Making New Year’s resolutions almost never works.

At this point in 2023, many of us are wondering, as is customary at this time, what is happening with those commendable New Year’s resolutions that we set ourselves in the midst of the rush of the Christmas holidays.

Driven by a binge of optimism—or, if you prefer, by an overdose of dopamine—when the new year began, we projected in our minds the image of the person we would be from now on. A more organized one, with more time to enjoy family, hobbies. One that practices healthier habits, focused on those goals to which we aspire.

Perhaps the first conflict we faced was: do I start on day one or wait for the Three Kings to pass? It doesn’t matter, we were strong enough to overcome any temptation set by the calendar. Our goals are not short-sighted, but embody authentic changes to shape the new and improved “me” that we so desire. We know that we will have to face many obstacles along the way, but nothing can stop us!

However, a month later, some of us have already abandoned the diet, we continue to call our parents for only ten minutes a day to fulfill our obligation, we do not separate plastic and paper from the rest of the rubbish, and we only go to the gym to do tuition payment. In the worst cases, frustration at the inability to commit to our own goals is giving us a “rebound effect.”

What leads us to fail in the attempt year after year? The answer is obvious: we shipwrecked because of bad planning. Good intentions, the will, are not enough in any case. It is not enough to be clear about the “what”, you also have to work hard on the “when”, the “how” and, most importantly, the “why”.

The return from the holidays is a problematic date

One of the main mistakes we make is setting a problematic date to start the change. The time to return to routine, to obligations, to the vertiginous rhythm of everyday life, after a vacation period characterized by relaxation and joy, is perhaps not the most propitious to introduce novelties, since it constitutes a change in itself. same —also, quite stressful. This is valid both for those who make New Year’s resolutions and for those who do so at the beginning of the school year, after the summer break.

It is preferable to gradually recover the agendas and gradually introduce small variations. Which brings us directly to the “how”: there is no point in going after all the targets at the same time. This can make us feel overwhelmed. At most, the moment we fail to achieve one of them, the balloon of illusion will burst, our strength will diminish, and the other New Year’s resolutions will begin to fall one after another like dominoes.

Photo Ketut Subiyanto

Focusing energy on more attainable goals, instead of making lots of New Year’s resolutions

If we want to make a big change, it is better not to be in a hurry! Lasting hits are simmering. We will have more guarantees if we begin by concentrating all our energies on one of the chosen purposes: for example, the most affordable.

Once it is delimited, it is important to visualize different ways to achieve our objective. We know that there are many roads to reach the same destination, but some of them are treacherous. We must avoid solutions that promise immediate results. I think of the strict training routines for people who have never played sports or the lightning diets to lose ten kilos a week.

Excessive repetition or disproportionate demands can lead to a breach between expectations and results. Returning to the previous examples, diet or training plans to obtain immediate effects —it is known to all— are extremely monotonous and demanding. Both monotony and excessive demand will make us prey to boredom; the one from lack of stimulus, the other from overabundance.

Feet on the ground

Boredom will make us feel an irrepressible desire to abandon our New Year’s resolutions forever. In order not to reach these extremes, it is necessary to design a varied action plan adapted to our capacities and resources. It’s okay to set yourself new challenges, but it goes without saying that our best ally on this journey is to have our feet on the ground.

Let’s be realistic. We would all like to learn English in a month with one of those intensive courses that promise miracles in four weeks. But perhaps it is more convenient to combine an academy a couple of times a week for a long period of time with immersion activities, watching series in the original version and occasional exchanges with natives.

The last key to not giving up right away is to be very clear about why we want to change aspects of our lives or of ourselves. We are beings in constant transformation that not only need to be on the move to avoid stagnation that hates the so-called “comfort zone”, but also yearns for improvement.

Our steps must be guided at all times by a strong intrinsic motivation. Keeping in mind on the horizon the reason why we have made the decision to change something in our daily lives and never losing sight of it is the final trick. We must constantly promote it by celebrating —above all— small victories.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. read the original.

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