We all want ours New Year’s resolutions to work, but – every year – it always proves especially difficult to get them to stick.
It is also difficult not to abandon any plans for self-improvement by spring, promising yourself to try again when January is rolling.
We’ve all been doing it – trying to reduce targets and rewarding ourselves along the way, but nothing seems to work.
Don’t give up yet though.
Law University Psychology Senior Lecturer Mark Jellicoe has suggested some more evidence-based techniques that could make 2023 the year you actually stick to these healthier habits.
Here’s what to do – and what not to do – in January.
Don’t tell everyone
We know sheer wisdom advises telling more people, so there’s more social pressure – or more responsibility – which means you may be more likely to act on it.
But Jellicoe states, “There is growing evidence to suggest that it may be harmful.”
Jellicoe suggests that telling someone about a goal – and the subsequent praise you may receive – can “lead us to the illusion that we’ve already achieved it.”
So you may find that you don’t really finish your goal attempt with the same fervor as before.
Manifest (a little)
A trend that has emerged in recent years suggests that if a person really wants something, they actively tell themselves that they already have it in order to change their mindset to a more optimistic one.
It’s like a broader interpretation of the phrase “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
But, as Jellicoe points out, “manifestation is not a magic bullet” and there is little direct evidence to suggest that it would help achieve the goal.
However, it does suggest that “several supported scientific approaches” share a similar mindset manifestation.
He explains: “It makes sense that if we focus on the result, we can be more motivated to achieve it, which appeals to the thinking pattern and behavioral beliefs that will help us achieve it.”
The psychologist also suggests that manifesting was most effective when combined with goal setting.
Set yourself goals
Setting clear, achievable goals is difficult and can feel like homework at times.
However, it is one of the most effective ways to make sure you reach that end goal.
Jellicoe suggests looking at the WOOP model – wish, outcome, obstacle and plan – to ensure that the goals you set are realistic.
“This approach encourages us to reflect on the reality of our situation and the likely obstacles that stand between us and our ultimate goals, so that we can plan ways to overcome them.”
He suggests combining this with the more classic ways of approaching goals – SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Limited for best results.
“Resolutions or goals are like alchemy. There are many reasons why we fail to fulfill our resolutions. Often the goals may be too vague, or in fact the resolution may be a wish that we are not so committed to,” he explains.
3. Know your limits
Jellicoe also touches on the influence of an individual’s personality on achieving goals.
He advises looking at personalities through five traditional factors that have been identified in most individuals: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
He urges anyone who wants to change their habits to find a personality type online so that they can adjust their strategies accordingly.
For example, those who are more conscientious are more likely to achieve goals; but it can also make someone stick to a goal when it is no longer relevant.