Monday, 30 December 2013

New Year's resolutions and why they don't work

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
We've all done it. Gone into a New Year full of optimism, wrote down some New Resolutions for the year ahead, determined to make a change. The optimism lasts for a bit, you do quite well on your resolutions .. and then .. BAM! You're back to the same old habits, the pressures of work and family take their toll .. and where did those resolutions go?

It's virtually impossible to keep New Year's resolutions if you don't have a plan or strategy of some sort. And to be honest, I don't like the word 'resolutions'. A better word for me is 'intentions' or even 'plans'.

A lot of people aren't particularly serious about keeping their resolutions and set them just because it is a tradition. Well, that's my theory anyway. It's easy to set resolutions at a time when it feels good to do so. But the fluffy feelings don't last long. So if you want to see changes in the next year, you have to be pretty damn serious about your intentions. Because it's not easy to follow them through.
This is a perfect example of fluffy New Year resolutions.
Photo courtesy of Chevonne Harris - not sure of original source.

Another thing about New Year's resolutions is that people are often focused on external things outside of changing yourself, for example:
- I want to lose weight
- I want to change career
- I want a new relationship
- I want a new house
- I want a better relationship with my children

And, of course, there's nothing wrong with this - I would definitely say it's a good thing to know what external things you want to change. However, most people are focused very much on the external things and not focused sufficiently on how they can change on the inside.

The weight thing is a classic example - and I definitely want to change my eating habits in the New Year. However, being overweight and eating the wrong foods are definitely tied in with psychological and emotional factors - so it is important to work on the causes of these things. What makes you eat sweet foods on a regular basis? Now, I do have a ridiculously sweet tooth - so I'm not going to kid myself that it will be easy to change my habits - but there's always an underlying reason why we overindulge on things that aren't good for us, such as sugar, alcohol or drugs. Next time you are aware that you are 'comfort eating', ask yourself why. Is there an emotion that you are trying to stuff down? Being overweight is often synonymous with poor self-esteem, and unless you are willing and able to face the cause of your weight issue, you may temporarily be able to lose weight, but when something triggers you and you don't have the resources and determination in place to deal with this, there's a fair chance you will end up putting the weight back on.

With careers - you may be desperate to change your job - I certainly am - but how many of us stay in the same job because there seems no other option available, or because work wears us out so much that we don't have the energy to make a change or apply for other jobs? The system isn't easy. However, perhaps there is something else going on? It's dead easy to blame the system. However, there are people out there who have managed to make changes and are now doing work they love. What do you believe about work? Perhaps something like:
- I should be grateful to have a job as so many people don't (and sorry, but to me this is small minded thinking).
- All jobs are stressful these days.
- It will take years to make any worthwhile changes and I just won't have enough energy to do it.
- I need to pay the bills so I need this job.
And perhaps you have more subtle subconscious beliefs, such as:
- I don't deserve to be doing a job I enjoy.
- Work is supposed to be hard (which seems to be a strong ingrained belief for some people).
- You can only make money from working hard and doing a job you don't particularly enjoy.
I, personally, intend to really examine some of my beliefs in regard to work, because I know that, on some level, I have attracted low paying jobs which I don't enjoy and which do not suit my character make up. What has caused me to struggle in the area of career? It is going to be an interesting journey. But I believe that, when I really start working on my own beliefs in regard to work, things will start to change.

A relationship is one of the easiest things to 'want' - and also, if you have a difficult relationship with your spouse/partner or children, it's easy to want 'them' to change. But focusing on what we want from other people without focusing on ourselves is not a great recipe for happiness. If we are unfulfilled in ourselves, if we feel unloved, rejected, or feel that another person is not meeting our needs - now is the time to look in the mirror and see the person who can help us - ourselves. If you do not like yourself, it's easy to objectify another person and see them as someone who can love you and fulfil your need for love. But the paradox is that it makes you a more needy person and pushes the good people away. It's easy to think that once your partner changes or your children change, that life will be much better and peaceful. What are your beliefs in regard to relationships? Do you feel that you deserve love, or not? Are you waiting for someone else to make your life better? Love and fulfilment starts with us. Once we face the core beliefs we have and deal with them, it will become easier to attract the friendships and relationships we desire.

And there are other status symbols, such as a new house or car. Why do you want these things? Do you think they will give you a better life? There's nothing wrong with these things, providing you have sufficient finances - but to substitute these things for internal fulfilment is not necessarily a wise move.

So I think I've made my point here - don't just focus on external goals - focus on - How can I become a better person in 2014? How can my mindset and heart change for the better? What fears do I really need to face and deal with? What things am I ready to face? Change yourself, not just your habits.


Another problem with New Year's resolutions is that people do not make themselves accountable to others. Accountability is very important. Feelings come and feelings go. It's easy enough to stick to your intentions when you have the warm, fuzzy feelings, but they don't last. When challenges come, when something happens that makes you feel like doing anything but the thing that's good for you, it's important to have other people there for you who can help keep you on the straight and narrow, people who are like minded and who practice what they preach.


And sometimes, things can knock us off track unexpectedly. I remember just one year ago, being reasonably full of optimism for 2013 after what was a difficult 2012. I came back home to a very nasty email from my landlord which knocked me right off track, and then, after resolving that things would get a bit better at work, got a ridiculous warning in January from a boss who I still haven't quite forgiven for it. This forgiveness book I have got should hopefully come in handy. Then, at the end of January, I pretty much knew that my job would not be lasting too much longer (it ended in March). 2013 started off pretty badly for me. Sometimes life just happens and things get in the way, and it becomes very difficult if not impossible to follow through with your intentions. When things like this happen, I think we need to take stock and ask ourselves which intentions and goals are still worth keeping and/or can be kept. It's not necessarily possible to focus on changing career when you are about to be made redundant, for example. And focusing on losing weight when, for example, a loved one is ill, may not be all that realistic. However, I still believe it's important to focus on ourselves, even when things get difficult. If shit happens, ask yourself - How can I learn from this situation? How can it make me a better person? What things do I need to face about myself? How can I help others?

I hope this post makes sense. I would be interested to hear your viewpoints on this subject.


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