New Year’s resolutions are far from new. They date back to over 4,000 years ago where the ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods to return any borrowed items, pay their debts and keep their word so that their god(s) would look upon them favourably for the year ahead.
Later, in 46 B.C Emperor Julius Caesar declared January 1st as the start of the new year, honouring Janus a two-faced God who symbolically looked to the year past and the year ahead and who the Romans honoured by offering sacrifices and promises of good behaviour.
I wonder if the ancient Babylonians and Romans were any better at sticking to their resolutions??
In research done by the University of Bristol on 3,000 participants, 88% of people who had made New Year’s resolutions had quit by February. Any gym bunnies out there will know this to be a fact, particularly as exercise, losing weight and health factor in the top of people’s resolution list. In January with the excitement of the dawning year there is a mad rush at the gym as everyone makes good on their `promises’, only for it to tail off by February back to near normal levels.
So why do we find it so hard to stick to resolutions?
There are a number of reasons;
Mis-alignment. When our goals are out of alignment with how we view ourselves, we are hoping to create something new in our future without resolving the behaviours that led us there.
Our behaviour is hard-wired into our neural pathways, so if we are trying not to do something eg eat chocolate we are strengthening our connection to the very thing we are trying to avoid…..
We are encouraged to make S.M.A.R.T goals, and whilst this works in business it can take a lot of `energy’ or willpower to continue. When other things start vying for our attention, particularly once we finish school holidays, such as kids sports, work and our usual habitual routines, we simply run out of puff …………
So, assuming we want to instil some new behaviours and patterns into our lives, how do we go about it?
- How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Chunking down goals into achievable parts makes us much more likely to stick to them. Want to write a book? Set a goal of 3 pages a day. Want to eat healthier? Perhaps start by clearing the cupboard of convenience food and introducing one new meal per week to your repertoire.
- We over I. We are more likely to do things for others’ than ourselves. So, if we take exercise as an example, who can we find as an exercise buddy that we can also help motivate towards their goals and vice versa? Habit stacking is also good here, for example, having our clothes ready before bed, alarm set to high vibe music, a vision board of our goal(s). The more senses we incorporate and systems we put in place, the far more likely we are to develop a positive habit. Ease is the key. Easy achievable chunks and systems that support the action to take place.
- Be kind and gentle. If you fall off the resolution wagon temporarily, that’s OK, we are all beautiful imperfect humans doing our best and it happens to us ALL. Focus your attention on incremental improvement with a kind inner dialogue.
- Celebrate and reward your steps. Dopamine (the feel-good chemical) fires up in our brains when we do something pleasurable. Giving ourselves regular little rewards and treats further enables us to sustain our new habit. (And, no, I’m not suggesting chocolate or a G&T 😉)
Let me know how you go x