In a world where the ticking clock heralds promises of self-renewal and fresh beginnings, the allure of New Year's resolutions among a chorus of ‘New year, new me’, is hard to avoid. As the calendar page turns, we find ourselves standing at the threshold of another year, armed with good intentions and the belief that, ‘This year is our year’.
But a profound truth often gets drowned out — the stark reality that change seldom unfolds miraculously with the chime of a clock or with a turn of a page.
The secret? Realising our aspirations lie not in the fleeting magic of a single moment, but in the deliberate planning and effort that comes with understanding your motivation, making small changes and keeping consistent, and being kind to yourself above all.
This formula is one that Carine Bouery, head of marketing at Positive Zero and the president of the UAE Chapter of the World Happiness Foundation, has implemented for years to ensure her journey to become the best version of herself continues long after the New Year’s celebrations are over.
“If you’re serious about developing yourself, the first step is being aware of where you're falling behind and understanding your motivation for why you want to improve,” said the Lebanese native who was born and raised in the UAE.
“People have different motivations for the goals they set, so it’s valuable to differentiate between intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation. When we do something, we have to ask ourselves: are we doing it for ourselves, or are we doing it for others? When we do things solely for others, with no connection to our values, there's a big chance of failing to commit to our goals.”
An example of this is the ever-popular resolution of losing weight. If you’re losing weight to get superficial approval on how your body looks based on societal expectations, you’ll never feel fulfilled no matter how much weight you lose because you’re basing your motivation and fulfilment on external sources. When you’re losing weight to improve your lifestyle — to have more energy to play with your kids because you view yourself as someone who values your family, for example — you’re aligning your goal with something you value and therefore you’re more likely to sustain your motivation long-term.
“Take a holistic approach to goal setting and resolutions by seeking out your purpose and values and look at what matters to you,” she said. “Studies have found that when individuals perceive their goals as important and meaningful, they’re more likely to be motivated and committed to achieving them.”
Getting rid of the “all or nothing” approach to resolutions and consistency are also key to success.
“In my early 20s, I was going through a difficult time, and I had an ‘all or nothing’ approach to school and life,” recalled Bouery. “The more I focussed on the sometimes unattainable outcomes — like perfect grades, for example — the more I doubted my self-efficacy and somehow lost my sense of identity. This led to mental health issues like depression and anxiety that also fed into physical health issues with an eating disorder, which is a form of mental illness.”
She credits a mindset shift and making small, consistent changes to how she ultimately made goals that mattered and that stuck.
“After my first failing grade, I decided to look at the text and the visuals with deliberate attention, aiming to understand and enjoy it. I let go of the concept of ‘perfection’ and set out to learn to be engaged instead.With this mindset and goal shift, my grades and overall wellbeing improved because I realised I’m someone who values gaining knowledge, and I aligned my goals with that,” she adds.
Research and psychological theories often suggest that an “all or nothing” approach to goal setting is associated with a higher risk of failure. The idea stems from the concept of perfectionism, where individuals set extremely high standards and may struggle with setbacks or deviations from their goals.
In terms of resolutions, small changes are easier to incorporate into daily life and are more likely to be sustained over time. Eventually, those small changes can lead to significant improvement. Achieving small milestones can provide a continuous source of positive reinforcement, as well, and celebrating these victories reinforces the belief that progress is possible.
“Regression, or ‘failure’, is inevitable even if we take small steps and focus on consistency,” said Bouery. “When making resolutions or setting goals, being kind to yourself helps build emotional resilience and naturally shifts your view of failure as a personal flaw to an opportunity to breakthrough from your own self-sabotaging narrative.”
So, where does this leave the time-honoured tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions? “Use New Years as a reset — to reassess your goals and remind yourself of your importance and the importance of values, self-worth and self-care,” said the happiness coach who is currently completing the Chief Wellbeing Officer programme with the World Happiness Academy. “New Years are always a good time to let go of old ways that no longer serve you, strive for continuous self-improvement and seek fulfilment by welcoming fresh perspectives throughout the year. You shouldn’t feel limited or pressured to start your journey to become a better person on January 1.”
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