7 Tips to Make your New Year Resolutions Achievable

I would like to start this article with an honest question. It is more of rhetorical cause the answer is
personal as the whole premise behind it. The question is how many are still keeping on with the
resolutions set at the beginning of the year?

Probably half of us have already black-slid into our old ways. Old is gold they say. Still, there is that guilty
feeling, a feeling of loss. So this article might help you have better luck next time for half of us and for the
rest it might definitely help you to maintain the trajectory. Probably achieve the resolutions you set
forth for this year.

As a psychologist, I have read about motivation and goal setting in journals and other academic
literature. There are two types of motivation namely intrinsic and extrinsic. To break it down in layman’s
terms intrinsic is that internal personal self-drive that comes from deep within our psyche. On the other
hand, extrinsic is an external form of drive, basically what I mean is that an external reward is a
motivator for a particular behaviour. Examples of intrinsic motivations are basic needs, i.e. we need
food, water, air, clothing, shelter, and sleep. On the extrinsic stage, an example is when you do
something for a reward, for instance when you are promised a certain gift or token when you were in
school which you got if you passed a certain test or the pay incentives we have at our workplaces.

But why am I talking about motivation when this article is all about how to make lasting and more
meaningful? The main reason behind it is that all human behaviour has a motive. A motive is the natural
drive of an organism to satisfy its survival and basic needs. Resolutions are under the category of
motivation in psychology. Hope that is a substantial answer for my detour.

Edward Deci, one of the most influential psychologists who came up with the self-determination theory
of motivation, is credited with trying to explain that goals depend on why we are doing them. Why
are you coming up with resolutions? You can start from there.

The following are a few tips for you to use when coming up with New Year resolutions that are

  1. Make SMART resolutions: When you come up with resolutions that are Specific, Measurable,
    Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound, you are more likely to accomplish them. We usually come up
    with goals like ‘I want to reduce my alcohol intake’ or ‘I want to lose weight’. The problem with such is that they are ambiguous. How will you know and when are you going to know you have achieved
    them? An example of a SMART resolution is ‘ I want to lose 5kgs by May, by losing 1 kg every month’
    this makes the goal more specific and measurable (how much weight you want to lose), achievable
    and realistic.
  2. Keep track of the progress: By setting up measurable resolutions, you will be able to keep track of
    the progress you are making. Through this, you can also be able to track and evaluate how far you
    have gone with the goals set. If you set out SMART resolutions then it will be easier for you to keep
  3. Break down the goals into smaller milestones: Breaking down the resolutions into smaller goals will
    help them more achievable. Smaller goals will be more specific and easier to accomplish. For
    example, if the main goal is to lose 15kgs by the whole year, you can break it down to losing 1.25kgs
    a month, further even break it down to daily goals or milestones.
  4. Reward every milestone: To reinforce these resolutions, reward every achievement you make.
    Psychologists believe that positive reinforcement is a very sure way of instilling behaviour change.
    Through rewarding every step, your brain positively reacts to the changes and you get more
  5. Frame it positively: Coming up with resolutions that are positively framed has been proven to
    make them more achievable. Focus on the instilling of positive behaviour rather than avoiding
    negative emotions or outcomes, has been proven to make achieving the resolutions easier
    and more rewarding. Instead of ‘I want to lose weight’ you can say ‘I want to eat more healthy
    meals’ or ‘I want to achieve a weight that is within my BMI range’
  6. Through mental contrasting: Mental contracting is a process of observing one’s goals and all the
    obstacles that one may face in the process of achieving the said goals. It also helps us to get a
    clearer view of which of the sets goal are achievable
  7. Build it into a routine: through implementation intention, you will be able to come up with scenarios
    which you might come across. To form an implementation intention, you can state “whenever I am
    in situation X, my reaction will be to engage in Y behaviour
    Intention behaviour works well with mental contrasting.

You should always remember to practice self-compassion when you fall short of the goals set out.
Don’t be too harsh on yourself. After all you are human and it is normal. It is popularly known that
resilient people are able to achieve more than less resilient ones.

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