Statistically speaking, the vast majority of the pledges made at New Year will now lie in tatters. But improving oneself is not an endeavour that should be restricted to January – it’s something that should be constantly attempted throughout the year. It’s therefore worth reviewing our new year’s resolutions, and trying to work out just what made them fail – that way, we’ll be able to renew them and put them right.
Naturally, one of the major reasons that attempts at New Year’s resolution fail is through a lack of will. After all, New Year’s resolutions always involve a cost of some sort, otherwise we wouldn’t need to resolve to do them – we’d already have done them. No-one resolves, for example, to eat more of one’s favourite food.
If you’re looking to lose weight, then you might do the exact opposite, and resolve to eat less of it – or perhaps you might resolve to do more exercise. Both actions involve an act of will – you’ll have to fight a strong urge not to do the thing you said that you’d do. And keeping up that will for a length of time can be exhausting.
There exist some people who have stupendous willpower, and can walk over hot coals and complete ten marathons in a week. If you’re reading this, then the chances are that you’re not one of those people. Fortunately, willpower is something that you can improve over time – studies have suggested that it’s analogous to a muscle, which will strengthen after repeated use, and will be exhausted if overexerted.
Many over-optimistic New Year’s Resolutions fall flat as a result of willpower depletion. And this, perhaps, can be blamed on a lack of realism. Which brings us to our next point.
If you’re learning to play a musical instrument from scratch, even stringing together something mildly pleasant to listen to might take many months of practice – particularly if you’re an adult learner. It would be wonderful if we could all learn to play the violin like Paganini in a matter of weeks – but that something would be wonderful if it were possible does not make it so.
Naturally, this means that you’ll need to be patient. But it also means that you should set yourself a realistic goal to work towards. If you’ve been overly ambitious with your resolution – perhaps you’ve decided that you’ll lose weight at a rate of more than a few pounds a week – then your failure will cause your will to break, and your resolution will be abandoned.
No goals at all
Another problem lies in a lack of goals. If there’s no endgame for your resolution, or point at which all of that hard work will be put to use, then you’ll struggle to motivate yourself.
If you’re starting to have doubts about your resolution, perhaps whilst you’re starting to tire on the treadmill, or while you’re getting bored of practicing scales on your piano, then the idea of a final reward on the horizon might prove a powerful motivator. Particularly if that reward comes in the form of a test for which you must prepare.
If the test is a public one, then so much the better – the prospect of humiliating failure can be just as powerful an incentive as the prospect of a glorious victory. If you’re looking for such a test, then you might consider signing up for one of the many UK charity challenges. For example, you might pledge to cycle London to Paris in four days. Not only will you raise money for a worthy cause in the process – but the idea of failure will be enough to keep you peddling.
Not enough checkpoints along the way
It’s a long-established fact of psychology that an enormous task is much more manageable when it’s broken down into smaller ones. If you’ve decided to lose a given amount of weight in a year, then break that amount of weight down into weekly instalments – that way you’ll be able to keep track of your progress. It might be that your goal is just slightly too ambitious or conservative – in which case you’ll be able to tweak it to get the maximum benefit. The feeling you’ll get when those weekly checkpoints fall, one by one, will provide a powerful morale boost – and the impetus to continue with your endeavour.
So, if you’ve fallen off the wagon with your New Year’s resolutions, then don’t despair – with a few small changes, and a healthy dose of willpower, you’ll be able to get back on top of them.