December 27, 2018 9:00 am

Making New Year’s resolutions? Chances are, you’re doing them wrong

WATCH: The downsides of making New Year's resolutions

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If you’re like many Canadians, you probably start the new year with the intention of sticking to life-changing resolutions.

Maybe in 2019, you want to exercise more, cut back on sugar, save money, or spend more time with friends. (Or perhaps these are things you vowed to do in 2018 and are taking another stab at them.)

But if your resolutions aren’t resulting in meaningful change, chances are, you’re doing the whole resolution thing wrong.

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New Year’s resolutions fail because people are often unrealistic,” said Toronto-based Krista Roesler, a life coach and psychotherapist at Psych Company.

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“[People] expect to change habits immediately that they have developed and maintained for years without exploring why they haven’t been successful in the past, and without a practical strategy in place to make them successful.”

Why resolutions don’t work

A 2018 survey by Tangerine found that nearly 70 per cent of Canadians have made resolutions, with over half focused on improving their physical health, and nearly a third wanting to get better at managing finances.

But research shows that most people don’t actually stick to their goals.

An Ipsos survey found that eight in 10 Canadians have failed to keep resolutions, as people cited a lack of willpower, motivation or drive as the most common obstacles.

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Roesler isn’t surprised by this, and said people often expect instant results and get discouraged when they don’t see a change right away.

“If [someone] wants to lose weight and has been working out and eating healthy for a week but has not seen any results, they want to give up,” she explained. “People need to realize that change takes time.”

How to properly make resolutions

Be specific 

If you want to set goals for 2019, Roesler said it’s important to get specific about what you want.

“New Year’s resolutions fail because people fail to set SMART-goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound goals,” she said. “A lot of resolutions focus on the end result, such as ‘lose weight,’ [but] do not address what you need to do to achieve the goal.”

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If your priority this year is to become a runner, make an action plan for how you are going to make that happen. Joining a running club, setting a training schedule and signing up for races will help hold you accountable.

If “exercise more” is your resolution, you’re not setting yourself up for success. “A much better goal would be to say, ‘I will work out three times a week before I go to work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for 45 minutes,'” Roeseler said.

Break down goals into tasks 

Finding a new job can be a daunting — and time-consuming — resolution, and it can be hard to know where to start.

“Big tasks need to be broken down [into smaller tasks] otherwise, we get overwhelmed and distracted when working too long on something,” Roesler said.

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“If you break [goals] down into small, manageable tasks, something overwhelming becomes something you can focus on. [Plus] when you are able to do a task quickly, you are less likely to become distracted.”

Listing tasks such as meeting with a recruiter, making a list of companies you’d like to work for and updating your resume are great examples of tangible ways of working towards the goal of landing a new job.

Write your goals down and look at them daily

“I cannot stress this point enough,” Roesler said. “Write your goals down and put them in a place where you will see them daily.”

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Roesler said because our schedules can be hectic, it’s easy for us to brush aside our New Year’s resolutions once we settle into our day-to-day lives after the holidays. To combat this, it’s important to have a visual reminder of what change you want to see in your life.

“What is visibly right in front of people is usually what gets the most focus and attention,” she explained.

Accept the challenges that come with change

It’s not always easy to work towards a goal — especially if you’re trying to eat healthier and improve fitness levels.

Acknowledge that change is wonderful, but it can also bring upon feelings of anxiety. “Changing can be stressful because it means facing the unknown and getting out of our usual comfort zone,” Roesler explained.

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“Humans tend to resist change because of the subsequent feelings that arise.”

Roesler suggests writing down your feelings of anxiety and fear whenever they come up and acknowledge that they are a normal human reaction to change.

“When behaviours have occurred for many years, it can be a challenge to change them but remember it is not impossible and the rewards far outweigh these initial feelings,” she said.

“Once we stop fighting or burying these feelings, it becomes a lot easier to act toward reaching our goals.”

Laura.Hensley@globalnews.ca

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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