US psychologist Richard Ryan says if one of your new year resolutions is to be happier then concentrate on making the world a better place and you’ll make yourself happier.
Here, Richard Ryan, an international expert on motivational research and professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Rochester, located just south of Lake Ontario in New York state in the US gives some sage advice on how to make our 2021 New Year’s resolutions stick. Meanwhile, wishing you all a happy and healthy new year from everyone at The Carousel.
Beyond the focus of your goals, there are some key elements to success at any resolution you might make. First, make sure your goal is one you truly embrace–that you are fully behind and care about.
An achievable goal is also one that is not abstract, like “improve my health” but concrete–such as “increase my daily step count” or “drink sparkling water rather than sugared soda at lunch.”
These latter goals are clear and achievable in a way that a vague global resolution can never be. Once having a clear aim, the next step is making a realistic plan on how and when it will be implemented.
Just as important, research shows that the more you can make achieving your resolution fun and “intrinsically motivated” the more you’ll persist. For example, a plan to increase your step count might include a walk each day with a good friend–which will both achieve your step goal and satisfy relatedness needs. By finding an activity that both gets you to your goal and that you enjoy–or at least don’t find aversive–you’ll be more likely to carry on.
Finally, successful resolutions are usually built upon optimal challenges. Setting the bar too high will feel discouraging and lead to disengagement. Keep in mind that with almost any long-term goal the best strategy is to set small incremental goals–not “I’m going to climb Everest” but rather “I’m going to take these first few steps toward base camp.”
Advice for 2021?
The past year has been tough; you can make the new one kinder. Any new goals you set that involve changing habits or lifestyles will inevitably involve some setbacks, lapses, and failures. So, when failures happen, remember to be a compassionate self-coach. Forget the harsh judgments and instead take interest in what you can learn from the setback and where you got stuck. And then restart with that much more wisdom in hand.