16 January 2024

Resolution revolution: Resisting the New Year tyranny

Start the conversation

Continuous improvement throughout the year will help you keep those New Year resolutions. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Roberta Matuson suggests a fresh approach to New Year resolution-making that does not leave you floundering in a swamp of despair and disappointment.

It’s natural to want the New Year to be better than the previous year, but there’s a problem. You know what you’d like to achieve, but aren’t sure how to get there. You feel you’ll look weak if you ask for help. You think getting to this place will require energy and time you don’t have.

In 2023, I did a lot of talking about hiring a personal trainer to help me with strength training. In fact, it was one of several New Year’s resolutions that wound up going nowhere. I can take some comfort in knowing I’m not the only one who failed to meet their targets.

The sad reality is that most resolutions are bound to fail. One study suggests a whopping 92 per cent fall short within the first few weeks or months. The question arises: Why do so many well-intentioned resolutions end in disappointment?

The problem with New Year’s resolutions lies in the hype surrounding 1 January. People often view the New Year as a magical reset button, believing the date change alone will somehow make it easier to adopt new habits. However, behavioural science tells us that lasting change requires more than a date on the calendar.

READ ALSO Don’t let bad thoughts take over your day

Setting resolutions on the first day of the New Year often leads to unrealistic expectations and a rush to transform every aspect of one’s life overnight. The pressure to change drastically can result in burnout, stress, depression, and an inevitable return to old habits. Many resolutions also fail because of a lack of accountability. No-one is helping you stay on track or providing advice when you most need it.

I did take some action towards better health in 2023. I downloaded an online 21-day yoga challenge, thinking the course would help me achieve my goal of getting stronger. I was all in for the first seven days — I didn’t miss a beat. Then life got in the way. Some 40 days later, I completed the course and haven’t done anything since.

My coaching clients tell me the key to mastering their goals has been having someone by their side cheering them on and nudging them when they get complacent. My new fitness coach will do the same for me.

Rather than succumbing to the New Year’s resolution frenzy, I’m taking a more sustainable approach by embracing the concept of continuous improvement. Instead of continuously talking about hiring a personal trainer, I hired someone before the New Year began. I’ve set small, realistic goals throughout the year to gradually make these fitness changes a habit.

Studies show that breaking down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks increases the likelihood of success. A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit. Instead of overwhelming yourself with a laundry list of resolutions on 1 January, consider focusing on one or two specific habits each month. This approach allows for a more gradual and sustainable transformation.

READ ALSO Are you ready for an AI-induced career leap?

Summing up: The tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions needs to be revised. The statistics are clear — the majority of resolutions fail. Rather than succumbing to the pressure of the first day of the year, consider adopting a continuous improvement mindset.

Setting small, achievable goals throughout the year increases your chances of success, so it’s time to break free from the cycle of disappointment and embrace a more realistic and effective approach to professional and personal growth.

Here’s to a great 2024.

*Roberta Matuson is president of Matuson Consulting, which helps Fortune 500 companies and high-growth businesses create exceptional workplaces leading to extraordinary results. She can be contacted at [email protected].
This article first appeared on Roberta’s blogsite.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.