Setting yourself up for success in 2021

Are you someone who every January, sets a new grand resolution for how you are going to be better in the new year? But by the end of the month, have completely forgotten or not even started making changes to reach your resolution? If this sounds like you, you are not alone!

It’s estimated that approximately 79% of Australians make a New Year’s resolution each year. How many of these, do you think are actually reached by December 31 though? Well, researchers have estimated, that approximately 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. That’s a lot of disappointment being felt around the country at the start of a new year.

Why do New Year’s resolutions fail?

From a psychological perspective, it’s often not the resolution that is causing the failure, it is our strategy to reach it. One of the most widely researched explanations for creating behaviour change, is Prochaska and DiClemente’s 1980’s Transtheoretical Model (TTM). These researchers proposed that when making a change in our lives, we go through five stages:

  1. Pre-contemplation: Having no conscious intention to change a behaviour.
  2. Contemplation: Aware of a behaviour you should change, but no commitment to action.
  3. Preparation: Identified a behaviour to change, have belief you can change this behaviour and have the plans to do so but no action taken as yet.
  4. Action: In the process of changing the behaviour e.g. facing challenges from the change and engaging in coping strategies to help promote the new behaviour.
  5. Maintenance: Are well into the behaviour change process (approximately 6 months) and focusing on integration and preventing relapse into old behaviours.

Now, that all sounds like a fairly straight forward process. In fact, Prochaska and DiClemente proposed this to be a spiral model, whereby we may relapse into old behaviours and learn how we can overcome the challenges or triggers in the next attempt. Some people go through three to four rounds of the Action stage, before succeeding into the Maintenance phase and successfully changing their behaviour.

For New Year’s resolutions, some people may just jump straight into the Action phase on 1 January, without even going through the necessary steps and thinking required in the Contemplation and Preparation stage that is required to set us up for success.

Getting through the Preparation stage

  • Break the behaviour change down into smaller goals.
  • Research how to achieve your behaviour change goal – knowledge is power!
  • Identify your motivators – to change a behaviour, YOU have to really want to do it.
  • Identify your triggers for going back in to the old behaviour and work out how to avoid these i.e. remove triggers from your environment or work out a replacement  behaviour when faced with a trigger.
  • Have an accountability buddy to help coach you through the first stages.
  • Ask for help if you need it.
  • Celebrate your successes.

So don’t think you have to wait until 1 January, to set yourself a new goal or resolution. Start when the moment feels right to you. Spend some time adequately preparing for the behaviour change to give you the best opportunity for success! Don’t be disheartened if you take a few steps back along the way, identify what the trigger was and how to overcome it, and tomorrow, try again. Every day won’t be perfect but learning to forgive oneself and restart is an important key to perseverance.