THE PUNCH Newspaper- Tunde Ajaja

Few moments from now, the compliment, ‘Happy New Year,’ would rent the air as the world would be celebrating the dawn of a new year. But beyond the pleasant wishes and merrymaking that often characterise the season, it is equally that time of the year when people come up with their resolutions on what they need to stop doing or what they like to inculcate in the new year.

Making New Year resolutions is a yearly ritual for some people, but findings have shown that rarely do people keep to those resolutions.

According to a German data research company, Statistic Brain, most people who make New Year resolutions do not keep to them, and it found that only eight per cent of such persons do succeed in keeping to them. The result added, however, that people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t.

Meanwhile, American preacher and author, Charles Sheldon, in a famous quote on making resolutions, had said, “Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately.” Therefore, below are tips to help people keep to their resolutions in the New Year:

Write them down: One of the ways to achieve one’s resolutions is to write them down, especially where the person can see them regularly. And it is not too much to write them on sticky notes and paste them on the walls where they would be noticed regularly. Not only does that help the person not to forget the details of the resolution, it serves as a good reminder, gives the person a constant direction and enables the person to measure the progress he or she is making, bearing in mind that a resolution should have progress review built into it. According to an American inspirational speaker and author, Mark Victor Hansen, “By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands – your own.”

Make resolutions that are realistic: Sometimes, out of external influence and the need to be a better person ‘quickly’, it is easy for people to set goals they may never be able to achieve, and in such cases, frustration and ultimately, failure, may just be lurking around. Prof. Peter Herman, a psychologist, believes when people make positive affirmations or unrealistic plans that do not align with their internal views, they may find it very difficult to keep to such. It is what Herman and his colleagues call “false hope syndrome.”

Make the goals measurable: According to experts, any resolution that would succeed must satisfy the classic goal system, known as SMART. This means the resolutions must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. In a chat with Forbes, a psychologist, Dr. Paul Marciano, who specialises in behaviour modification and engagement, said, “If you can measure it, you can change it.” He explained that people who want to record success in their resolutions should design it in a way that they would be able to measure, from time to time, if they are making progress or not. He said such constant review would be a reminder and motivation to know where they started from and where they are. “That will also help you to know when you are hitting a plateau or slipping backward, so you can adjust your efforts,” he added. So, instead of saying ‘I would be more responsible in the new year’, you could say ‘I want to be polite in my dealings with people and greet those who come across my way.’

Be specific: It is common to see people planning to lose weight, be more organised, save more, enjoy life as much as possible, be better on their jobs, and so many other fantastic plans, but according to experts, people who make such plans may end up not achieving them, because they are too vague and not specific, even though they appear simple and realisable. Instead, people are advised to break such plans into specifics and include a step-by-step plan to get there. For example, to lose weight, you could plan to cut down on fries and visit the gym every Wednesday, etc. To be more organised, make a plan to have a to-do list daily and to take your clothes for laundry every Friday, etc. To save more and spend less, plan to save a certain percentage of your income, and you could even go as far as giving your bank a standing order to make certain deductions from your account monthly. In other words, break them into simple steps that would be easy and achievable.

Be patient with yourself: Some people who are desirous of quick change tend to rush themselves into a plan, especially when the year has just begun. Findings showed that such persons could end up giving up as they may not be able to sustain the effort. According to Marciano, making lasting changes takes time. He said even though some could be “painfully slow” in executing their plans, they could achieve rapid breakthroughs in their plans. So, take it easy and be patient with yourself.

Share the resolution with allies: A resolution is often aimed at becoming a better person and so people tend to make it personal. But it has been established that self control may not be enough to achieve the set goals. Psychologists have said it is better to share one’s resolutions with “close and trusted” family members and or friends, to serve as reminder and to be accountable to such persons. Not only would such person help to keep you in line or correct you when falling into the same mistake, the person could also be a source of encouragement. Marciano added, “One of the most effective things you can do is to get an accountability partner; someone who checks in with you daily or weekly, because it’s easy to break a promise to yourself, but far harder to admit it to a friend.”

Don’t be discouraged: It is easy for people to give up and revert to old habits once they find themselves defaulting in their new resolutions. But according to Vince Lombardi, who was an outstanding football coach, people need to be resilient and sustain the efforts if they must reach their goals. He said, “It isn’t whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up. Resiliency is paramount, so, acknowledge the mistake and recommit to the path towards the goal.” On his part, Marciano noted that it is even commendable to try than do nothing. “Any effort towards your goal is better than no effort,” he added. People are also advised to celebrate themselves when they are making progress in their new resolution, and when they ‘backslide’, they are equally advised to encourage themselves and devise means of not falling back into it again.

Meanwhile, according to Statistic Brain, some of the wishes that often top the list of people’s resolutions include, staying fit and healthy, falling in love, quitting smoking, learning something exciting, losing weight, getting organised, spending less and saving more, enjoying life to the fullest, helping others in their dreams and spending more time with family members.

Commenting, a professor of psychology, Prof. Makanju Olatunde, said when people make resolutions, they should be ready to accompany such with hard work. He added that people should also have a plan on how to achieve their goals.

He said, “It is no use making a resolution without having a plan on how to achieve it. It is a target, and it can be achieved by breaking it down into small and achievable bits. And if you write it down, you can add cues to remind you of what you intend to do. You must be resolute and keep reminding yourself every day.”

Also, a psychologist, Prof Oni Fagboungbe, said people tend to default in keeping to their New Year resolutions because changing an attitude does not come easy. He however said determination, and sometimes, psychological intervention, might be the key.

He explained, “Most of the time, our behaviour emanates from attitude, and attitude is individual’s psychological disposition to objects, events, situations and other people. Before something becomes an attitude, it must have been exhibited over time, to the effect that it becomes inculcated into the person’s behavioural repertoire, and when it gets to that level, it is not easy to change because it happens automatically whenever the stimulus is available.

“That is why it is not easy to change one’s attitude. People come up with all sorts of techniques to change it and one of such is New Year resolution. So, when people make resolutions, the will power to do it may not always be there.”

Speaking on how people can stick to their resolutions, Fagboungbe said such persons need to be very determined, else they could seek the help of a psychologist, who would employ a method known as systematic desensitisation to help them.

He added, “For example to stop a habit, first is that you unfreeze; remove that undesirable behaviour. Immediately you remove it, there must be a replacement because if you don’t replace it, the probability that you would slip back into the undesirable behaviour is very high. When you replace it, you have to make sure you stick to the new behaviour and that is called refreezing. So, determination is important.”


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