We close each year with a boisterous countdown only to bombard ourselves with a count of a different kind: Top 10 New Year’s resolutions. Exercise, weight loss, new hobbies, getting organized, saving money, the list of calendar-filling activities are satisfying declarations, but do they sound familiar? Did we conquer last year’s resolutions or are we returning for another attempt? After the 2022 confetti settles, how do we hold a fire beneath our goals without them drifting to the back burner?
A Fresh Start or a New Pressure?
In life’s long-running narrative, nothing pleases us more than a chapter break; it lets us step back and welcome the promise of a new page with the knowledge of what came before it.
“People tend to think about life as if they’re characters in a book,” says Katy Milkman, a psychology professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and the author of the book How to Change. “Any time you have a moment that feels like a division of time, your mind does a special thing where it creates a sense that you have a fresh start” (bbc.com)
Whatever plans we had. Whatever goals we failed to achieve seem attainable once more, but there are dangers in tying our success to an entire new year. According to a 2021 UK study, “about two-thirds of people abandon their New Year's resolutions within a month; this study also found “people tend to make the same resolutions year after year.” (psychnewsdaily.com)
If our resolutions fall short in January, will we continue them in February, or will we abandon them to try again next year? The pressures of a year-long goal can sabotage us before we gain momentum, or worse, give us an unclear sense of what it takes to reach it.
Tamar Samuels, registered dietitian and founder of All Great Nutrition in New York City says, “… most people are unsuccessful with their New Year’s resolutions because they don’t have a clear plan to work toward them,” says Tamar Samuels, registered dietitian and founder of All Great Nutrition in New York City. (blog.myfitness.com)
Resolutions can focus on the finish line rather than the path to reach it; we sprint before our shoes are tied and too often trip over ourselves. “This is the year I lose weight!” or “I’m going to travel more in 2022!” sound terrific, but without a plan, schedule, or way of tracking progress, a year to do something can quickly turn into a year of waiting to do something. Change can happen at any time, and that’s all a resolution is: change. Rather than using the new year as a blank canvas to intimidate or prolong our goals, what steps can we take to be successful in whatever we set out before us?
Who is the change for?
It sounds like a simple question, but change must come from a genuine place if there’s any hope for it to stick. Resolutions often carry societal pressures that the only reason to make them is because the rest of the world is making them. It can be for yourself or for someone else, but the dedication it takes to see change through the ups and downs will be that much stronger when you know who you're doing it for.
Repetition. Not resolution.
Now that you believe in your change, it’s time to make it sustainable. Change doesn't happen overnight; it requires a plan with a lot of repetition. “It takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit,” according to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology. “The study also concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.” (healthline.com)
Break your change down into practical, clear steps you can manage. If you want to exercise more, how about walking around the block every day? If you want to eat healthier, have at least one fruit or vegetable a day. It may take trial and error to find what works best for you, but start small and adjust as you go because habits work differently for everyone.
In the same 2009 study, some participants showed that “certain habits take longer to form,” such as some “found it easier to adopt the habit of drinking a glass of water at breakfast than to do 50 situps after morning coffee.” Adding another wrinkle to creating a routine is “some people are better suited to forming habits than others.” (healthline.com)
Create a Flexible Structure
Whether or not routines work for you, it’s important to stay flexible and not be afraid of modifying your plans as you go. If you can’t make it to the gym, what’s another way to exercise that week? If you can’t practice Spanish for thirty minutes today, can you practice for fifteen? Creating benchmarks or check-in points throughout the course of your goal is an excellent way to track your performance and provide necessary motivation and feedback. There are helpful apps like Stikk, which allow you to set a commitment, create a schedule, record a journal, and add friends and family to referee your progress.
It’s about holding yourself accountable, but not being so inflexible that you're discouraged from continuing. Like all things in life, sustainable change is about striking the right balance.
SOM Change Is Necessary
At SOM Footwear, we go into every new shoe design, website update, and social media post with the same balancing spirit. Change can alter a technique. Time can revise a plan. But no matter how we adapt or evolve, we measure our goals on the same benchmarks of handmade quality and customer service excellence that have made us who we are for eight years strong.
Because finding and maintaining good health practices from head to toe is important to us, our next blog 4 Strategies for a Healthy New Year will feature tips for creating and conquering a healthy plan.