New Year’s Resolutions

As another year draws to a close, so a new one begins and with it comes the almost mandatory New Year’s Resolutions!  Resolutions that are mainly broken before the end of the first week of the year.  The dark depressing winter evenings (although this year they are almost like Spring), with credit card bills coming in and not much money left to pay them, surrounded by the unwanted strawberry creams (insert family unpopular chocolate) that nobody can bear to throw away, all zapping away on our limited willpower.

So why do we set the resolutions in the first place and how do we find the willpower to actually achieve them?

Religious Origins

Resolutions have been linked to religions as far back as the Babylonians, who made promises to their gods, to return anything borrowed and repay debts.  The Romans began each year making promises to the god Janus, named after the first month of the year.  (1)

Nowadays, the tradition continues, mainly in the Western Hemisphere.  Popular goals that are set are around the themes of health, fitness, breaking bad habits, financial, career, education, behavioural and helping others, to name but a few.

We make these resolutions when we are in full swing of the festivities of Christmas and New Year, riding on the crest of a wave of invincibility and the belief that anything can be achieved.  Then reality sets in and so does procrastination.  In fact, according to a 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3000 people, 88% failed.  Men were 22% more successful if they set measurable goals, such as a specific amount of weight loss per week versus a generalised desire to lose weight.  Women achieved a 10% increase in success when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.

Goal Setting

One of the keys to success is goal setting.  There is a plethora of information and resources to be found on the internet regarding this.  One method is SMART, commonly attributed to Peter Drucker’s management by objectives concept.  The first-known use of the term occurs in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran.  The criteria are: –


S          Smart

M         Measurable

A          Attainable

R          Realistic

T          Time-related


Setting the framework for how you are going to achieve your desired resolutions will not bring success alone.  To make it work, you need to find that willpower to drive you to the pinnacle of achievement and the moment that you can punch your fist in the air and shout from the top of your voice, that you have done it!


According to  a lot of research, willpower is a limited resource.  If you link this to the SMART pneumonic, then attainable and realistic are extremely important.  For example, to say that you will stop drinking, quit smoking, give up sugar and become vegetarian in one fell swoop means that you are probably setting yourself up for failure.

Rather like your energy at the beginning of a race, which you are determined to win, willpower requires some sort of strategy to maintain your vision during the lows as well as the highs.  Be ready for potential stumbling blocks by thinking ahead and creating a game plan to deal with those tricky moments.  If you are planning to give up crisps and biscuits, avoid supermarkets, petrol stations, vending machines etc when you are hungry.  This will lessen your cravings.  How many times have you gone food shopping when hungry and filled your trolley with junk food and instant sugar fixes?  I know I have, too many times.

These strategies don’t need to be for ever.  Changes become habit forming.  Saying no to a biscuit is hard the first few times somebody offers you one, but as time goes by the habit of saying no starts to form, to the point that you don’t even think about it; the no is instantaneous.  It is said that it takes from 21 days upwards to form a new habit.

Roy Baumeister is a leading researcher in the field of willpower.  He believes that willpower is like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.  Consider finding  ways to strengthen your willpower through exercises that are not part of your resolutions.  Again, a simple Internet search can give you some ideas such as watching a funny movie and not laughing or a sad movie and not crying.

With all the willpower and desire in the world, there is still a chance that you will stumble and your self-control crumble.  This is when we need to give ourselves a break as we are often our own worst critic.  Eating one biscuit, smoking a cigarette, drinking alcohol or whatever it may be, does not mean that the resolution has failed and all your good work has become undone.  Accept your slip up and focus on what you have achieved and remind yourself that you CAN do it.  Positive affirmations will encourage you to get back on track, wiser and stronger with your willpower back intact.

What if you do fail?  Remember, as A.P.J Abdul Kalam said, ‘if you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L means First Attempt In Learning’.

Whatever your resolutions, dreams and goals may be for 2016, I would like to wish you the best of luck!  I’ll let you know how I get on with mine at the end of the year!

Reference (1) Wikipedia.

About the author: Stuart Dickson’s passion for personal development began in September 2013, when he joined a Network Marketing Company.  Part of his development is increasing his spirituality and the many ways of doing this.  His first blog, Happy Monday People was born from a project that came about from his personal development journey


‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’


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