New Year’s resolutions are always a hot topic at this time of year, despite the fact they have a pretty bad reputation – and perhaps that’s the reason why only 21% of Brits actually made them last year, according to a survey by YouGov.
The main reason for our ambivalence towards resolutions is that they are notoriously hard to keep; YouGov also reported that out of those who did make resolutions last year, the majority failed to stick with them. In fact, one in five (22%) had already ditched their resolutions just six days into the year, and by the end of the year, only just over a quarter (27%) were still sticking with their goals. On the flip side, 64% of those surveyed admitted they had broken their resolutions.
However, experts say it is possible to make resolutions that stick – and the secret lies in setting ‘anti-resolutions’.
According to a number of personal development professionals quoted in a recent feature for Fast Company, you’re more likely to achieve success if you decide what you’re not going to do. For example, instead of pledging to ‘eat better’ – apparently this year’s most popular resolution – you could try making the resolution to stop eating fast food. The theory goes that an anti-resolution like this has the added benefit of being more specific, and therefore it’s harder to find excuses or loopholes which might allow you to break it.
“Having a list of things you’re not going to do is easier to achieve,” says Mike Vardy, author of The Front Nine: How to Start the Year You Want Anytime You Want. “If I know what I don’t do, it’s easier to live intentionally.”
Alternatively, instead of making the resolution to exercise more (this year’s second most popular resolution), you could look at what has prevented you from hitting the gym in the past. Perhaps you could pledge to stop hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock, limit your time on social media, or say no to unnecessary late nights at work – all goals that would leave more time for exercise.
The reason this method works? Focusing on cutting out bad habits leaves more space for the good, says personal development coach Kate Hanley, author of How to Be a Better Person. “Making an anti-resolution list gives you an opportunity to identify some of the ways you’ve been making your own life harder, and then use that awareness to stop doing (at least one of) those things,” she says.
So, if you did set a New Year’s resolution this year, it might be time to flip it and make an anti-resolution instead. If the experts are right, that small tweak could dramatically improve your 2018.
Images: Becca Tapert, Anthony Ginsbrook