My Perspective - A better version


By Kate Jackman-Atkinson

The Neepawa Banner

The clock is counting down to the end of 2014 and the start of a new year.  If you didn’t notice it on your calendar, you surely noticed it at the grocery store checkout, where the magazine racks shout headlines such as “New year, new you”. A new year is a time for a fresh start.

The start of a new year gives us a chance to reflect on the year that was and make plans for the year that will be. Most of us want the new year to be better than the last and we make New Years resolutions to set our goals and focus our efforts.

About 40 per cent of North Americans make new year’s resolutions, ranging from the broad such as “I want to exercise more”, to the specific, such as, “I want to compete in a marathon”. There is however one well known problem with New Years resolutions, so few people keep them. Researchers at the University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania, did a study on New Year’s resolutions and found that 77 per cent of their subjects kept their resolutions a full week, 55 per cent of those  kept their resolutions for a month. After six months, only 40 per cent of those who had made a New Year’s resolution were still sticking with their goal.

We make a lot of jokes about the futility of our resolutions but there is a place for setting goals. Without goals, what do we use as a road map and how do we measure change? For those who want to set goals, and achieve them, there is some help. Researchers have found three things that make for successful resolutions.

The first key is to make goals attainable. People who study goal setting have found that the more manageable the goal, the more likely we are to succeed. Whatever your goal, make sure that it is realistic.  That may mean breaking a larger goal into smaller steps or to focus on making a change for a specific time period. By setting attainable goals, a person can still decide to stretch their goals, such as lose a little more weight or walk a little further. Research has also shown that people who fail to meet their goals become less likely to succeed in future endeavours, it makes it harder for us to try other goals.

The second factor to take into consideration is that making a mistake is inevitable. Research has shown that once people make a mistake, say a dieter has a big bowl of ice cream, there is a tendency to think that the whole day, or week or month is blown, and that they will start again tomorrow.  Many don’t start again. We have to remember to keep our goals in perspective and remember that a set back isn’t enough reason to give up on our goals all together.

The final key is to stay motivated and committed. Changing from our regular routines is hard, that’s why so many people struggle. It’s recommended to look at the concrete steps and how one’s life will have to change in order to meet their goals, and recognize that some things will have to change. For example, a person’s social life might involve going out for dinner and drinks with friends, making it difficult to achieve a goal of saving money. We need to recognize potential problems and come up with a solution, it might be to order something different or try some different activities.

No one becomes a thinner, smarter, fitter, richer, more charitable person overnight. Improvement is a game of two steps forwards and one step back.  Some days, we end up taking two steps back, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive towards reaching our goals.  At the end of the day, we are the only ones who can make our lives better– no one will do these things for us.

When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, many of us won’t make official resolutions, but I hope each and every one of us will strive towards a better version of ourselves in 2015.