Honestly, after years of failed New Years resolutions, we're less concerned about what we should resolve to do in the upcoming year, and more whether we should bother setting any. It can sometimes feel like a futile pursuit, only setting us up to feel guilty mid-June when we can't even remember what we wanted when we got sucked into the 'New Year, New Me' Instagram posts.
Of course, for some, setting goal posts for the next year can provide a blueprint to achieving the successes we yearn for all year round. Whether it's intending to get a promotion, or simply be kinder to yourself, there are realistic ways to set goals that don't feel pointless.
That's why we spoke to life coach Alice Stapleton about how to set realistic resolutions, and what we should be asking ourselves when we make them…
"If you personally are not that fussed about losing weight, getting fit, giving up alcohol etc, then don't do it," says Alice Stapleton.
"There's little point setting a New Year's resolution based on something you don't really have the motivation to achieve. You're unlikely to succeed if you're just doing it because everyone else is this time of year."
"We're more likely to achieve our goals if we understand what we seek to gain by putting the time and effort into them," says Alice. "If it's to find a new job, for example, what will the positives be? Identify as many specific benefits as possible."
This is where it could be beneficial to write lists about everything you want to achieve, and what you stand to gain. Tying in to who it's really for, it could help you establish whether your resolution will bring you joy, or whether you're buying into something you're actually not that fussed about.
"Make the way you measure your success as specific as possible,' says Alice, "Break your goals down into smaller ones to keep you on track week by week. Set yourself a massive goal to achieve over a whole year with interim targets to hit."
Setting yourself resolutions without goals in mind is almost asking for guilt-induced feelings of failure. If you know you want a promotion by the end of the year, have a re-group each quarter either on your own or with your boss to figure out what you're actually doing to achieve that goal.
"It's not much fun, or very motivating, to feel like you're depriving yourself of something for a whole year," says Alice. "Rather than setting a goal based on deprivation, set one based on the promotion of a new, positive behaviour instead. For example, 'I'm going to stop criticising myself" would be better framed as 'I'm going to be kinder to myself'."
This is where positive affirmations can be a life-saver. Instead of counteracting negative thoughts every time you think them (which as women, tends to be more than we realise), set aside time to compliment yourself and who you are. The more you do it, the more you'll notice when you're picking yourself apart and resolve to stop.
"We are so easily persuaded by ourselves, and others. It can only take a second to think 'oh sod it' and, before you know it, you've broken your New Year's resolution,' says Alice."Have a plan before you start as to what you will say, or do, when the temptation to give up hits.'
For example, if you want to drink less, or eat less meat, maybe have a few excuses lined up your head when friends try and encourage you away from your new resolution. You shouldn't have to, of course, but if it makes you feel more comfortable and it becomes second nature, what can you lose?
"We're more likely to stick to our goals if we commit to them with a friend," says Alice. "Agree to help keep each other on track, and help support each other in times of weakness!"
This can be particularly helpful if your goal is exercise-based. Maybe you want to conquer the male-dominated weights section of the gym, or go to a specific class you think looks fun. For the less confident of us, these things can be terrifying to do alone, and taking a friend along is a good way to ease away from exercise anxiety.
"It needs to be totally worth the time and effort that may be required," says Alice. "Giving up something trivial without good reason is destined to fail. Only set yourself a goal that you're truly determined to change."
"Set a goal that you stand a chance of achieving," says Alice. "If you have a sneaky feeling it's going to be too hard, or too big an ask, then set a resolution that's more realistic for you, bearing in mind the curve balls that life often throws us."
For example, if you're trying to save a big chunk of money, you have to allow room for failure. Unexpected bills, household appliances breaking, changes in our jobs, they're all uncontrollable and understanding that you may not be able to reach your goal is a good fail-safe way to prevent guilt or blaming yourself too heavily for something that's not your fault.
"For some, it's helpful to tell lots of people what their resolution is so that they feel compelled to succeed, and can be held accountable for their progress," says Alice. "However, for others it's more helpful to only tell a handful of people what their new goal is. That way, the validation and commitment is internal, leaving them less likely to be influenced by social pressures and expectations. Work out which strategy is best for you."
"After a tough year of sticking to your New Year's resolution, and reaping the benefits, choose a meaningful and substantial reward to congratulate yourself for all your hard work over the year," says Alice.
Now this is one we can definitely get on board with. Make January 2020 your month of reward!
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