Resolve to make resolutions anyway
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.