January 2024 signals the start of a new year. With each New Year comes New Year’s resolutions. We often make personal resolutions on changes we will choose to add to our daily routines or actions to omit over the next 365 days. As you read this January issue of the SGIM Forum, reflect on 2023. What are the changes you resolved to make in 2024? Do your resolutions include some of these common choices?
- I resolve to eat healthier;
- I resolve to read more;
- I resolve to quit smoking;
- I resolve to lose weight;
- I resolve to drink less;
- I resolve to exercise more;
- I resolve to save more money;
- I resolve to reduce stress;
- I resolve to spend more time with family; or
- I resolve to have better sleep habits.
Just as we make personal resolutions, our patients also make resolutions. How often have you asked your patients about their New Year’s resolutions?
We attempt to motivate our patients throughout the year to change their habits and behaviors. We find it challenging to get them to initiate and follow through on these changes. Resolutions are made under the premise of achieving success. We don’t resolve to eat more fast food, smoke more cigarettes, drink more alcohol, or to be more stressed. We should discuss with our patients the resolutions that they made to start 2024. If they are so interested in making a particular change that they make it a 2024 resolution, as physicians, we should capitalize on their newfound motivation.
New Year’s resolutions are set due to traditions and expectations. Research shows that New Year’s resolutions often falter and fail over time. “Researchers suggest that only 9% of Americans that make resolutions complete them. In fact, research goes on to show that 23% of people quit their resolution by the end of the first week, and 43% quit by the end of January.”2 In sum, a glass half-empty view is a failure rate of 43%; a glass half-full view is a success rate of 57%. As a physician, I would be overjoyed at the prospect of a 57% behavior change rate for my patients over the course of a month and perhaps a year.
What are the reasons for failure? Richard Batts, an instructional design coordinator for the Fisher Leadership Initiative, writes:
“There are four reasons why people seem to fail at New Year’s resolutions.
- Goals should start at a time of change...Goals are your vision of what you would like the future to look like. If you are setting a resolution for tradition’s sake, then your motivation will be lacking.
- Expect Obstacles…There is always a chance for an obstacle. To keep your optimism, identify obstacles and create plans to avoid barriers.
- Set goals into challenging, measured but smaller chunks…Goals that are measured will not only show your progress, but will inspire you when you see the data. It also gives you a chance to celebrate small wins.
- Accountability…Accountability means that you are responsible to someone to accomplish the goal; this can be motivating.”2
We often ask our patients “what is important from your perspective that we cover during your visit today?” Specifically asking them about their 2024 resolutions is another way to determine what is important to them.
SGIM members can help their patients with behavior changes by helping them set realistic goals for the future and capitalizing on their new resolutions. Although the resolution may be set due to tradition (which is more likely to fail, according to Batts), we should capitalize on our patient’s interest in changing behavior. SGIM members can help patients develop plans to overcome obstacles and setbacks as we do this regularly with our care plans. We can help patients celebrate small wins as part of the bigger health plan (e.g., that first week of no cigarettes, the five-pound weight loss, or the improvement in their blood glucose readings).
Finally, many patients wish to avoid disappointing their physician. This physician-patient relationship can assist with the patient’s resolution by providing the accountability needed to achieve success.
As we start 2024, many SGIM members have made personal resolutions. Why not add a professional resolution this year? My resolution this year is: As an individual, I resolve to keep my personal 2024 New Year’s resolution going longer and achieve my goal. As a physician, I resolve to ask my patients about their 2024 resolutions so I can better understand what is important to them and what behaviors they are motivated to change. SGIM members, do you want to join me in this resolution for 2024?