Every January millions of us swear allegiance to the gym. Less than 30 days later and our trainers are already screaming neglect from yet another new year’s resolution going down the pan. So why are we so bad at sticking to our January promises?
“Our resolutions go back to the new year, new start idea,” explains coaching psychologist, author and member of the British Psychology Society, Jessica Chivers.
“In many ways they see merit in making improvements in their lives,” she says. “It’s romantic and exciting to swear you’re going to do something but we’re not good at fulfilling our objectives.” Good intentions only go so far, so are we too weak or just lazy?
Whether you want to quit smoking, find true love or do one new thing every day, the road to achieving a new year’s resolution looks hindered before we’ve even began. According to research carried out by ComRes for BUPA, a quarter of adults say they made a New Year resolution in 2015 (26 per cent) while 74 per cent didn’t even make one.
The study also reported that only one in eight (12 per cent) adults successfully kept a new year’s resolution. The most common reasons for giving up or not achieving were a lack of commitment and a loss of motivation (both 50 per cent). It appears most of us are doomed before we’ve even began.
Asking too much
“We simply ask too much of ourselves”, explains Jessica. “We’re making quite a significant change and in a very black and white way.” Resolutions can often be expensive or too difficult, they can also take up too much time and we’re often unrealistic about what we can achieve - there’s no denying new year’s resolutions are hard to stick by so do we need extra willpower?
Willpower is actually recognised as a mental muscle, it’s something you can train but also something that can diminish over years. If willpower can’t be changed then the perception to the resolution can instead as Jessica explains, “It’s all or nothing thinking so if we’ve set ourselves of going to the gym three times a week and on the first week we only go once many people will see that as ‘I didn’t do it, I’ve failed, I can’t do it’ and not go to the gym at all next week. It could be reinterpreted as ‘I went to the gym this week, that’s a great start!’”
Set about gradual change by making small alterations to your daily life and you’ll succeed in your resolutions - instead of smoking 10 cigarettes, smoke nine; instead of taking the bus the entire way to work, get off two stops earlier and walk.
“For people to aim to achieve something 80 per cent of the time rather than 100 per cent,” adds Jessica. “Well, that’s a huge achievement...” And although those trainers might still be spotless by February, you can rest assured you’re on the right road to success.