There’s something compelling about the idea of making New Year’s resolutions, isn’t there? With the turning of the calendar just a few days from now, a brand-new year will begin, unmarred by past mistakes, filled with promise and opportunity. Most of us will pause sometime during this coming week, reflecting on some of the poor choices we might have made in 2019, and we’ll tell ourselves, “2020 is going to be different! This is the year for a brand new me! I’m going to be a happier, healthier, slimmer, more likeable, more responsible person.”
Are New Year’s Resolutions a Recipe for Failure?
But it almost never turns out that way, does it? It turns out that making New Year’s resolutions and then failing at them is an almost universal experience for we Westerners. We took a look at a few articles on the subject to find out why the failure rate is so high and what we might be able to do to put more resolve in our resolutions. Then we turned to a true expert, Rajiv Nagaich, to get his take on New Year’s resolutions and to find out what 2020 goals should really matter.
Before we hear from Rajiv, we did a bit of homework and found this article in the archives of Psychology Today. It says that making New Year’s resolutions actually has some therapeutic value, whether we adhere to them or not. “The average New Year’s resolution is abandoned before the Christmas credit card bills arrive,” the article says. However, “whether or not you think this is a problem depends on how you view resolutions.” In this writer’s opinion, when we place too much emphasis on keeping versus abandoning our goals for the year ahead, we may be missing the point. “As it turns out, most New Year’s resolutions are not about behavior change. They are an expression of hope.” Even the act of making a resolution makes us feel better. “Research has shown that as soon as you pledge to change, you get a powerful boost in mood. The bigger the resolution, the better you feel. Immediately!” As Psychology Today says, it’s all about hope and control.
Maybe the Problem with Keeping New Year’s Resolutions Lies in the Brain
But let’s say you really do want to change your behavior in the New Year. Why is the process such a challenge? This article from a website called Buffer.com reported that half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but at least seven out of every eight resolutions fail. The reason, say researchers, is a form of brain overload. “Your brain can’t handle New Year’s resolutions,” says Buffer. The part of the brain that deals with what we call willpower (in other words, the part responsible for keeping those resolutions) is also the part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) that keeps us focused and manages short-term memory. That busy part of our brain, when overstressed, acts like a muscle in need of training. “If you decide to train that muscle at the start of the new year with a resolution to quit smoking, start going to the gym, or lose lots of weight, that’s the equivalent of a 300-pound barbell you want to lift without any previous training. It’s no surprise that your brain can’t do the heavy lifting.”
So, how do we make successful resolutions? Many of the articles we read contained a similar litany of recommendations. Keep the number of resolutions manageable. Be specific, not general. Don’t try to improve everything all at once. Self-improvement and goal-setting should be a year-long process, and you can begin any day of the year, not just January 1st. Instead of cramming all your goals into the first few weeks of the year, take small manageable steps, and have an accountability partner to keep you focused. That way, if you slip up, it’s easier to get back on track, and you have someone to help you do it. Make sure you build in milestones along the way, and celebrate every time you achieve one, not just when you reach the end of the road, because acknowledging little achievements is a great motivator. And if you slip up on a resolution, relax, laugh it off, and get back on track.
How Serious Are We About Our New Year’s Resolutions?
We offer one final article, this one from the editors of Shape magazine who list ten suggestion for keeping New Year’s Resolutions. We won’t share them all because we lack the space, but a few of them seem like they might actually help. For example, when it comes to keeping resolutions, don’t go it alone: having someone walk with you as your guide and companion increases your odds of success. Another important point from Self is to have a plan, not just good intentions, and to be honest with yourself about your level of commitment. Finally, keep a positive attitude and celebrate progress as you move toward your goals.
Rajiv Nagaich agrees that it can be important to make resolutions, but if there’s no follow-through then the exercise is pointless. This definitely applies in the area of retirement planning. “I can’t begin to count the number of conversations I’ve had with people who say they intend to get around to planning for retirement ‘one of these days’ but they never seem to do it. What good is that?” he asks. “Unless you’re willing to get serious about planning for the rest of your life, sorry to say this, but your good intentions aren’t going to help you or your family one bit.” Rajiv knows what he’s talking about: his retirement strategy called LifePlanning has helped thousands protect their assets, avoid becoming a burden to loved ones, and escape the trap of ending up in a nursing home against their wises. “But remember,” Rajiv admonishes, “none of these things happens by accident! Make a plan and stick to it!”
The Right New Year’s Resolutions Can Guide Us into a More Secure Future
Without a plan, your retirement future will be like a ship without a rudder, tossed and turned in ways you can’t control. But with a LifePlan in place – a comprehensive and multi-faceted retirement plan only offered through AgingOptions – you’re in control of your retirement destiny. You can face the future with greater confidence than you imagined. What’s more, the professionals at AgingOptions will be there to help you along the way.
We urge you to make the one resolution that can start you on your way to retirement security: resolve to attend a free LifePlanning Seminar near you. You’ve probably been hearing about these popular seminars for months if not years. There’s no cost, and no obligation, and we’re not trying to sell you anything. Our goal is to demonstrate how your finances, legal affairs, housing choices, family dynamics and health care needs all fit together into one comprehensive plan to guide you into the future. We have several LifePlanning Seminars planned for January in locations throughout the area, so you can select the date you want. Why wait? To find out more, click here for upcoming Seminar dates and times, and register online, or contact us during the week and we’ll gladly assist you.
You can indeed make 2020 your retirement breakthrough year – with the help of AgingOptions. Let us guide you into an exciting New Year for your future plans. As we like to say – “Age on!”