We all want our New Year resolutions to work, but – every year – it always proves particularly difficult to make them stick.
It’s also hard not to drop any plans you may have had for self-improvement by spring, promising to yourself that you’ll try again when the next January rolls around.
We’ve all been there – trying to make the goals smaller, and rewarding yourself along the way, but nothing feels like it works.
Don’t give up yet though.
Senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Law, Mark Jellicoe, has suggested some more evidence-based techniques which could make 2023 the year you actually stick to those healthier habits.
So, here’s what to do – and not to do – this January.
Don’t tell everyone
We know, the usual wisdom advises you to tell more people, so there’s more social pressure – or more accountability – meaning you might be more likely to actually follow through.
But, Jellicoe sats: “There is growing evidence that would suggest doing this can be detrimental.”
Jellicoe suggests that the act of telling someone about the goal – and the subsequent praise you may receive – could “lead us to deceiving ourselves that we have already achieved” it.
So you might end up not actually ending attempting the goal with as much gusto as you may have beforehand.
Do manifest (a little)
A trend which has emerged in recent years suggests if an individual really wants something, they tell themselves actively they already have it to push their mindset into a more optimistic one.
It’s like a wider interpretation of the phrase, “dress for the job you want not the job you have”.
But, as Jellicoe points out that “manifesting is no magic bullet”, and there is little direct evidence suggesting this would help you realise a goal.
However, he suggests that “several supported scientific approaches” have a similar mindset ascribed to manifestation.
He explains: “It makes sense that if we orient ourselves towards an outcome then we might be more motivated to achieve it, which would invoke the pattern of thinking and behavioural beliefs to help us do this.”
The psychologist also suggests that manifesting was most effective when combined with setting goals.
Do set goals
It’s hard to set out clear, achievable targets – and it can sometimes feel too much like homework.
But, this is one of the most effective ways to make sure you reach that end goal.
Jellicoe suggests looking to the WOOP model – Wish, Outcome, Obstacle and Plan – to make sure the targets you set are realistic.
“This approach encourages us to think about the reality of our situation and the likely obstacles that come between us and our ultimate goals, so we can plan ways to overcome them.”
He suggests combining this with the more classic means to approach your goals – SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound, for the best results.
“Resolutions, or goals, are like alchemy. There are many reasons why we fail to achieve our resolutions. Often goals can be too vague or in reality, the resolution might be a wish that we are just not that committed to,” he explains.
3. Know your limits
Jellicoe also touches on the impact ab individual’s personality can have on achieving your goals too.
He advises looking at personalities through the five traditional factors which have been identified within most individuals: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism.
He urges anyone looking to change their habits to find out your personality type online so you can adapt your strategies appropriately.
For instance, those who are more conscientious are more likely to see goals through; but equally that could make someone stick at a goal when it’s no longer relevant.