What a Year It Can Be…
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Finally lose the tummy. Be nicer to my siblings. Stop procrastinating. Complement one person a day. Learn how to play the guitar. Eat breakfast everyday. Stop drinking soda.
Each year, millions of Americans set out to achieve these New Year’s resolutions. And each year, millions of Americans do not end up following through with them. To the perpetual optimists, faced with the reality of another failed New Year’s goal, I am here to comfort you. You are not solely to blame–there is a cause to these failed commitments.
Even the name of this phenomenon is enough to shatter dreams: False Hope Syndrome. A report from Janet Polivy and C. Peter Herman from the University of Toronto explain this syndrome as behavior “characterized by unrealistic expectations about the likely speed, amount, ease, and consequences of self-change attempts.”
But this shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. How can one reasonably be expected to break a habit, or start a new one at the start of the year when they are unrealistic like Polivy and Herman mention?
Kirsti A. Dyer, M.D., of Columbia College also emphasizes the trap of False Hope Syndrome by setting unrealistic goals: “One of the main reasons is because the goals that they set are too vague or too unrealistic. Goals like wanting to quickly lose 50 pounds, paying off credit card debt in a month, exercising two hours a day or suddenly start eating healthy foods all of the time may be difficult for people to achieve.”
AVHS social studies teacher Brett Melton recognizes the need for a realistic goal and realistic actions: “[New Year’s resolutions] often fail since they rarely move beyond the step of proposal. That is, the resolution itself is nothing more than words with no action plan.” People need to really evaluate the action needed for the goal, not just the goal itself. Failing to consider the actions necessary can lead to many unrealistic resolutions.
Senior Devon Mittelstaedt has experienced an unrealistic New Year’s resolution fail: “After one month of cutting out processed foods and sugar from our diet, my mother and I started to change back to our previous eating habits. It just wasn’t realistic considering the amount of time that it takes to prepare these meals. It became draining and obvious to us that it probably wasn’t going to happen.”
Even beyond unrealistic goals, if your goal is to break a bad habit, good luck. A 2009 study revealed that it takes about 66 days for someone to break a bad habit. So if you are starting on January 1st, it would take you until March 7th to break that bad habit. But on the bright side, if it is a leap year, March 6th is your day to shine!
Considering 25% of people quit their goals after one week, and 50% fail after three months, many, if not most of us, won’t even make it the 66 days on average to break bad habits. And to even further dispel any hope, 66 days is average to break a bad habit–it could be even longer.
But enough of the bad stuff. There are many ways to ensure that this is finally the year you follow through on your resolution…and not be part of the 25% that quit after just ONE week!
The first and easiest way to increase your success is to be realistic. Chances are, if you are setting a New Year’s resolution, it has been something you have tried to change in the past and “this is the year I will finally achieve it.” If you have struggled with your specific goal in the past, it will not be easy. Instead of completely cutting your daily coffee out of your routine, try to take coffee out of your diet every other day. Instead of running everyday when you only run once a week now, shoot for three times a week.
Senior Ethan Elumba believes that instead of setting one large and more than likely unrealistic New Year’s resolution, it is more advantageous to try and tackle multiple smaller goals: “We start to lose focus and beat ourselves down along the way. Therefore, it’s better to set realistic goals…setting a few small goals is more efficient than one huge one.”
Make it meaningful
If there is no passion behind the goal, how will you keep the motivation alive? If it is something that you genuinely want to achieve, go for it. When you start to see progress, it will have so much more worth in the long-run if it is something that matters to you.
Junior Molly Moynihan provides great insight on the reason New Year’s resolutions need to be meaningful: “It’s a long year and the more thought put into it, the better chance you will be able to keep and accomplish it.”
There are going to be very difficult times. And probably a lot of them, especially over the course of a whole year. However, with a positive outlook, it can help you conquer these hard times. When you desperately want the Big Mac and its ever-so-beautiful sauce, a good attitude can help you opt for a salad. After All, you can choose to view the glass half-empty or half-full.
Senior Elise Jensen notes the importance of positivity when completing your New Year’s resolutions: “If you aren’t optimistic you won’t be motivated. Then if you aren’t motivated, nothing gets done; it’s a domino effect.”
Surround yourself with good people
The cheesy sayings that your mother always told you are true. If your friends aren’t supportive of your goals, you will begin to question things yourself. With positive and encouraging friends, they will help keep you on track and ready for the obstacles you may face with your resolution.
Senior Kylie Maxfield understands the need to surround yourself with good people to achieve your New Year’s resolutions: “You can only achieve as much as those around you will allow you to. That’s why you always have to have people around you who also want what is best for you.”
Acknowledge your progress
Many times, your biggest critic is yourself. If even you don’t reward yourself, you can feel alone. You know that the resolution is going to be difficult, and any progress is good progress. It is a goal, not a ‘must.’
Sophomore Montana Helling is an advocate for keeping progress of your goals: “It’s important to acknowledge your New Year’s resolution progress because within a week you could be back into your old habits. Recording your progress sounds like a good way of staying on track and for once being able to complete your New Year’s resolution.
Regardless of what happens, look forward to the New Year. 2017 is here. With that, there will be many failed resolutions, hopefully many successful resolutions, and major change. Embrace the transitions and all of the new opportunities that 2017 will bring.