Keeping your resolutions in 2016

Reading through Bishop John H Vincent’s A Resolve summarises the desire of most human beings to better themselves as they reflect on the year that has passed and as they look forward to the year that will soon begin.

On December 31, most people count down the final seconds that usher in the new year with a resolve to make it better. Yet many will confess that the inspiration that caused them to promise to change fades away a few days into the new year. The realities of life and the unforeseeable challenges that come with it, too often times prove difficult and many succumb to their old ways of living.

According to Janet Polivy and C. Peter Herman of University of Toronto, who conducted a study into this very phenomenal, most adults make the same resolution each new year, vowing on average ten times to eradicate a particular vice. So why do we fail to keep our resolutions?

Counseling Psychologist, Ken Munyua says it is because some individuals make resolutions for the sake of it without carefully considering what they will need to do to realise these resolutions.

“Some people fail to realise their resolutions because they did not commit to achieving them.

They fall short of the gist to go for it as the year progresses. Others set very high targets for themselves that they are unable to achieve,” he says.

Discussing findings of his research in the April 2002 Journal of Clinical Psychology, Clinical Psychologist Prof John Norcross observed that the ability to achieve a resolution is dependent on how attainable or realistic the goal is.

However, even though many fail to make resolutions or give up on them at some point in the year does not make them any less important.

According to Munyua, new year resolutions enable one to work towards something tangible in the course of the year.

“This is a decision you have made concerning something worthwhile that you desire to achieve in the course of your lifetime,” he says.

According to Prof Norcross resolutions need to be fashioned around realistic, attainable goals.

“If you cannot measure it, it is not a very good resolution because vague goals beget vague resolutions. From there, one needs to establish genuine confidence that one can keep the resolution, despite the occasional slips,” he said.

Munyua couldn’t agree more, he advises against making resolutions at the beginning of the year. Instead he proposes that they should be made towards the end of the year after careful reflection and to ensure a seamless transition into the new year.

When making resolutions, the American Psychological Association recommends that you start small, by outlining milestones that you think you can keep.

“If your aim is to exercise more frequently, schedule three or four days a week at the gym instead of seven. Remember, replacing unhealthy behaviour with healthy ones requires time and it is important not to get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time”.

The report also highlights the importance of sharing experiences because it makes the journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating.

Munyua also observes that asking for support from family and friends as well as seeking professional help from a life coach or counsellor should be viewed as an option. He says this strengthens the resilience and ability of one to manage stress caused in the process of achieving a milestone.

Further, involving a professional also means commitment of time and money for example when keeping appointments with a nutritionist or personal trainer - this also makes an individual get serious about realising their set goals.

However, even with the best of intentions the road towards meeting your goals is not smooth. Experts agree that minor missteps are completely normal with the most important thing being not to give up but rather to get back on track as soon as possible.

“You can chart your progress. Reward your successes and reinforce yourself for each step with a healthy treat or a compliment,” Prof Norcross says.

So, whatever your resolution is for 2016, here’s to actually and realistically, losing weight, getting organised, spending less and saving more, working harder and growing older this happy new year.