Resolving to be resolute

So here we go once again! 2024 … New year, new resolutions.

Let me see a show of hands who made them? And who has managed to stick to them so far? Well, don’t feel alone or discouraged if your planned resolution efforts have significantly reduced by now. According to Medscape, a study of health and fitness-related apps showed January 19 to be “Quitter’s Day”, i.e., the day by which most new year’s resolutions have fizzled out. This is backed-up by a 2023 psychological study in the UK, which showed that 64% of the study participants abandoned their New Year’s resolutions within the first month.

According to Forbes Health, the Top 5 2024 resolutions were:

  • Improved fitness (48%)
  • Improved finances (38%)
  • Improved mental health (36%)
  • Lose weight (34%)
  • Improved diet (32%)

An interesting change from the previous two years’ focus on improved mental health.

Unfortunately, these resolutions generally never come to fruition and, in the long run, only around 6% of people continue with their resolution to beyond a year. So, why the high drop-out rate?

The most important factor in this is having a deep understanding on WHY you want to change. What’s the actual motivation for this change? Health-related resolutions seem fairly obvious … but even so, just a generic response of “I want to be healthier” is often not enough to make us stick to actually making those changes. It is only when we are faced with a critical, shape-up-or-die kind of situation that we find the motivation to change.

Saying “I want to lose weight in 2024” does not have the same impetus as saying “I want to lose weight in 2024 so that I can bring my blood pressure down and maybe reduce my medication … or reduce my risks of developing diabetes … or even because I want to better control my diabetes” – doesn’t it?

Which brings me to the next point of this understanding pathway, and that is timing: WHY do you want to make this particular change in your life/lifestyle NOW? If the WHY does not correspond sufficiently to the WHY NOW, the motivating drive will not be the same. Both need to be aligned to push us into the uncomfortable future. So, our generic initial statement then becomes even more pressing: “I want to lose weight in 2024 to AVOID having knee surgery this year”.

Breaking down the motivation behind the resolution will also then help to set the specific goals needed to achieve the final end-goal. Small and realistic “baby-step” goals are generally better in terms of attainability and the resulting affirmation needed to proceed to the next step or goal. Less is always more! So, FOCUS on the achievable.

And finally, consider an “accountability partner”. This can be absolutely anyone, a friend, a family member, a group, or even your doctor! More often than not, apps (through their lack of direct and intimate contact with the appee) do not always hold the same sway as a nagging friend or partner … not to mention a nagging doctor! Hence the high rate (almost 70%) of cancelled memberships to many online weight loss and fitness apps within the first three months of use … or non-use rather?

Afterall, there has to be a reason why support group-based therapies have always had the best results.

It takes COURAGE to admit that changes in one’s life, lifestyle, diet etc. are necessary and, likewise, it takes courage to take those first steps towards achieving them, closely followed by the DISCIPLINE needed to carry them through.

Courage to confront challenges head-on is a vital factor in the journey towards improved health, and discipline is just as essential to not falter and fall off the wagon.

Failure is not an option, and “try” is only a strategy in rugby – according to my ex-military business-coaching husband, although admitting a “wobble” off the new health path also takes courage … courage to admit that we made a mistake. But by the same token, it will only mean something if we then pick up the resolve again, focus and push on to the final goal.

Here’s to a healthier, happier and more focused 2024!

By Dr Jo

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Dr Joanna Karamon is a General Practitioner with over 20 years’ experience. She is Clinical Director of Luzdoc International Medical Services Network