fantasies about being a ‘new you’ in the New Year. Instead, connect your good intentions with positive results by setting resolutions based in awareness, acceptance and action. Ultimately, by enhancing your understanding of yourself, accepting what you can and can’t change and setting incremental action plans for development you can head into the New Year with your best foot forward.

About Katiesarahboyle

About Katiesarahboyle

Katie Boyle is Insights’ Learning and Education Consultant, playing a key role in internal development as part of the Insights’ People Team.

She is a big advocate of individual and organisational well-being, and combines her role at Insights with her passion for teaching yoga. Her unique combination of skills in facilitation, coaching, Jungian psychology, yoga, and mindfulness enable her to create powerful development experiences – be it those in the workplace or on the yoga mat.

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11th Jan 2017 18:02

Great article, Katie - thanks.

Around 30 years ago, we began some research work here (at what was to become Developing Professionals International, but we didn't know it at the time!) which involved interviewing very successful people. We wanted to find out what made them tick.

The findings were manifold, but in particular we found they had developed strategies for rapidly installing "New Habits". And that - of course - is the trick of achieving personal change - we "just" have to make the new way habitual, because then it is EASY to follow through on our goals and resolutions.

Much water has passed under the bridge, but we now have a curriculum for helping people rapidly install new habits which effortlessly take them to where they want to be. We seek to spread this learning as widely as possible, as a 'not for profit' organisation, because we fundamentally believe these learnings should be available to all.

It amazes us that people are still struggling with the nonsense of 'New Years resolutions', and the like, which for reasons of simple psychology are almost bound to fail!

Thanks (1)