Monday, January 1, 0001

With the New Year knocking on the door, millions of South African women will soon be setting their resolutions for 2014 – and thereby setting themselves up for disaster.

Research by the University of Scranton in the United States suggests that a meagre 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s goals. Just six days into 2013, a YouGov Omnibus Survey in America found that 22% of people had already ditched their resolutions.

Despite the huge propensity to fail at New Year ambitions, 1st for Women Insurance’s Robyn Farrell says there remains, nonetheless, great value in setting them.

“Where and what are we without our dreams and goals? New Year, when there’s the promise of new beginnings and 12 months of clean slate to fill, is a great time to set new goals for remaking and improving ourselves.

“However, many people set themselves up for failure by setting a long and arduous list of goals. By setting a few clearly-defined simple goals, people can better their odds at sticking to their resolve and even find themselves in the 8% of people who, at the end of the year, can say they have achieved what they promised,” she says.

Three resolutions commonly surface year after year in online polls; 1 – lose weight; 2 – get fit, and 3 – improve financial position. Quit smoking, travel more and be more positive are other popular resolutions. Yet, they remain among the most quickly-discarded resolutions.

Experts agree that open-ended resolutions like these doom to failure those who proclaim them. Success lies in keeping it simple while being specific.

“Losing weight, getting fit, and furthering education are as non-specific as asking for a piece of string. You won’t get what you want unless you define how thick and long it should be,” says Farrell, “You have to be realistic and you have to be specific.”

Choose resolutions you genuinely are committed to achieving. Don't try to plan your resolutions when you're pressed for time or giddy with excitement at the turn of midnight. If you feel you should quit smoking but you don’t really want to there’s no point making the promise to do it.

Write-down your resolutions and define the steps for achieving them. For example, larger challenges should be broken up into smaller tasks, with each one forming a step towards reaching the end goal.

If you want to lose weight, define how much you want to lose and by when, but be realistic. 2kgs by February, with a total of 5kgs by April, for example is highly-doable. Then, have a plan on how you’re going to do it. Will you join a weight loss group or will you define changes such quitting chips, fizzy drinks and chocolate?

Similarly, when it comes to getting fit, have a goal in mind such as running a 10km race by November, and have a plan on how you will get your body into condition for that. Will you attend a spinning class twice a week and do a 5km run twice a week? Or will you focus on building on your running fitness by starting to run 2kms three times a week and work yourself up to 10kms three times a week within specific timeframes?

In the words of John Norcross of the University of Scranton, Farrell says, “If you can’t measure it, it’s not a good resolution. Vague goals beget vague resolutions.”

She adds: “It’s a good idea to chart your progress and reward yourself for achieving each step. You could also designate a friend, mentor or your partner to share your successes with, support you through your lows, and help you monitor your progress. This raises the bar of responsibility.”

Experts recommend focusing on one at a time and starting immediately on January the 1st rather than waiting for inspiration to take hold.

“Start as you would like to end off. Once you have started your journey, take each step one at a time and be happy with your progress. The only way you'll get to where you want to go is to complete every small step along the way, ticking them off with pride as you accomplish each one. Remember to reward yourself for each small goal you manage to achieve.

“At each low point, have faith perseverance will pay off in the long run. That is why the small milestone rewards matter so much. Small as they might be, each one is significant in the journey towards your big goal, and if you are achieving the steps towards that, you are among 8% of the world’s population who ever manage to do it. That’s something,” encourages Farrell.

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