“New year, new me!” The commencement of 2017 brings along an army of phrases connoting self-improvement and the feeling of a fresh-start, prompting the promise that many of us dread, but most of us make anyway—New Year’s resolutions.
In January, nearly half of all Americans make a New Year’s resolution, yet according to a University of Scranton study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 8% of them succeed. For the two weeks following Jan. 1, the roads are filled with runners and gyms are packed with people trying to lose those pesky ten pounds. However, not far into this resolution craze, motivation and determination begin to fade. Although it may be a relief to throw away the 2016 calendar and all its ups and downs, creating a massive, long-term goal virtually overnight is asking for failure and leads to discouragement and forgotten goals.
Although these bold New Year’s resolutions may be doomed to fail, that does not mean goal-setting should not be a part of everyday life. Without setting goals for yourself, improving your life is nearly impossible. However, there is a distinction between realistic goal setting, which involves taking small steps to achieve an end goal, and setting a huge goal, like losing 20 pounds in a week, with no plan of action.
Essentially, deciding on a long-term goal without short-term steps will not set you up for success. Dr. Cedric X. Bryant, the Chief Science Officer at the American Council on Exercise, said, “People don’t take the time to celebrate the little successes because they are so focused on an arbitrary weight goal, [and] they don’t notice that they are sleeping better or feeling less anxious.” Many see the new year as a time to completely change their lives—by getting healthier, losing weight, managing money more effectively—but because of the tendency to focus on out-of-touch goals, they miss out on the real benefits of their efforts and end up abandoning New Year’s resolutions.
Alongside poor goal-setting, the inopportune timing of the New Year further inhibits major lifestyle changes. The holidays are a time for seeing family and sharing a meal. From Halloween candy, to Thanksgiving dinner, to all the other holiday eating and eggnog throughout December, everyone begins the new year feeling sluggish and unmotivated. Even on New Year’s Eve, most stay up until midnight (and many stay up much later than that). Right off the bat, sleep schedules and diets are out of whack—creating a recipe for disaster.
Not only is the timing in regard to the holidays unfavorable, but the time of the year of Jan. 1 is an obstacle in and of itself. Right smack in the middle of winter, cold temperatures and very little sunlight make for the perfect storm of laziness.
Finally, the two weeks following the new year are arguably the worst time to begin visiting the gym. Packed with resolutionists, the crowd can discourage individuals quickly.
According to Tim Keightley, the Executive Vice President of the Department of Operations at Gold’s Gym, “Gyms will no doubt be packed with other members—perhaps a 30 to 40 percent increase in traffic—who signed up as part of their New Year’s resolution.” Keightley advises waiting until March to start going to a gym, especially for those focused on their fitness, for gyms will be less busy by then.
The beginning of 2017 brings the temptation to commit to a huge lifestyle change—whether it be losing weight, dieting, or managing your money better—but remember to stay realistic in goal setting. If you have a major goal you are determined to achieve, do not let the calendar dictate when you begin; instead, focus on the small, manageable steps in order to ensure success. So, stop getting caught up in the New Year’s resolution fervor and celebrate all of your little victories!