Losing weight, doing more sports, spending more time with the family, learning to play an instrument, quitting smoking, eating healthier… all these good purposes may be very familiar to us. We may once have set them to get the New Year off to a good start. Almost everyone has.
If this is the case and we have managed to comply with them, we can be proud because we are part of a diligent minority that carries out everything that is proposed.
If, on the other hand, we are among those who find it more difficult to put good intentions into practice, we should not torture ourselves excessively. According to recent psychological research, most end up giving up in less than a month.
This is what the study carried out by researchers in the psychology of the Australian University Edith Cowan. And that focuses on the factors that come into play when persevering or abandoning the resolutions that we set ourselves each year, analyzing the deeper reasons that motivate these decisions.
To develop the research, the authors conducted online surveys of hundreds of participants for two months. The respondents were between 18 and 77 years old, and were mainly Australian and British.
Some statistics that will be familiar to us
The final results of the survey were most revealing. 66% of those surveyed gave up their New Year’s resolutions before the end of January.
In addition, more than half of the participants marked the same annual goal than the previous year.
On a qualitative level, wishes like that of “Dieting” or “practicing more exercise” accounted for 29 and 24% of the sample, respectively. In other words, more than half of the surveyed population decided to improve their physical form to start the year well, although not many succeeded.
One piece of information that drew a lot of attention to the researchers is that a 64% of New Year’s resolutions were “general”, that is, too abstract or poorly defined.
This is the main reason why, according to the authors, we abandoned our purposes. In your opinion, setting goals that are too general is counterproductive, since they lack an action plan and they are easier to avoid. That is why they advocate much more specific resolutions, that are much better defined and that are more realistic.
“Setting specific goals that include a time, a place and a companion greatly facilitates the mental process for us to achieve our goals,” says psychologist Joanne Dickson, associate professor at Edith Cowan University and lead author of the study. “An example of a specific resolution might be taking a 40-minute walk around the lake with my friend Sam on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.”
Transcendental value, the key to meeting our goals
On the other hand, the authors of the psychological study argue that we renounce these intentions more easily if they are not sufficiently associated with deeper values and meaningful to us.
If we give a more transcendental meaning to our goals, they will acquire greater robustness and that will make us more persevering and consistent, and we will strive more to achieve them.
“The purpose of losing five kilos will probably last longer in the face of the different obstacles that may arise, if it is linked to higher personal values, related to our health or our physical appearance,” the researchers conclude.
If we intend to lose weight, we do it not only to subtract kilos from our body mass, but because we understand that losing that excess weight will make us healthier and more attractive, and that can be important to us.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.