"New year, new you?" How often have you uttered those words and then fallen off the wagon a few days later? By the end of January, it's a fairly safe bet that most of us have already broken a few of our New Year's Resolutions. According to one study at the University of Hertfordshire, most of us have given up entirely by January 23 - and just one in ten of us will fulfil our goals.
While studies show that up to a third of resolutions are made around health, fitness and losing weight, making significant changes to our personal and dating lives also features prominently in people's wish lists of things to change. And while some resolutions are arguably not all that important (anyone else decide to ditch the chocolate, only to give into that last selection box in a weak moment?), other pledges like taking active steps to meet more people in an attempt to have more fun or even meet 'the one' can only be positive. All dating resolutions, whether it's to go on one date or more every week, connect with more people on and offline or ditch toxic relationship patterns and sticking with those resolutions will pay off in the long term.
The Importance of Resolutions
Before dismissing them as a waste of time, it is worth noting that resolutions are important. They increase focus and will clarify what you really want to achieve in life and 2015. When it comes to dating, wishes like, 'I want to meet someone,' are fine but actually defining the sort of person you want in your life, including any deal-breakers, will make it much easier for you.
Resolutions give us purpose; if we are floundering in our personal lives, providing ourselves with positive goals and the tools to implement them, will boost our self-esteems and give us a renewed sense of motivation. Resolutions encourage us to do things that we wouldn't do normally. For example, if you've been off the dating scene for a while, making contact and striking up conversation with complete strangers online might seem like a terrifying prospect now but once you've done it a few times and had positive responses or even a few fun dates, a few weeks later you'll be wondering what the fuss was all about.
Why Vague Aspirations Don't Work
There has been much research around the science of making resolutions and what goes on in our brains and one clear conclusion is that vague aspirations will not work, due to cognitive overload. By not giving yourself a specific goal it makes it almost impossible for your brain to focus on it. In one study up to 90 per cent of resolutions were so abstract they were destined for failure. The key to any goal, say researchers, is to make it instinctual or a habit first - and to make it a small, achievable one. So rather than saying, 'I'm going to meet someone special,' translate that to, 'I'm going to write ten messages a week to people's whose profiles I like the look of online and I'm going to approach at least one person a week in a bar.' Your chance of success will be 50 per cent higher.
Tell Others About It
In one scientific study monitoring the success rate of a group of 3000 people's resolutions back in 2007, women were ten per cent more likely to succeed if they their others about it. So don't keep your dating resolutions to yourself, go public. Ask friends, family and colleagues to provide you with helpful nudges to assist you in achieving your goal, like asking you dating plans.
Another helpful tip is to write any resolutions down; not only will this also help you stick with it but it has been proven that writing about our goals improves our happiness.
Focus on The Carrot, Not The Stick
It's important to reward ourselves on the way to achieving our goals as well as once we achieve them. One persuasive study at the University of Chicago showed that for people who are trying to undertake a new set of tasks or goals, receiving positive feedback means they are more likely to adhere to the new goal. So don't underestimate the power of giving yourself a pat on the back every so often. Whether it's for jumping out of your comfort zone when it comes to looking for a different 'type' or striking up conversation with a guy a girl at work you've had your eye on, make sure you acknowledge it. Alongside this, you should reward yourself. If you have organised a date, treat yourself to a new outfit, massage or haircut, for example. After all, when you look good, you feel good.
What if you've Already Given Up?
If you've already broken those resolutions, or your resolution is not to make any, all is not lost; you can make resolutions at any time of the year. Start right now - even if it's small steps towards your long-term goal. Call up your friends, write it down and go for it. Good luck!