Less is more if you want to keep New Year's resolutions

Think about what you’re gaining, not what you’re giving up, and keep pledges to a minimum

LAST UPDATED AT 13:27 ON Mon 31 Dec 2012

GIVING UP smoking, drinking less and losing weight will once again feature heavily in our lists of new year's resolutions for 2013, according to a Which? survey. However, another poll by gym chain LA Fitness has 'taking better photos', 'making more time for the Sunday papers' and 'leaving work on time' in respondents' top 20 resolutions.

But sticking to a resolution is harder than making one, says the Daily Telegraph. "The time is upon us to consider how we might change the way we live in the coming year, usually having failed miserably to fulfil the same resolutions made on this day 12 months ago."

There is plenty of advice at hand, however, for those determined to make a change in 2013.

Psychotherapist Philippa Perry, writing in The Observer, explains that there are two types of willpower, Victorian will and skilful will. Using 'Victorian will' focuses on what you have given up and often turns it into a "pointless denial... [but] with skilful will, you concentrate on what you're gaining, not what you are giving up". 

Less is more, according to Slate magazine. "The best resolution you can make is to do fewer things in 2013," it claims. According to experts in 'behavioral economics', the easiest way to escape a vicious cycle of missed deadlines and disorder in life is "a moratorium on new obligations".

That is a theme supported by Ray Philip in The Scotsman. "The most common new year's resolutions are, perhaps unsurprisingly, ones that appeal most to our vanity. Not that there's anything wrong with wanting to look and feel better about yourself and all," he argues, "but aiming for modest gains makes much more sense than setting yourself up for one spectacular flake after another." 

There is similar advice from Down Under. According to the Sydney Morning Herald: "Instead of going cold turkey on our vices, we're better off making bite-sized chunks of progress." The paper explains that the three key tips for success are to set achievable goals, to expect setbacks, but not to use them as a reason to give up.

If you do fail, you can always blame society. Guardian blogger Syima Aslam claims that it is increasingly difficult to stick to a resolution in modern times.

"There is far more celebration of those who will break their word at will and manipulate situations to their own ends, than those who feel that it is morally right to honour an agreement both in word and spirit," she writes. "Those who deviate are celebrated as clever, whilst those who do not are seen as being too stupid to grasp the opportunity." · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.

Read more about