New Year’s Resolutions…why we abandon them & how to succeed

The New Year is almost upon us and the tradition calls for people making their New Year’s Resolutions.

Losing weight/getting fit, improving one’s financial situation (debt management, getting a better job, …), creating better relationship with family and friends, and quitting smoking or alcohol are consistently among the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year.

Research shows that some of us abandon our New Year’s resolutions by the end of first week, some may go up to six months before giving up and interestingly enough some keep making the same resolutions for five years or more before giving up [1].

Even some of us who make it–through sheer willpower and discipline–may taste the satisfaction but deep down may not feel fulfilled; on we go to the next hard working achievement and in a way become self-development addicts without working much on our true or essential self.

Such undesired outcomes often result because instead of aiming at what we truly want, we resolve to achieve what we think we “should” want based upon expectations of others including our partners, parents, peers, professors, politicians and the public in general. In other words in absence of being aware of our essential self we habitually identify with our social self and do what society expects from us–we go with the social flow. Therefore:

The key to success here is to ensure that your resolution is true for you.

How to know if your resolution is true for you

Often there are no clear yes or no answers to the question of whether a resolution is true for you. However, we can consider the following three guidelines or processes to gain more insight into it.

Does it feel joyful and effortless despite the hard work?

Resolutions which are true for you are often “done without doing“; of-course the hard work is still needed but it doesn’t feel hard and you would heartily put the time and effort into it without forcing yourself too much.

You can get a clearer idea by looking back at your previous attempts or by envisaging working on the resolution, and then paying attention to what you experience. Check your feelings, emotions, thoughts and body sensations.

If the following or similar points  apply to your resolution, then it’s most likely true for you:

  • Feeling vitality and high energy levels. Feeling eager to work on it sustainably and without much procrastination.
  • Experiencing having super memory while at your resolution.
  • Experiencing that time flies while working on it.
  • Experience better health, and so on …

In contrast if the following points feel more familiar, then most likely the resolution is not true for you:

  • Experiencing Energy crisis,
  • Feeling sick or getting sick,
  • Easily forgetting things,
  • Self sabotage by blunders,
  • Feeling moody,
  • Feel sad about it…

According to Polivy & Herman [1] “In regards to feeling sad and depressed, psychological research in analysis of goal non-attainment and depression suggests that depression may actually be adaptive in inducing people to abandon unattainable goals”. In plain English this means that:

by feeling depressed your mind and body are probably telling you that you should stop doing whatever occupies your primary focus at the time; perhaps even seek help.

Sometimes feeling sad might be an indication of other emotions such as anger and guilt which the person has temporarily suppressed and need to be dealt with at some stage. Similarly feeling mad or angry might actually be an indication of sadness and shame underneath.

Shortcuts usually indicate untrue resolutions

For an authentic resolution the joy of the journey is the best part, not just getting to the destination.

Another worthwhile question to ask yourself is to assess the ways you have in mind for achieving your goals. For instance if you are hoping to lose weight just by adopting the latest fad in commercial Quick Weight Loss programs without being prepared to work for fundamental and gradual life style changes, then your resolution is probably not authentic. Or if you wish to have more money by buying lottery tickets or gambling, then think again!

In general terms if you believe in magic wands, silver bullets and quick fix solutions, then that might be a sure sign of an untrue resolution.

The ‘Wonder Why Why’  self-inquiry

This simple yet powerful process helps you see more of the truth of the situation by getting to know yourself in a deeper and more direct manner. I have described this process along with couple of examples in another post which I strongly invite you to read: ‘The Wonder Why Why’ self-inquiry.

I hope this post would be of some help for you in selecting New Year’s resolutions which are true for you and would assist you on your journey of growth.

Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year!

 

[1]  Polivy, J & Herman, P. C. (2002).  If at First You Don’t Succeed. False Hopes of Self-Change. In American Psychologist, Vol. 57. No.9. September 2002

 

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