If you have ever stepped inside a gym in January – any gym – you will know that “New Year’s Resolutioners” are a thriving segment of the population.
Even if everyone around you would have you believe they don’t believe in resolutions, or they casually bat off any suggestion they may have set a goal, the mass influx into gyms would tell you otherwise.
Add to that those of us setting resolutions in other areas – money, eating well, dating – and that’s a pretty large subset of the population. 66% of us in fact! (Or 79% if you live in London!)
But do resolutions actually work?
Usually by the middle of March the number of people in the gym levels back out again, and you no longer need to lace up your gloves to battle your way onto the squat rack.
By the end of the year, only 9% of us actually achieve the resolutions that we have set. However, that’s not the full picture.
In fact, nearly a third of us are still successfully committed to our resolutions after 6 months. And over half of Britons have successfully maintained at least one New Year’s goal over the long term, lasting from when they first set it to the present.
From this perspective, perhaps there is something in it?! Certainly enough of us set New Year’s Resolutions to suggest we generally believe it is worth doing.
Take advantage of the ‘clean slate’ feeling
I’ve seen so many people on social media talk about how the depths of winter don’t feel like a natural time to set goals. I commonly see posts that suggest spring as a time for change and momentum.
Although I completely understand that many people won’t feel like setting goals at this time of year, I also think this time of year is actually an ideal time to set a goal! For me, goal setting is less about action and more about reflection.
Surely a hibernation period is an ideal time to reflect on how the year has gone?
Then, when spring rolls around, you’re clear and ready to jump into action.
Plus, I love how 1st January provides a clean slate feeling. There’s something refreshing about a new date that helps you to put the past in the past.
There is a sense of momentum that comes when people around you are creating their goals.
In the same way that running a marathon in your spare time requires you to dig deep to unearth a modicum of motivation, when you’re signed up to a race…
You’re on the start line with hundreds of people around you…
All running the same direction…
Your family is cheering you on…
You even have people sponsoring you…
You may even have a few cameras pointing your way…
Surely you’re much less likely to say “I’m going to go back inside, put my feet up and switch on netflix”!
Use momentum to your advantage
Take advantage of the momentum that is surrounding you in January. I would even suggest you take it a step further – how can you use that momentum to your advantage?
If you are someone who benefits from accountability, can you ask a friend with a similar goal to you to buddy up together?
Can you take advantage of discounted offers or class bookings at your local studio and sign up for a challenge?
There are so many ways you can capitalise upon this momentum, if you think creatively.
Stay focused on the practice not the outcome
Yoga is a practice of staying in the now. It teaches you to keep your mind on the present moment, on the posture you are working on. But it also teaches you to show up consistently to work toward your aims.
One of the biggest lessons that yoga has taught me is actually how to move toward goals!
With yoga, you can absolutely set targets – whether it’s a posture, such as being able to hold a handstand or forearm balance, or whether it’s a more on-going aim – such as improving posture, reducing asymmetries in my body, creating more balanced strength & mobility, and so on.
But if you are focused on the outcome and not the practice itself, you won’t consistently show up for the work in between.
In 2023, I took a new approach with this in mind. Rather than simply setting resolutions, I created a vision board for the year, following the method outlined by Roxie Nafousi in her book manifest.
This appealed to me as it is simple: just grab a piece of card, and write down your vision. No cutting and sticking decoupage crafts (although I do love craft projects!) Instead, just focus on getting clear on your vision.
But I didn’t stop there…
Each month, I wrote out the specific actions I was going to take to move toward my goals. This kept me focused on the tasks at hand, the next steps, so I continuously moved toward my goals throughout the year.
By repeating this task-focused exercise each month, I also stayed committed throughout the year instead of giving up in January!
A new approach to goal setting
So was this new approach successful? Inevitably, I was over-ambitious on all fronts! My vision was pretty grand and exciting, but I moved toward all of the goals in some way, even if not all were completed in 2023.
Each month, I ambitiously set more tasks for myself than I realistically had time to do, but again I completed more than if I had not completed the task.
What I learned was that I was able to stick to several objectives more effectively than if I hadn’t re-written my tasks each month. The process also reminded me of my goals and allowed me to keep them top of mind throughout the year. This strategy is one I’m going to continue this year.
This strategy also helped me to detach from the outcome. Yoga teaches us to set out intentions but then let it go. If you focus too heavily on getting rich, you won’t take any action to actually improve your finances.
Instead, set your intention, let go of the outcome, and focus on the work.
Create a holistic vision but stay focused
I have been grappling with the idea of wide and narrow when it comes to resolutions. When creating my vision, I’ve found it helpful to take a wide approach and consider my life holistically, since goals overlap.
The more healthy I am, the better I feel, the easier it is to hit my work goals, the more money I make, the better I am at finances, the less stressed I am, the easier it is to be healthy, and so on.
This year, whilst my vision will cover all areas of my life, I plan to phase my goals into focused tasks. Part of the practice of detachment is accepting that we don’t have control over timelines. Instead, we have to accept that what is for us will not pass us, and it will arrive when the time is right.
However, when it comes to practical goals, it’s counterproductive to focus on too many areas at once. So, each month I will choose 1 goal as my focus area, and only set myself a small number of tasks. This will keep the tasks achievable and hopefully provide me with a sense of accomplishment as I go along!
I would recommend that if you are planning multiple goals for 2024, you consider how you intend to prioritise them throughout the year. Will you focus on doing all at the same time? If so, is that realistic? If you had to complete them one at a time, how would that change your approach?
Consider how to phase your goals ahead of time, so that you can bring all your energy to delivering each one, and increase your likelihood of success.
Frame your resolutions in the positive
What if your vision for your life was one that inspires you and excites you to move toward?
What if every step toward that life brought you fulfilment and joy?
So often our resolutions are framed in the negative. The downside to this is: our resolutions don’t focus on what to actually do. There is no vision to move toward and no clear action to take.
Consider “I want to lose weight” – the goal is an absence of body fat, but not a presence of change.
What action will you take? What would losing weight feel like to you? What would that mean in terms of your exercise, your eating habits, your day to day life?
When you frame your resolutions in the positive, you give yourself a clear target to aim for, a dream to go after. Try re-framing your resolutions and see how powerful that simple change can be in going after and sticking to your goals.
Stay committed throughout the year
As we step into a new year filled with resolutions and high hopes, it’s crucial to acknowledge the ebb and flow of motivation.
Motivation may wane, but committing to a consistent plan will create change. Little steps combine to create major change!
Remember that we over-estimate what we can do in a month but under-estimate what we can do in a year, so plan for this!
The surge of January’s momentum may wane, but it presents a unique opportunity for reflection, and to leverage the momentum from the collective energy around you.
Let this year be a blank canvas for your aspirations, painted with purposeful actions and a commitment to enjoying the journey itself.