To resolve or not to resolve, that is the question. Or is it?
New Year’s Resolutions are nothing new unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past 4000 years 1. Every year, your friends, family, co-workers, and absolute strangers declare their fresh intentions to the world.
Your social media feed will be full of debate around the effectiveness of setting resolutions. You’ll see headlines like: “New Year, New You,” “Resolve to Evolve,” or “Results not Resolutions.” Yes, evidence indicates that resolutions rarely work. However, this is often debated. A discussion for another day.
If there is one thing for certain, people like to start new habits on the first of the year or month, on Mondays, after major holidays, or after a significant event. This phenomenon has been dubbed “The Fresh Start Effect” 2 by researcher and economist super-nerd Dr. Katy Milkman.
Long story short, there’s a good chance you or someone in your circle will be setting New Year’s Resolutions. Rather than criticize or ignore your friends who choose to set resolutions, try these:
1) Have empathy.
Change is hard. Like really hard. Someone who hints at the idea of making change should be supported, even if the change seems irrational. Therapists would dub this talk as “change talk.” Whether right or wrong, the intention of change can be turned into action.
2) Seek Clarity (Without Judgement).
Goals are often set as ambitious outcomes. These might be “lose 30 pounds” or “run a half-marathon.” These are great starts to the goal-setting process but are merely a destination without direction. You can be a goal-setting super friend by helping them clarify how they might achieve these goals.
Ask these questions:
What daily actions can they do to achieve their goal?
How do these daily actions fit into their current lifestyle?
What resources might they need to achieve their goal?
How can they measure, track, and evaluate their progress?
What progress indicators might they seek on their journey?
A word of caution: Be sure to flow with their ideas and not inject your own. For example, someone wanting to lose 30lbs in a month might be irrational to you, but to them, it might not seem so illogical.
What is helpful in these situations is to clarify what they might need to do to obtain that irrational goal. Often, the realization of the extreme measures they might need to take will help them readjust their overly ambitious goal.
Clarity will come; it might take some back and forth.
3) Offer Support.
Support can be as simple as listening or asking the occasional “How’s your [insert goal] going?” You could join them on their journey. Or you could help them find the resources they need to achieve their goals (insert shameless plug for joefitness).
New Year’s Resolutions aren’t going away anytime soon. No matter what you think of them, they can be helpful. Rather than debating them, let’s use them as an opportunity.
- https://www.history.com/…/the-history-of-new-years… ↩︎
- The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior https://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2014.1901 ↩︎