Humans have been setting New Year’s resolutions for thousands of years. The Babylonians did it, the Romans did it and the Medieval knights re-affirmed their commitment to chivalry. Today, our practice of setting New Year’s resolutions is typically focused on acts of self-improvement and while well-intended, it is estimated that 88 percent of people who make resolutions fail. So how do you make New Year’s resolutions that work?
Divorce coach and mediator Tara Eisenhard joins me in this episode of Conversations About Divorce to discuss why we do such a bad job of keeping resolutions, how we should set resolutions and what to do set ourselves up to be successful.
Here’s what you need to know about setting New Year’s resolutions:
Resolution or Intention?
There’s been a movement in recent years away from “resolutions” towards “intentions.” Eisenhard says that resolutions tend to be very specific such as “I’m going to lose weight,” whereas intentions are broader, such as, “I’m going to eat healthier.” The broadness of intentions may make them easier to stick with throughout the whole year.
Eisenhard sets her intention by selecting a single word. A few years ago her word was “nourish” which she was able to apply to many different areas of her life including for example, her eating and friendships.
That being said, don’t get hung up on whether you’re making a resolution or an intention. This is about what is important to you and not whether you’re particular choice of words meets a specific dictionary definition.
Personally, New Year intention just doesn’t have the same ring.
Making Resolutions Is Not Bogus
For a while I thought that setting New Year’s resolutions made no sense. After all, you can decide to make changes at any time. There is no magic to the end of the year.
Now, I have more of an appreciation for the symbolism of the end of a year and the start of new one. Mother Nature has been through a cycle of seasons and a new one is starting but that doesn’t mean things will be the same. Each cycles brings changes and those changes are part of what helps things to survive.
Now, I think that this is the perfect time to reflect on the past year, review what has gone well, what you’d like to change, what you’ll let go and what you want to bring into your life. And if your marriage is troubled, maybe it is time to consider divorce.
So don’t shrug this off as some worthless ancient custom. It’s survived this long for a reason.
Goal or Resolution?
You might think this falls into the same category as “Resolution or Intention” and what difference does it make? But this is different and this is one of the keys to being successful at the resolutions you set.
A simple way of looking at this is that a goal is step towards your resolution. So if your resolution is to lose weight then a goal might be to exercise three times a week. But perhaps the better question to ask is why do you want to lose weight? May losing weight is a goal? In this example, the bigger picture might be to take better care of your health so can come off a medication or avoid going on a medication. Then a goal towards that would be to lose weight and to do that to do, you’re going to limit your eating out to only once a week.
With the bigger picture you have the potential to make changes to your habits that will be sustaining long after this year has ended.
Focus On Yourself
When I posed a question about New Year’s resolutions in a Facebook group one person responded that she didn’t set them because for years all she had ever wanted was to have a better year but her ex made sure that didn’t happen. Ideally, that would point to cutting your ex out of your life but that can be challenging if you have children together. You can still set New Year’s resolution though and the key is to focus on yourself, focus on what you can control. Choose an area of your life that you can control such as self-care and then make your resolution truly personal. This is all about making changes that matter to you.
Create A Visual Reminder
One reason people give for failing to keep their New Year’s resolution is that they simply forgot it. I’ll admit it, that’s me. I don’t remember what I resolved for 2015.
To prevent this, Eisenhard recommends creating a Vision Board and hanging it somewhere where you’ll see it every day. Another reminder that Eisenhard suggests is to write out your resolution and to put it in a picture frame which you can keep on display. If neither of these appeals or if you’re a high-tech type of person change the background picture on your phone or computer.
Being unrealistic about what you can achieve is another reason people fail to keep their resolutions. Avoiding this means giving the resolution you’re considering some careful thought. Are you ready to take this on? Do you have a plan for how you will achieve it? I get that it’s good to set big, hairy audacious targets but when the reality sets in and you realize how impossible your target is, the danger is you’ll just give up.
So as you think about your resolution you might have to refine it several times to get it right. For example, you might start by saying you’re going to pay off your credit card debt. That’s probably not realistic if you’re currently living paycheck to paycheck with no emergency fund. So you might keep that as a three year goal but this year you’re going to start by learning to manage and budget your money better.
The other key to this is being realistic in the number of resolutions you’re setting. It’s OK to have dreams, it’s OK to have lots of dreams but you really want to choose just one or two areas on which to focus especially if it’s one with which you’ve been struggling or have tried before and given up.
Keep Track of Your Progress
This is another key to being successful. You won’t know how well you’re doing or be able to see your progress if you don’t keep track. You can make this as simple or as elaborate as you like. Keep a spreadsheet, keep a journal, use an app. Anything really so long as you are reviewing your resolution on a regular basis. Not sure you’ll remember to do the review? Set yourself a reminder in whatever app you use.
Tara Eisenhard is the author of the book The D-Word: Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes and the blog Relative Evolutions.
Tara is a daughter of cooperatively divorced parents as well as an ex-wife and former partner of a divorced dad. From these life experiences came her beliefs that a marriage shouldn’t survive at the expense of its participants, and families should evolve, not dissolve, through the separation process.
As a speaker, coach, mediator and ongoing student of divorce, Tara is passionate about sharing her vision and promoting a fresh perspective to allow for healthy healing.