After the season of goodwill, it’s the season of self denial and resolution.
In theory it’s a great idea, but in practice more than three quarters of New Year Resolutions are never achieved.
This is why I think New Year Resolutions don’t work:
- They start on a short burst of willpower that doesn’t last. A gym full of people sweating away at their exercise programs in January will dwindle to a few people in February. The remaining people with the exercise habit have a very different motivation that keeps them going.
- They challenge the status quo. Most people underestimate the power of the status quo. Day after day living in one particular way generates a huge array of beliefs, habits and responses that make your tomorrow as familiar as your today and your yesterday. That’s a lot of inertia to overcome all at once by willpower alone.
- New Year Resolvers confuse long term changes with short term events. You diet like crazy until you are slim … then what? You jog everyday until you can finish a half marathon race … then what? Life continues after you fit in that dress or finish the race. To stay slim, fit, etc, requires continuous effort over time, often a lifetime, for that you need an All Year Habit not a New Years Resolution.
- We expect to fail. New Year Resolution has become synonymous with failure. We joke about our resolutions being unlikely to be achieved, calling it a New Year Resolution is a declaration that we are going to make an heroic effort but that we expect to fail. We’ll be praised for our efforts and forgiven for our failure because that’s what everyone else is doing.
- They happen at the wrong time of year. In the Western world, spartan New Year Resolutions about low weight and high fitness are embarked on just after two or more weeks of ridiculous excess. If our New Year Resolution was to eat and drink like crazy and slump in an armchair watching TV then we would be well prepared, but most resolutions are just the opposite – eat and drink as little as possible and exercise. No wonder we run out of steam (or breath).
If New Year Resolutions isn’t going to work you could develop some “Habits Of Change“.Image courtesy of Alan Cleaver