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Make a New Year resolution and stick to it for once

One New Year resolution is enough. But make it big.

I can’t remember the last time I made a New Year’s resolution and followed through with it. And – I’m going to call you out here – I’m betting you didn’t achieve your last resolution either. And neither did your neighbour or your boss or your mother.

Research shows nearly 90 per cent of people who make a New Year’s resolution fail to achieve it. And yet, every year, we continue to make resolutions to improve our lives. Why do we keep setting ourselves up for this inevitable failure? It must be our uniquely human ability to hold fast to hope. We resolve to change our lives every January 1 because we hope we’ll be one of the 10 per cent who make it.

So what’s it going to be for you this year? Are you going to resolve to lose weight? Exercise regularly? Spend less? Save more? Stop smoking? All common, achievable goals, yes, but not likely.

Setting goals to improve yourself, your health and your happiness is necessary, but perhaps we shouldn’t be changing our lives on January 1. It’s a notoriously busy time of year. Many people are travelling during the holidays and New Year’s Day is often spent feasting with friends and family.

It’s a terrible day to change your life. Making a big lifestyle change during such a hectic time might be part of the reason why we can’t seem to stick with it.

It’s true that many of us will get off to a good start: we’ll buy exercise clothes, a new gym membership, we’ll map out a monthly budget – but historically, we just don’t make it past mid-February.

Here’s an example: after sorting through four years of member check-in data, Gold’s Gym noticed a significant drop off in member check-ins on February 12, with the biggest drop off on February 18. They call it the “fitness cliff”.

And, like lemmings, we all go diving off it. So let’s change it up this year. What if we don’t take on any big lifestyle changes at all until February 1, when we’re well past the holiday rush; when we’re settled from holiday travel and when life returns to normal? It seems we’d all have a better shot at success.

Furthermore, why do we wait until January 1 to make changes anyway? It’s perfectly acceptable to quit smoking or start exercising on March 1 or July 7 or tomorrow.

But if you’re insistent on making a January 1 resolution (best of luck to you), it might behove you to approach your resolutions differently this year. Simply saying ‘I want to lose weight’ is not enough. But if you say, ‘I want to lose 10 kilos by June 1’, you have a goal that’s measurable (necessary for success) and attainable.

Even better, set a weekly goal such as, ‘I’m going to walk to work three days this week’. Or, if your goal is to save money, say, ‘I’m going to buy my next pair of shoes at Aldo, not Christian Louboutin.’

Research shows it also pays to be a loudmouth. Post your resolution on Facebook, Twitter, your blog; tell your friends, your neighbours, your family. If you tell people what you intend to change, they’ll check in on your progress and hold you accountable.

And perhaps, this year, keep your resolution list to just one item. If your goal is to lose weight, you will need to eat healthier, eat less, exercise more and do a load of other things to help you reach your weight loss goal – and that’s probably more than enough lifestyle changes to tackle at once. You don’t want to lose 20 kilos in six months only to feel bad that you didn’t get around to tackling the other five resolutions you made. One is enough. Make it big.

sjohnson@thenational.ae

Updated: December 27, 2015 04:00 AM

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