It's the New Year! You may have taken some time to see what you have achieved so far, and thinking about setting some new year resolutions. But what if you were told that you shouldn’t be setting new year resolutions? Read on to know why you’ll be better off without it.
Historically, the tradition of making new year resolutions had religious origins and was started by the ancient Babylonians. They were also the first people who held celebrations for new year. At the start of each year, they would make promises to their gods.
A similar tradition was also practiced by the Romans after the emperor Julius Caesar created the calendar and established January 1 as the beginning of the new year circa 46 B.C. The Romans began each year by making promises to their god Janus, which is where the word January is said to have derived from.
Now that you have some insights on the history, let’s discuss why you should pass on setting new year resolutions.
You could be setting yourself up for failure
Think about it, most of new year resolutions are set in an absolute manner, which is basically setting yourself up for failure. For example, “Go to the gym 3 times every week”. Let’s be real, that’s not always going to happen. First, you won’t feel like going to the gym 3 times a week for the whole year. Then, at some point during the year, you may be travelling, or be down with the flu. Which is why resolutions tend to fail most of the time, and worse, leave the person feeling demotivated.
It is usually framed negatively
Most new year resolutions does not get you excited or fill you with passion. For example, it is very unlikely that a person actually feels passionate about quitting smoking, or losing weight. Often people try to change themselves and their behaviour from a place of "I want to stop…." e.g. eating so much, or smoking. The motivation is usually coming from fear or negative feelings such as, “I won't be attractive if I gain more weight”.
While fear can work for motivation in the short term, motivated change is not likely to be permanent. Negatively framed goals also tend to lead to self-criticism if the undesired behaviour comes back. This is because it can cause an individual to feel demotivated. On the other hand, a positive goal is one that will focus on the desired behaviour or outcome, such as “I want to feel healthy”. A positive desire can be better integrated into our mindset compared to a negative goal like, “I don’t want to be fat”.
It is too restrictive
When it comes to resolution, especially new year resolutions, it usually has a concrete start date which is 1st January. It also has a clear-cut end date, which is often on 31st December. Often, the resolutions are made without much though put into it, The tradition of new year resolutions usually only pose a challenge for a period of time and then most individuals tend to you fall off the bandwagon.
So, what should you do instead?
Aside from the traditional resolution setting, there are better, more effective ways for you to reach your goals. You can focus on setting SMART goals instead.
SMART is an acronym for the criteria to be used where you break down your goals into:
- Specific: Be specific about what your goals are and what you want to achieve.
- Measurable: Break down your goals into measurable elements to make it clearer and easier to reach.
- Attainable: Can you realistically achieve your goal? Weigh the effort, time and other costs it will take in order to achieve your goal.
- Relevant: Make sure that your goal matters to you, and that it aligns with passion and yourself personally.
- Timely: Provide a timeline for your goals as it will help you to stay focus and be accountable for your actions. For example, you can set milestones towards your main goal.
Another suggestion is to set intentions. When it comes to intentions, instead of prompting a radical change in behaviour you focus on making gradual changes to the mindset and habit. Setting an intention is about giving direction or meaning to our lives. It also could mean changing an attitude about something as a way to transform or change.
A plus point about setting intentions is that you can set them daily, weekly or monthly. Unlike New Year's resolutions, it’s not necessary to initiate changes to be kept all year long. When setting an intention, our attitudes are very important.
Finally, it is crucial to take breathers and evaluate your progress. Don’t forget to keep track of your goals which can be done through monthly or even quarterly goal reviews. Don't wait for January or December to revisit your goals. Doing so will help you to stay on the right track.