Happy New Year! The holidays are over and we are back to work. I came to my desk this morning to find some delicious candy surprises in a little goodie bag. While I was settling in for the day and breaking into one of the bags of M&Ms, I realized that I have already officially broken both of my New Year’s resolutions (cutting back on the sweets and eating at my desk). It got me wondering a little more about resolution-making and how the successful resolvers remain committed, especially when considering newly single people who are looking to make positive changes within themselves this year.
It is estimated that if under age 45, almost 60% of us make New Year’s resolutions (only about 28% of those over age 45 make resolutions). And according to the most recent Marist poll, the top resolutions are to lose weight (18%) to exercise more (11%) and to spend money more wisely (9%). However, research has shown that while 77% of people maintained their resolutions for a week, only 19% maintained their resolutions after two years. So where is the drop off? Research out of the University of Scranton suggests that after one month, the success rate drops to 64% and by 6 months, only 46% remain successful.
Three main factors separate the weak from the strong: control, reinforcement and good old fashioned will power. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you will break your resolution, set small milestones and reward yourself when you reach them, and don’t give up on yourself. Over half of the successful people with the strongest willpower in this study slipped up at least once (we all get stressed out or have off days). The important part is to get back on track and continue on. Furthermore, the outcome of the first 6 months is essentially up to your ability to regulate these factors. Support from people around you and interpersonal strategies didn’t really help success until after 6 months.
And there is something to be said about making a resolution in the first place. Research has shown that a person who explicitly makes a resolution is 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who did not explicitly make resolutions.
Interestingly, people older than 45 years didn’t place such importance on resolutions. Perhaps as a person ages, they have already realized many of their goals, or they just change when they are ready. Whether you think it’s silly to place an arbitrary date on change or if you believe the New Year means a new start, the most important part is being happy with what you have now and having the power to change what will be later.
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