Does the New Year have you thinking about making resolutions? Maybe doing that thing you’ve been thinking about but haven’t gotten around to yet?
Dr. Timothy A. Pychyl, Carleton University Department of Psychology associate professor says that for many of us, a new year presents an opportunity for a new self, one that — maybe — we’ve been putting off for a while.
“Sometimes, I describe it as a culture of procrastination because we don’t really want to do it ever, but we feel that we ought to. So we have our ought-self speaking to us – ‘Oh, I ought to exercise, I ought to eat better, I ought to stop doing this or that so much,’” Pychyl explains.
“Then we let ourselves off the hook because we can form a good intention for this culturally relevant date. When we feel good about ourselves in the present, research by Dan Gilbert at Harvard University has shown us that we rely on the present to predict how we’re going to feel in the future – presentism.”
In other words, if we think we’ll feel good about it in the future, that makes us feel good now, whether or not we actually go through with it.
“It gives us a license to say ‘Yeah, I’m going to be that person but, next year,’” Pychyl says.
His advice when it comes to following through with your resolutions? Don’t focus on your feelings now – instead, focus on the next action you’re going to take.
“Ask yourself, if I was going to access that, what is the next action? If it’s to exercise more, then the next action is literally to step up on the machine. Just step up on the machine, that’s all. Don’t think about doing the whole 30 minutes,” Pychyl explains.
“Be realistic – you’re not going to feel like it anymore in 2019 than you do in 2018. But it’s not about feeling like it. Motivation follows action, so find the tiniest little action that’s in the direction of your goal because progress fuels our well-being. Even the smallest bit of progress.”
Learn more about Dr. Pychyl’s research at procrastination.ca.
We talked to a few local parents about making New Year’s resolutions
“I have great intentions every year of making resolutions, however I do get sidetracked and they get forgotten. They’re more reminders of daily things I need to be more mindful of – more patience with my kids, work and parents. Bigger ones would include pushing myself harder at work, finding more time for myself and, of course, trying again and again to save money for a holiday.” – Carly Hayes
“My New Year’s resolutions this year will be to get in better shape, eat healthier, be a more patient father and read more books. While my resolutions don’t exactly revolve around my kids, aside from being more patient for my kids, I believe that they do impact them for sure. And although I, like many people, sometimes fail at these resolutions, I think it’s important for our kids to see us fail too, to know that parents aren’t perfect. The most important thing is that you are showing your children that you aren’t afraid to try.” – Trevor Greenway
“I prefer to call them goals. My resolutions for 2019 are to buy a house. I tend to stay away from resolutions that focus on weight and exercise as I focus on those most of the year, but this year, one of my goals is to go more plant-based so less dairy and less meat. My third resolution is to run another full marathon in the fall.” – Janet Newton
“I don’t normally make resolutions since I don’t make that a big a deal out of New Years, but I usually think up a few goals for myself that I would like to see happen during the year. For 2019, I would really like to do a few things, including showing more presence and patience for my son when we are together, taking more time for myself, and something that I have really been thinking about is travelling more.” – Lauren Ehrenworth
“I used to make the usual resolutions that focused on health/weight/smoking but moved away from those as I got older. Generally, I found that most resolutions were difficult to keep without some sort of overhaul to lifestyle. Within a few weeks, they would get lost in the shuffle. So I started applying them as goals when the year started. Instead of trying to quit smoking, I would make it a goal to find a program or some sort of aid to help me in my longer-term quest. Or, if I was looking to lose weight, I would make it a goal to contact a nutritionist and start meal planning. I found the goals themselves were easier to maintain.” – Andrew Wolframe