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Navigating New Year Resolutions: Strategies for Success in 2024




Every year, about 38% of people set New Year's resolutions (Allen, 2023). According to Forbes, the top three resolutions for 2024 are centered around enhancing fitness (48%), improving finances (38%), and prioritizing mental health (36%). While these goals can be achieved, it isn’t unusual for unexpected challenges and obstacles to show up. Below are a few strategies for success on your new year resolutions.


The Early Struggles:

Did you know that a staggering 23% of people abandon their goals within the first week? By the end of the first month, this number rises to 36%, leaving only 9% of individuals successfully committed to their resolutions (Mick, 2022). A major contributor to this trend is timing, with 35% citing issues such as feeling unready or too busy to fully commit when the new year kicks in (Mick, 2022). When facing initial challenges, it's okay to reconsider whether the new year is an optimal time to initiate a resolution. Alternatively, you might consider assigning a later start date to your transformation journey.





The Six-Month Mark:

Beyond the initial hurdles, the importance of social support and interpersonal strategies becomes evident after the first six months of commitment. Interestingly, successful individuals are likely to experience an average of 14 slips during a two-year interval (Norcross & Vangarelli, 1988). This highlights the resilience and perseverance required to navigate setbacks on the path to sustained success. Importantly, it emphasizes that allowing yourself some leeway after slipping up doesn't equate to slacking off; it's helpful to regroup and continue after experiencing a setback, rather than interpreting it as a total failure and opting to give up.





Not All Goals Are Created Equal:

Understanding the purpose and sustainability of your goals can play a critical role for its success. Reflect on why this goal is important to you and how achieving or not achieving it may impact you and possibly others. Research by Swann et al. (2021) emphasizes the need to frame goals positively. Approach-oriented goals, which focus on adding to life rather than subtracting, tend to yield greater pleasure, satisfaction, and success. For instance, if your resolution is to improve physical health, consider framing it as "I want to get stronger and fitter" rather than "I want to lose weight." Similarly, choosing "I want to eat more nutritious foods" over "I want to stop eating junk food" emphasizes an action-oriented approach over an avoidance-oriented approach. Positively framing your goals helps you think about how to achieve them instead of dwelling on restrictions and limitations. Focusing on restrictions and limitations might make you more aware of potential pitfalls that could hinder your goal achievement. This, in turn, can lead to feelings of overwhelm and diminish the overall enjoyment, motivation and satisfaction of the process.


SMART Goals and Beyond:

SMART goals are often used to help achieve goals. SMART is an acronym for: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.

[Insert picture of SMART goals chart].


Using SMART goals can enhance your chances of success. However, the incorporation of open goals—broad, non-specific, and exploratory—can add an element of enjoyment to the process, reducing pressure and increasing the likelihood of success (Höchli et al., 2019; Swann et al., 2022). For instance, setting a goal like "see how well you can do X activity" creates a more playful and less restrictive feeling (Hawkins et al., 2020) compared to an all-or-nothing approach.



The January 19 Challenge:

As you navigate the journey of resolutions, be aware of the January 19 hurdle. Research from the fitness app, Strava, based on over 800 million user-logged activities, reveals that this date marks a critical point where people are most likely to abandon their New Year's resolutions—just under three weeks into their goal maintenance. When you find yourself wanting to give up on your goals, take a moment to recall and reconnect with the original purpose and reasons behind setting this resolution. Consider whether it is a good time to reset and restart your goal, or if it would be more sustainable to make a few adjustments to your initial goals and expectations. 


In conclusion, the pursuit of New Year's resolutions is a dynamic and challenging endeavor. By understanding the common pitfalls, embracing positive framing, and integrating a mix of SMART and open goals, you can increase your chances of successfully achieving and maintaining your resolutions throughout the year.


References


Hawkins, R. M., Crust, L., Swann, C., & Jackman, P. C. (2020). The effects of goal types on psychological outcomes in active and insufficiently active adults in a walking task: Further evidence for open goals. Psychology of Sport and Exercise48, 101661–101661. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2020.101661


Höchli, B., Brügger, A., & Messner, C. (2019). Making New Year’s Resolutions that Stick: Exploring how Superordinate and Subordinate Goals Motivate Goal Pursuit. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being12(1), 30–52. https://doi.org/10.1111/aphw.12172


Mick. (2022, November 15). 19 Surprising New Year’s Resolution Statistics (2024 Updated). Insideout Mastery. https://insideoutmastery.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/ New Year’s Resolutions Statistics 2024. (2023, December 27). Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/new-years-resolutions-statistics/


Norcross, J. C., & Vangarelli, D. J. (1988). The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts. Journal of Substance Abuse1(2), 127–134. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0899-3289(88)80016-6


Oscarsson, M., Per Carlbring, Andersson, G., & Rozental, A. (2020). A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PLOS ONE15(12), e0234097–e0234097. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234097


Swann, C., Jackman, P. C., Lawrence, A., Hawkins, R. M., Goddard, S. G., Williamson, O., ... & Ekkekakis, P. (2022). The (over) use of SMART goals for physical activity promotion: A narrative review and critique. Health Psychology Review17(2), 211-226. https://doi.org/10.1080//17437199.2021.2023608


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