Re­solve to make res­o­lu­tions any­way

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Ready or not, 2017 is com­ing — and soon. But you still have time to make your New Year’s res­o­lu­tions.

Why even bother, you might ask, when such a small per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans are suc­cess­ful in achiev­ing their goals?

Here’s why: Be­cause be­hav­ioral ex­perts say the very act of mak­ing res­o­lu­tions — say­ing them out loud and mak­ing your­self ac­count­able — im­proves your odds.

Peo­ple who ex­plic­itly make res­o­lu­tions are 10 times more likely to at­tain their goals than peo­ple who don’t ex­plic­itly make res­o­lu­tions. That’s from a study by the Univer­sity of Scran­ton and the Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal Psy­chol­ogy, and it’s doubt­ful that too many folks know more about New Year’s res­o­lu­tions than the sci­en­tists at the Penn­syl­va­nia school. They’ve been study­ing that spe­cific sub­ject for years.

Never mind that only 8 per­cent say they were com­pletely suc­cess­ful in achiev­ing their goals. A much larger 49 per­cent have “in­fre­quent suc­cess,” ac­cord­ing to that univer­sity study.

If you re­solve to re­solve, you still have a cou­ple of days to join the 45 per­cent of Amer­i­cans who usu­ally set goals. Only 17 per­cent re­solve in­fre­quently, while 38 per­cent say they ab­so­lutely never re­solve at New Year’s.

Think twice be­fore you re­ject the whole no­tion of re­solv­ing out of hand. You may do bet­ter than you think.

Get­ting through that first week should be a slam dunk — 75 per­cent get it done. When you get past one month, it dips to 64 per­cent, and past six months, it drops to 46 per­cent. It seems one of the keys is sus­tain­ing the mo­men­tum un­til the Fourth of July.

But don’t be daunted by num­bers. Lots of help is avail­able from a mul­ti­tude of agen­cies, in­clud­ing some ad­vice from the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health. Here’s an im­por­tant point from NIH sci­en­tist Linda Ne­bling. “One chal­lenge with New Year’s res­o­lu­tions is that peo­ple of­ten set un­re­al­is­tic goals,” she says. “They can quickly be­come frus­trated and give up. Any resolution for change needs to in­clude small goals that are de­fin­able and ac­com­pa­nied by a solid plan on how you’ll get to that goal.”

Los­ing weight was the top resolution for 2016 (as al­ways), Scran­ton sci­en­tists say, and Ne­bling has some ad­vice about that:

“A resolution to lose 30 pounds may seem over­whelm­ing,” she says. “In­stead, try set­ting smaller goals of los­ing 5 pounds a month for six months. Think baby steps rather than gi­ant leaps.”

Self-im­prove­ment (in­clud­ing quit­ting smok­ing) or ed­u­ca­tion-re­lated res­o­lu­tions topped the most re­cent list, with 38 per­cent. Fol­low­ing those were vows to im­prove money man­age­ment (34 per­cent) and re­la­tion­ships (31 per­cent). You’ll note that per­cent­ages add up to more than 100 per­cent be­cause some folks signed on for more than one resolution. That’s the spirit.

And the ex­perts say that younger peo­ple do bet­ter with stick­ing to New Year’s res­o­lu­tions than their el­ders. A rel­a­tively im­pres­sive 39 per­cent of peo­ple in their 20s achieve their res­o­lu­tions each year — but only 14 per­cent of those older than 50 suc­ceed, re­searchers found. Ap­par­ently, old habits die hard.

“Fast away the old year passes,” we’re told in a verse of the clas­sic Christ­mas carol “Deck the Halls.” But there’s still time to take stock and make prom­ises to your­self for 2017 — prom­ises that right here, right now, you have ev­ery in­ten­tion of keep­ing.

Re­mem­ber the en­cour­ag­ing word from the univer­sity re­searchers from Scran­ton, that the very act of mak­ing res­o­lu­tions im­proves your odds of liv­ing up to them.

Or as Al­fred, Lord Ten­nyson might have said in such a spot: ‘Tis bet­ter to have re­solved and lost than never to have re­solved at all.

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