Making Effective New Years Resolutions
Setting Goals for 2018
The New Year is almost upon us and if you are like many people, this may be a time during which you make ambitious proclamations about what self-improvements you’re going to accomplish this year. 2018 will be the year that you promise to go to the gym every day, you will stop eating sugar, you will abstain from alcohol, you will read at least one book each month, you will save half of your paycheck, you will pay off your credit card debt and you will stop being late all the time.
When we set ourselves up with such absolutes, we leave no room to make a mistake or be imperfect, which may be one of the reasons that New Year’s resolutions are very rarely successful. Research indicates that although approximately 50% of people make New Year’s resolutions, only about 8% actually achieve them. And a whopping one-third of individuals who made a New Year’s resolution will already have given up on their goals by January 7th.
The problem with these types of resolutions is that they consist of “all or nothing thinking”, which is one of the most common maladaptive thought distortions in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). If for example, you’ve made the resolution to stop eating sugar in the New Year, you’ve given yourself no room for error. After sticking to your guns for a few days, passing up dessert, skipping that daily candy bar and diligently making sure that sugar isn’t an added ingredient in anything you buy at the store, it begins to feel overwhelming and you feel deprived and angry. So you give yourself permission to eat a piece of chocolate, but you don’t stop there. You think you’ve already blown it, so you might as well have a few donuts and before you know it, your binging on all the sugary things from which you’ve been depriving yourself. If you are like most people, you think of your New Year’s resolution in “all or nothing” terms, and it is very likely that one slip-up will derail all of your efforts. When you think that anything short of perfection is a total failure, even the smallest slip-up will have you believe that you’ve totally failed your resolution and that you might as well give up. This extreme way of thinking is often responsible for negative judgments about yourself and others and is reason most New Year’s resolutions fail.
In 2018, consider using some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) principles to have better success with your resolutions. Cognitive restructuring, an important component of CBT, teaches you to dispute “all or nothing thinking” and helps you to see that even though you may have slipped up or not performed perfectly, one mistake doesn’t erase the strides you’ve made. Instead of overcommitting and setting unrealistic goals, which often lead to guilt, self-criticism and self-punishment, CBT helps you to shift old thinking patterns into healthier, more realistic ways of thinking so you can dust yourself off and begin again.
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our CBT therapists can help you to make realistic, sustainable changes and teach you to become your own best resource to solve problems, stick to goals so you can be the best version of yourself in 2018.
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