Goodbye 2011, hello 2012! A new year, a fresh start and a perfect chance for a clean break with the past.
Or is it? New Year’s resolutions can be a double edged sword. It’s an opportunity to set new goals. Everyone’s doing it, so you have company on your quest to lose weight, quit smoking, take up a new hobby, or whatever else you’ve decided you should do this year.
So why do so many resolutions fail, and how can you make them stick? The simplest explanation is that people just don’t expect to be successful. The New Year’s resolution is basically a running joke. You’re pretty much expected to fail before we get into February. It’s the socially acceptable way to put off actual change: no-one will criticise you for not following through because everyone has their own story of resolutions which were never resolved.
Another reason is that we often make resolutions because we feel we should, not because we genuinely want to. That’s a guaranteed failure: there’s no way we’re going to change if we don’t actually want to. There are the hopelessly ambitious resolutions, the ones that we never even believed were possible, or the half-hearted ones we never wanted to make.
Of course, sometimes we make resolutions with the best of intentions. We start with all the enthusiasm in the world, but the initial excitement soon wears off as we encounter difficulties. Or maybe we put off starting as we search for a way to begin: we start the New Year by looking for a new gym or for a new hobby and we never really get started.
There are a few ways to improve your chances of sticking to your guns. Try and get started as soon as possible: if there’s something you really want to change then it’s best to start straight away. Postponing it until the New Year can be just another way of putting off an unwanted change.
This could be as simple as getting started now, doing a few days in the gym before New Year’s Eve just to give you a little head start and build momentum. You could start planning and researching your new diet now so that everything is in place for when the time comes. You could decide what new hobby you are going to take up and then look into classes near you or research what you will need to get started now. January will be hectic, so getting these things out of the way first may help you get straight down to business when you need to.
Another thing to bear in mind is that change can be hard. If you slip from your resolve for a bit, never mind! Focus on getting back on track rather than the fact that you slipped up. You’re trying to develop a new way of thinking or acting. Like anything new, you’re going to have to practice until it becomes perfect. Every time you slip (and might well happen a lot), just start over again and see if you can stick it out a bit longer the next time.
The final and perhaps most important requirement for success is the way we see ourselves. Self identity is a powerful thing that I will discuss in another post, but for now let’s consider how it affects our resolutions. Simply put, you have to really want to change. Odds are, if you want something enough, you’ll make the effort. And if you don’t, you won’t.
“When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them.”
~ Andy Warhol