As we chime in the beginning of 2012 and wait for the plaguing aftermath of new years to subside, we find ourselves looking forward to a fresh start in a novel year. Popular culture has instilled the idea of vowing to uphold a “New Years Resolution” with the beginning of each year.
For this reason, the start of January marks the commencement of dietary regimens, the creation of personal promises, and the onset of a skyrocketing increase in purchased gym memberships.
The custom of creating New Years Resolutions dates back to as early as 62 BC, during the time of Julius Caesar in Rome. Resolutions were mostly made with moral intentions of being good to others.
Later on, in the 17th century, the Puritans began each New Year by reflecting on the past year and contemplating the future year.
Through this practice, our modern understanding of New Years Resolutions has evolved. In contrast to the Romans, the Puritans focused on forming resolutions to better themselves, develop their talents, and practice avoidance of habitual sins.
Today, people form a multitude of different resolutions with various degrees of commitment and strategies for success. Dr. Jill RachBeisel, M.D. and Dr. Hinda Dubin, M.D. study the psychology of resolution creation at the University of Maryland Medical Center. They report that the most effective way to successfully uphold a resolution for at least 365 days is to “prepare yourself psychologically.”
“Focus on realistic goals with measurable results,” says Dr. Jill RachBeisel. “You need to break things down into small steps that you can manage. If your goal is too big, you’ll feel defeated before you even get started.”
For example, instead of setting a goal that you want to develop a body like Ryan Gosling, start with a more specific, measurable and realistic goal like gaining two pounds of muscle.
Start from there and then slowly increase the amount of muscle you want to gain. In this way, you will maintain motivation and track your progress.
Another popular mistake associated with resolution maintenance is “psyching yourself out.” After the initial spark of hope subsides, reality begins to weigh heavily on your shoulders as you realize that the accomplishment of your goals requires discipline and hard work. A simple and effective solution to such a slump is to start immediately.
“Action precedes motivation, not the other way around,” says Dr. Hinda Dubin. “People often think that they should wait until they are motivated to start doing something good for themselves. They say, ‘I’ll start that diet or fitness program when I’m really well rested and have a lot of energy’. But it doesn’t work that way.”
Make an action towards your goal first and then inspiration will follow. The initial action acts as momentum to propel you towards your goal. The old saying of “the first step is the hardest” holds true psychologically.
To prepare for a year of success, the University of Maryland proposes a series of tips to help you maintain your resolutions:
1. Avoid perfectionism: You may set out to get all 12’s this term, but you also might be setting yourself up for disappointment. Try focusing less on a particular grade point average and more on improvement, like bettering your study habits.
2. Don’t stress too much about any setbacks you may encounter: They are lessons to be learned and opportunities for growth. Use any mistakes you make as methods of improving your strategies for success.
3. Avoid absolute resolutions: For example, instead of vowing to steer completely clear of junk food, promise to eat less of it.
4. Find ways to keep motivated: Keeping on track towards your NewYears goals can be difficult so make sure to construct a way that will help you succeed.
5. Have fun: Trying to fulfull a newyears resolution is difficult so make sure to keep a light and up-beat attitude about your goals.
5. Make sure your resolutions are meaningful to you: This might be the most important tip to follow. Your resolution should be something you want to change instead of what other people or influences in your life want to change. Internalize your goals and insure that they make sense to you.
Overall, the idea that a new year constitutes a fresh start has been around for centuries. The only difference is that today we have a multitude of resources at our fingertips to help us experience success in upholding our resolutions. Why not make 2012 a year of success?