The Psychology Behind ‘New Year, New Me’

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Each year, many women experience a surge of determination and set New Year’s resolutions in hopes of becoming the best version of themselves. The new year, with its promise of fresh beginnings, often brings about a level of introspection, leading us to confidently proclaim the popular mantra: “New year, new me.” But if we’re honest, how many of us vowed to swap our sugar-filled morning lattes for kale smoothies only to have a bad day and immediately revert to our old habits?

In our journey of self-growth, resolutions can play a pivotal role, but their effectiveness hinges on understanding the “why” and crafting a plan that allows for successful implementation. It’s not just about setting goals; it’s about delving into the reasons behind them and devising a concrete plan to ensure we follow through.

Numerous surveys have highlighted the phenomenon of New Year’s resolutions. It’s estimated that approximately 45% of Americans participate and set goals at the top of each new year.

“This aligns with the findings of the psychosocial study, ‘The Fresh Start Effect,’” says Barbara A. Prempeh, Psy.D., a New Jersey-based licensed psychologist and founder of B. Resilient—a counseling practice specializing in trauma and helping individuals and organizations develop resilience. “The research delves into the influence of temporal landmarks like the new year on driving aspirational behavior. These landmarks help us mentally distance ourselves from past actions, offering hope and renewed motivation to pursue our future objectives.”

New Year’s resolutions leverage “the fresh start effect” by aligning with the symbolic significance of the start of a new year. According to the study, people are more likely to set ambitious goals during this time, driven by a sense of renewal and a desire to make positive life changes.

Prempeh believes that the new year is an ideal time for transformation, but emphasizes the importance of analyzing the origin of our resolutions. Why do we really want to change?

“Is the resolution something that you want to accomplish for yourself because you discovered an area of your life that needed growth or change, or is it a resolution that was created based on what others are doing?” she challenges.

In other words, are you considering becoming vegetarian because you’re drawn to the potential health advantages of a meat-free diet, or are you following a current trend? Do you want to write the book because you genuinely have an interest in storytelling, or are you merely caught up in the hype of bestseller lists? Moment of truth: Are these resolutions from the heart, or just chasing the latest social media buzz?

“There is nothing wrong with seeing someone accomplish something or growing in a certain area and feeling as though you want that growth for yourself, too; but make sure it is aligned with who you truly desire to be,” she says. “Make sure to examine the source and the ‘why’ to your resolutions.”

Goal-setting coach Nisheena Clemons, founder of Phoenix Rise Wellness, believes that understanding your why can also be beneficial in actually making your goals stick.

According to her, a solid plan is the starting point, but true sticking power comes when you grasp the purpose and motivation behind your decision-making. Clemons utilizes the conventional S.M.A.R.T. model (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) for resolution setting, but she offers a slight remix to the traditional acronym, urging women to dream bigger.

“Instead of the A for achievable, I like to replace it with ‘audacious,’” she says. “When we are thinking about goals, we are thinking about things that are beyond us. Audacious goals are about purpose. Remembering your purpose can be motivating when it gets tough.”

Once you’ve assessed your why, Clemons recommends devising the plan by first breaking goals down into smaller tasks.

“I think of the African proverb—there is only one way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time,” she says. “The same is with our goals. We break them down to do something almost every day—if not every day—towards that goal. When you break it down so small, it builds your confidence and momentum to keep on doing it. And it compounds over time.”

And if you need a bit of extra support, enlisting a life coach can help you map out your dreams, tackle obstacles, and keep you on track when you need that extra push. And there is power in community.

“A life coach, workshops and empowerment groups can help you connect with like-minded people to experience a collective momentum to keep you going,” Clemons says. “Having an accountability partner is crucial in achieving your goals.”

As you navigate the maze of the new year, remember that resolutions are less about grand declarations, quotes, and magic wand transformations. Instead, focus on the beauty of your journey of self-discovery and growth. Embrace each moment and cherish the lessons you’ll learn along the way. And if resolutions are about aligning with your purpose, as suggested by Clemons—here’s to fulfilling New Year’s resolutions that guide you in living not only your purpose but your best life in 2024.

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