The only thing more cliché than making a New Year’s resolution is breaking that pledge before January’s out. But it’s a trope for a reason. More than 80% of people who make these vows admit that they don’t stick with them, according to a study conducted by the University of Scranton.
In fact, January 17 has been dubbed Ditch Resolutions Day, since it’s the time most “new year, new me” pledgers officially give up. But the low success rate doesn’t really reflect a collective lack of willpower. In fact, changing your mind about sticking with some of these intentions is probably a smart idea.
“There are a number of things that are problematic about New Year’s resolutions,” says Amy Cuddy, PhD, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School and author of the book Presence. “If you feel like you need to make a resolution, then the message is that something about you is inadequate and you need to change it.”
What’s more, January 1 comes right around the time when many people are experiencing the post-holiday blues. All in all, not the kind of empowered, positive framework that can really help you achieve personal goals.
Own your decision to quit trying to hit the gym at 5 a.m. (which I’m guilty of saying and not doing). Accept that the idea was, perhaps, flawed from the start. Joyfully embrace letting yourself off the hook, and focus instead on something, or things, that make you proud of yourself.
If you aren’t ready to completely throw your New Year’s mantra out the window, though, use Ditch Resolutions Day to reset your January 1 intentions. Think of the first few weeks of January as “buffer weeks”, Cuddy says. The holidays can be intense, in both good ways and bad, and getting back into your routine can be hard.
Consider coming up with a simpler, more positive plan that isn’t fueled by your holiday hangover. Telling yourself that you have to go to the gym at 5 a.m. is a form of self-punishment. (Again, I can attest to this personally.) But you can try to exercise after work more regularly, or do a simple routine in the comfort of your home before heading to the office.
So, whether you’re forgetting about your resolution today or taking the time to recollect and recommit, being gentler and more positive toward yourself is key.
“I like the idea of celebrating our imperfections, collectively, on this one day,” says Cuddy. So do I.
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