How to make your New Year resolutions work for you

They were loose promises wrapped in the festive-season-optimism

By Malavika Varadan

Published: Thu 6 Jan 2022, 7:44 PM

A few days ago, I mentioned to a friend that I was making a resolution this year — to spend less time on social media. I had downloaded an app to help me do it (yes, I see the irony). She guffawed. There was no way, she said, that I was still doing this in 2022.

Resolutions failed, they always did. They were loose promises wrapped in the festive-season-optimism. We make them when we have had too much of the good stuff, and by the third week of January, when we are drowning in real-life and rent cheques, we abandon them and resolve never to make another, until December comes around again.

I know. But I see resolutions as my defiant way of believing that we can always be better. That life is really a long pursuit of getting it right this time, and if we constantly watch our graph, watch the ways in which we succeed and fail, we can make small but incremental changes over a lifetime.

Changing a calendar on a wall reminds us that we can start here and now. If we look at our lives as chapters in a book, 1st of January seems like a great day to start a new one (Even though, in reality and retrospectively most significant new chapters — a new job, a baby or a breakup began on less ‘perfect’ dates). If an overly-commercialised, silly act of changing a calendar is going to compel us to do the thing we have been wanting to, why not?

So what kind of resolutions work? And what can we do to get it right this time? Here are my notes, as much to myself as to those reading them:

1Start now. Whether it is making a million or running a full marathon, find a goal that has an immediate actionable step, so that you can tick a thing off a list TODAY.

2Write it down: A Harvard study showed that writing your goals down makes it twice as likely that you will achieve them, but having a plan AND writing it down, will increase your likelihood to achieve it 10 times.

I didn’t say it, the study did.

If you have not written it down, write it down.

3Starting is easier than stopping: Fun fact: If you were to think of your goals as one of two types — starting goals (starting a new diet) and stopping goals (quitting smoking) — you are 25 per cent more likely to achieve a starting goal than a stopping one. So, what if you really want to stop something? Tag it to starting something else. Quitting social media might be made easier if you fill doomscrolling peak time with reading, for example.

4Plan by the quarter: I bought myself a new calendar, and blocked out the days of my next holiday (travel goal). I also broke my financial goals into quarterly chunks, that way the numbers do not seem as unachievable. I am hoping that checking back in March, then before summer holidays begin and on my birthday, should help me keep track of where I am on my journey. These are my mini-chapter-moments.

5Try habit stacking: One of the best ways, scientifically proven, to build a new habit is to stack it on top of a new one. This means if you need to call your parents every day, it is best to tag it to an existing pursuit, like making breakfast. I have tried this and it works!

Us, millennials, with our phone addictions, constant comparisons to others, body negativity, overall loneliness are a pretty messed up generation — it is true. But I think we are willing to change — and have the intent, energy and resources to do so. Whether that means managing money better, getting healthier, nurturing our relationships, we have all the world’s experts a click away from helping us. And we are the first generation to have this power.

So, sceptics, step aside. Resolutions 2022 begin!

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