But that’s OK because it’s January, and January is for resolutions. Thiswill be the year you make those all-important lifestyle changes, and this time next year you’ll be a teetotal, lean, muscled specimen of human perfection!
But before you ditch the leftover wine, before you spend hundreds on exercise gear and before you sign up to that great 12-month deal the gym is offering, let’s reflect for a moment. The truth is that of those of us that make New Year’s Resolutions, only around 40% of us keep them up until July. So perhaps hold off on buying that treadmill for just a moment.
Why is it then that so many of us fail to achieve the goals we set ourselves, foggy-headed, over that rehabilitatory bowl of coffee on January 1st? The issue is largely with willpower. It’s not that we don’t want to change, indeed there’s no better time for self-realisation than when your head is in a desperate struggle with your stomach to be the organ to explode first. The problem is that we set ourselves too hard a challenge.
Willpower is a finite resource. Think of it as energy: if you try to use too much of it, you won’t have enough to do everything you want. What this means for your New Year’s Resolutions is that if you try to achieve too many goals, you won’t have enough willpower to achieve any of them.
“Lose weight, get fit, stop drinking, eat less” are horrible goals. They’re broad and unfocussed, and trying to do all of them will only result in slumping in front of the TV with a packet of biscuits by March. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try improving all aspects of our life, but perhaps not all on January 1st. We’re much more likely to succeed if we set very specific and achievable targets.
Perhaps your resolution could be to walk for at least 30 minutes per day? Maybe you want to be in bed by 11pm each night. Maybe you want to drink no more than 10 units of alcohol per week. Perhaps your resolution is to stop snacking between meals. Whatever it may be, giving yourself reasonable, and specific aims will ensure that you aren’t overwhelmed with the task, and that you have plenty of willpower to achieve them. Once one goal is well on the way to being achieved you can work on the next.
It won’t happen overnight, but by this time next year you should be a much healthier, happier you! And surely that’s better than joining the other 60%.
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan