Forget New Year’s Resolutions – They Don’t Work
You can forget about making New Year’s Resolutions if you’re hoping for a successful outcome. Most aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
No less than Mark Twain has written of New Year’s Resolutions, “Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever.”
The biggest majority of New Year’s Resolutions have gone by the wayside before January is over and most won’t even be remembered six months later. And the reason is pretty simple: Most are made in response to something negative — a habit or situation that the person wants to change or end. And therein lies the problem – it’s hard to develop momentum from a negative response. It is always easier to move toward something rather than away from something.
Consider one of the most adopted resolutions — weight loss. No one can get excited about losing weight because it requires deprivation. It’s a negative response to concerns about appearance, health, etc. The results of weight loss Resolutions demonstrate their weakness. A 1998 survey sponsored by Gardenburger found that more than three-fourths of all women between the ages of 25 and 54 make diet and weight-loss plans each year. Nearly nine of 10 respondents reported only occasional or no success, while almost half lost little or actually gained weight instead.
The people who succeed at losing weight and maintaining the loss have usually been motivated by a dream much bigger and more positive than just losing weight. They see themselves living a healthy lifestyle. They begin to act and think like people who are in good physical shape. There’s more of a radical change in a person’s thinking and actions than you see with most resolutions. It wouldn’t be possible to effect and sustain such a radical change unless the person is motivated by a big dream that is positive in nature.
Another popular aim is to quit smoking. And I can certainly relate to that — I was a three-pack-a-day smoker until I celebrated a smoke-free New Year’s twelve years ago. For over twenty years I had tried to quit many times using every tool and technique I heard about. But as long as I was trying to quit, I couldn’t break the grip.
Instead, I developed a dream to become a non-smoker. I fell in love with the idea of breathing clean air instead of smoky air, of my body and clothes smelling nice instead of smoky. I thought about how wonderful it would be to taste food again. I decided to start acting and thinking like a non-smoker, and when the thinking took hold I simply quit smoking. In all the years since, I’ve never wanted another cigarette, never even thought about wanting one.
If you’re going to make a New Year’s Resolution this year, make one with a high probability for success. Make a Resolution to develop a life plan. Most people are in a free-fall through life, careening from one crisis to the next. They wake up one day and 10, 20, 30 or more years have passed and they’re nowhere near where they thought or hoped they’d be. Working with a life plan you’re much more apt to be excited by what the future brings even if you succeed at attaining only a small part of your plan.
A life plan should address all areas of your life including finances, health, relationships, career, spiritual and even recreational. While a lot of our focus tends to be on financial issues like increasing income or decreasing debt, or health issues like losing weight or quitting smoking, the undeniable truth is that a life lived out of balance isn’t a life of quality at all.
If you were going to build a new house and you had this idea for a fabulous master bedroom suite, you wouldn’t rush out and start building the master bedroom. You’d have a complete plan before you started. When you approach resolutions and goals in the same manner, you end up with a much better chance of achieving success.