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A year without a resolution:


Well, here I am, starting a new blog at the start of a new year. Like most others, I am the average human. I have big hopes and dreams and am making plans for the new year. However, there is one thing that I no longer do because it simply doesn’t work. I don’t make resolutions. They don’t work and create more harm than good for me. Every year, I would sit down, reflect on the past year, plan out the successive years, and make resolutions, only to find that a few weeks or months later, I didn’t achieve what I set out to do or even forgot I had developed a resolution in the first place. I tried several approaches, such as minimizing the number of resolutions and goals I had and using habit-tracking forms. Yet, only a few of the resolutions I made yearly made it past the first few months. The question is, why do resolutions fail, and how then do we make fundamental changes?

 

Why do resolutions fail?

Because the new year brings a sense of renewal, hope, and optimism, it seems pretty standard to sit down at the end of the year and make some New Year resolutions. It would be just another part of the celebrations and as much a part of the process as popping a champagne bottle at midnight.

 

Most of the resolutions I have heard over the years are solid ideas and offer significant goals to work with - from getting going on an exercise program, eating well, taking up meditation, and building a better relationship with their significant other. However, as I stated earlier, most resolutions are forgotten, and it is estimated that around 85 to 90% of the resolutions set every year are abandoned.  

 

Resolutions fail for many reasons, but I will focus on three here:

  1. They are not our resolutions – they are what others expect or what we think we should do. An example would be if one chooses to read a book every month but hates to read. This example reflects not looking deeply into the why of the resolution and making sure it matches who we are.

  2. Choosing a goal that is too large for the time frame we set, and subconsciously, we know it! An example of this situation is when a goal is set to lose a certain body weight quickly. Losing body weight may be a good resolution, but it needs to be tempered within a reasonable time frame. I have worked with clients in personal training who have set resolutions to lose twenty pounds – and I know that can be done, but then they follow that up with, “I want to do it in the next month or two.” At this point, the goal becomes less achievable. Considering that the safe way to lose weight is one to two pounds a week, it should reasonably take ten to twelve weeks – with a dedicated focus to achieve this outcome.

  3. The lack of a support system may also contribute to failing to follow through with a resolution. The tendency to set a challenging goal, even an achievable one, can fail due to a lack of support from others. For example, when I was in my thirties, I had a group of close friends I would hang out with. One of our chief activities was a night on the town to shoot a few rounds of pool and have a drink (or a few). Every year, I would commit to cutting back on my drinking and party life. I would set the resolution, and in a few days, I would be out on the town to have a few too many drinks. Cutting back was a reasonable goal, and it was my own goal, but I lacked outside support. Instead, I was getting encouragement from my friends to go out and have fun. I was finally able to break the cycle in two ways – I moved away from that group of friends, and I got involved in a relationship with someone who supported my choice to drink less.  

 

Not sticking to our resolutions can have negative consequences:

One of the reasons I work with clients on alternative approaches to goals is that emotional stress, including lowered self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, often results from the perception of failing to keep a resolution. However, what I mainly see is damage to personal integrity. Our personal integrity is our ability to make and keep commitments to ourselves. When a resolution is made, it is a commitment to ourselves, and every time a resolution is not kept, it becomes easier to slack, and a downward spiral is formed.

 

Other options to consider:

Options to consider are to cut back on the goal size or the number of goals you set. That may mean focusing on only one goal. Once you have that goal, take the time to break it down into small steps that can be easily achieved and spread that out over the year.


Start the process sometime in October… don’t jump to a resolution at the last minute. Starting sooner allows you to think about the resolution and get a good feel for your goal and what you are willing to commit to.

 

Another option that has worked for me and others is to drop the resolution or goal in favor of systems (Aka daily routine). By working on a daily routine that focuses on the components of the goal, you remove the anxiety of possibly failing and improve the skills that naturally lead to the outcome. Again, an excellent example of this is exercise. The goal is to lose ten or twenty pounds. This is a reasonable goal over time; however, this can be daunting to start. Breaking it down into a system, i.e., planning and prepping meals, getting out workout gear, and planning a training program, will guide you to the goal. If followed daily, it will create little successes that build personal integrity and grit.

 

Finally, the point of making resolutions is to become a better version of yourself. And with 365 days in the year, there are plenty of opportunities to commit to self-improvement. Remember that you don’t have to go alone and find the support you need for success. Ask a good friend or family member to help, hire a personal trainer to design that program, a nutritionist to help with that diet, or a life coach to help create goals that fit your interests.  

 

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