Rethink Your New Year’s Resolutions 

January 5, 2023

The beginning of the new year marks a time that many people want to make changes through new year’s resolutions. However, it can be really difficult for us to create and maintain new habits, even if they are meant to be positive. We are more likely to be successful at achieving our resolutions if we adjust our mindset towards them.  

Psychologist Elliot Berkman, PhD, from the University of Oregon studies motivational and cognitive factors that contribute to the success and failure of goals. His research has revealed a lot of insight into what makes new habits stick and what makes goals successful. 

Here are three tips Berkman suggests that can help us rethink our new year’s resolutions: 

Ask Yourself “Why” 

It may help to reevaluate your “why” or reasoning behind your resolutions. Sometimes we may make our resolutions and skip this step. Not really stopping to consider exactly why we want to accomplish what we set out to do. Take some time to pause and think it through. The answer behind why we set certain resolutions can give us a better understanding about who we are and what motivates us. Knowing our “why” can reveal things. Other things we aspire to accomplish too, that we may not have previously considered.  

Make Values-Based Resolutions 

Resolutions that are rooted in our values tend to be much more motivating for us. Berkman explains how we are more likely to enact goal-directed behaviors if they are tied to our identity and our values. We have to want to create new habits and goals for ourselves in order for us to take actions towards them. If our goals matter to us and are tied back to what we find purposeful, we will be more motivated to achieve them.  

For example, the thought of implementing an exercise routine may not be necessarily valuable to you. But if you have a core value of family and are motivated to be in good health for them, you’re more likely to be driven to keep a resolution tied to exercising.  

Start Small 

Trying to make a big change all at once can be overwhelming. We’re much more likely to abandon our goals if they are not SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. SMART goals are more effective because they allow us to break up larger goals into manageable smaller goals, that are more easily digestible. 

Starting small may also mean that we may need to limit the number of resolutions we set and only take on one new thing at a time. It’s great if there are many areas of our lives where we are seeking positive change. However, it may become overwhelming if we try to make many self-improvements all at once, thus spreading ourselves too thin. It’s perfectly okay to choose just one goal at a time to focus on. Remember to listen to yourself and pay attention to what feels motivating versus what feels more like a burden. Though it may not always seem like it, even the smallest of changes can make a big difference. We can work towards our goals one small step at a time. 

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