THE BLOG

Let's Stop Labelling Our New Year's Resolutions and Actually Make a Change for Good

19/01/2016 14:37 GMT | Updated 19/01/2017 10:12 GMT

We're just over halfway through January and I've already seen numerous articles and blogs on broken New Year's resolutions, and why the British public seems to struggle so much when it comes to keeping them.

In fact, by the end of this week a whopping 11.3 million resolutions will have been dropped. Yes, that many. The team here at Central YMCA undertook some research this month with 2,000 UK adults - results indicated that an estimated 29.7 million New Year's resolutions were made at the start of 2016. Of these, 17% were dropped within a week, with 6% not even lasting a day.

So why are resolutions so hard to stick to? Well calling them that is half the battle, I'd say. So let's get rid of the label.

Stop thinking about what you're doing as 'resolutions' - psychologically this makes them feel transient and almost doomed to failure. Instead, start thinking about making subtle changes to how you go about your life - aim to walk 1,000 extra steps a day, or only eat junk food once a week, for example. It's the small changes the often lead to the biggest life improvements.

Start small and have a clear plan. It seems that being focused on smaller, more specific changes can help improve the chances of success.

Our research found that a third of people fail in their resolutions because they didn't make a clear plan, with one in five failing because they tried to make too many changes. Take small steps and make the first goal something that is easily reachable - other goals can be worked on.

Often people give up on their resolutions because they're asking too much of themselves and they seek a complete overhaul of everything - fitness, nutrition, sleep, stress, for example. The best start might be simply to get off the bus, train, or tube a stop early, walk into work twice a week, or start learning a new phrase from a different language each week.

Focus on the journey. It's also worth reassessing the process as a whole - focus on the journey rather than the outcome: Honing in on the outcome, rather than the process of actually getting there is common, but it's often the wrong way to go about things. Setting out to 'lose three stone by July' is great, but actually having the goal of 'get to the gym twice a week' - which is more process driven - is much more realistic. You might end up losing two and a half stone in the end, but you're far more likely to keep at it.

Making a change for good. Ultimately, while New Year's resolutions can seem like a light hearted tradition, our study showed they have the potential to significantly impact on people's quality of life, so they're worth getting right.

More than 1 in 3 people said that succeeding in their resolutions would either radically or significantly improve the quality of their lives, with an additional 8% saying that success would help prevent a major life crisis, or a major worsening in their quality of life.

In my experience of working with thousands of young people every year making lasting changes, rather than applying temporary solutions, can do a world of good. If we can encourage people to take positive steps in their lives - whether that's to make a fresh start in education or an apprenticeship, or to tackle an issue with substance dependency or poor self-image - there's the potential to improve the quality of life for so many.