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New Year's Resolutions: Why We Make (and Break) Them

January 1, 2019

Losing weight. Getting organized. Spending less. Whatever the goal, most of us make new year’s resolutions.

But just 8% of us are successful in achieving our resolutions. Why is that?

In most cases, the problem is that we set ourselves up for failure with unrealistic goals. We get too optimistic. Too specific. Too rigid. And then when we fail to follow through, we beat ourselves up and feel like we failed.

Do you really want to make a resolution?

In some families, setting a new year’s resolution is a big deal. It’s an expectation. And if you don’t make one, there’s something wrong with you.

It’s certainly good to have goals. But sometimes we assume that “everybody” makes new year’s resolutions.

The truth is, of course, not everybody does. And if you don’t, that’s OK.

If you do make a new year’s resolution, that’s OK, too. Just make sure you’re doing it for yourself — not to fulfill someone else’s expectations.

Tips for success

So you’ve considered your motivations for making a resolution, and you’ve decided that you want to do it. How can you break the chain of unrealized resolutions?

These tips will help:

  • Be realistic. You’re not going to change overnight. Building new habits takes time.
  • Take a gradual approach. Start small, and set incremental goals. Is deciding you “have” to work out for 60 minutes every single day realistic, for instance? Probably not…at least at first. Instead, consider aiming for some kind of physical activity a day or two more often than you do now. Then build on that over time as you get used to your new routine.
  • Expect (and accept) setbacks. Perfection is unsustainable. You’ll have setbacks. They’re a normal part of the process. Success isn’t about never falling off the horse. It’s about always getting back on.
  • Find people with similar goals. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you in your goals. Find a group of co-workers who want to quit smoking, for instance. Or look for a workout class in which you feel comfortable.

Feel like your own worst enemy?

We can all trip over our own feet on occasion (literally and figuratively). But if you feel like certain habits — either physical or emotional — are getting in the way of your happiness, think about talking to a therapist. We can help you address emotional issues and change unhealthy behaviors — so you can achieve the happiness you deserve. Call (319) 356-6352 to schedule an appointment, or use our Request an Appointment form.

Cynthia Vaske, LISW

Cynthia is a Licensed Independent Social Worker. Her areas of focus include adult relationships, anxiety, post-trauma, work-related issues, life balance and self esteem. Cynthia also works with individuals who are coping with a cancer diagnosis.