It’s January. People are filtering into the cycle room at the YMCA. I’m adjusting the seat on my stationary bicycle when I realize the class is almost full 20 minutes before it even starts (which is quite unusual).
The woman next to me, who regularly attends the class, grumbles, “I hate this time of year when all the ‘res-ies’ take over the gym.”
Since I’m also a regular, I know her term “res-ies” refers to all the people whose just signed up for a gym membership in hopes of fulfilling their New Year’s resolution of working out. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon every January for the past 15 years that I’ve been a member of the gym.
I turn to her and say, “Don’t worry, they will all be gone by March.”
She laughs and says, “That is so true.”
Even though I made light of the situation, I feel sad knowing all of these people will not achieve a goal they created. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence. Psychology professor Richard Wiseman studied 3,000 people who created different New Year’s resolutions. At the end of the year, he found that only 12% of them achieved their goal.
Despite the high number of failed goals, about 40 percent of Americans continue to create such resolutions. This tradition dates back to the Roman times as a way of honoring the mythical god Janus.
According to psychology professor Peter Herman, people usually don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions because they set goals that are unrealistic and also tend to underestimate their difficulty in achieving them.
I wasn’t always a fitness fanatic. In fact, I would liken my former self to more of a couch potato who avoided all forms of exercise. My transformation was a long and slow process over the course of several years and it never involved a New Year’s resolution.
Creating a goal just because the calendar or other people tell you to only sets yourself up for failure, which could result in decreased self-worth. Instead of setting a resolution because it’s a new year, create goals throughout the year for areas in your life you want to change.
When creating goals, it’s important to be realistic. For example, if you want to run in a marathon (26.2 miles), you would need to train for it, which usually involves running short distances and then building up to longer distances. This method could be applied to any goal. It might not be physically possible for you to run a marathon, so to create this as a goal without first understanding your own physical limitations would be unrealistic and result in your not completing it.
Instead of creating resolutions, try taking some time to assess your accomplishments and other areas of your life over the past year. Here are some questions to help:
- What did I accomplish this past year?
- How can I build upon those accomplishments next year?
- What are some things I could have done differently
this past year?
- List some people who were supportive of me this past year.
- How can I support other people next year?
- When I think about this past year I feel happy to remember….
- When I think about this past year I feel sad to remember…
- What are some new skills or information I learned this year?
- What are some new skills I would like to learn in the future?
- What steps do I need to take to achieve new skills
After reflecting on these questions, consider how you would like to move forward in the New Year. If you do decide to create goals, make sure they are realistic based on both your expectations and the reality of you achieving them.
By Cheryl Maguire