As we move closer and closer towards the new decade, I am acutely aware by the annual clamor of the “New Year’s resolutions” talk which elicits my annual eye roll. Let me preface, I am not a fan of the idea of the “New Year’s resolutions” and for good reason. Every year, I hear people say that they resolve to lose weight, save money, eat healthier but no one ever truly commits to their resolutions. Did you know that 45% of Americans make resolutions every year and that most resolutions fall through by the middle of the year? And that 8% of resolutions made are actualized? That’s staggeringly low.
Why? The notion of the “New Year’s resolution” is often used a motivator to kick off change but like all feelings, the feeling of being “motivated” is often fleeting. The truth is just because it is a “new” year does not mean you are really ready for “new” changes no matter how badly you want it; most people aren’t. So why do so many people make them and fail? Why bother?
Professor Peter Hermann of the University of Toronto calls the psychology of the annual resolutions and its subsequent failure “false hope syndrome” which is the idea that happiness (and ultimately internal joy) can be attained through meeting these resolutions. Our resolutions reflect the hope of who we want to be so if we are somehow richer, skinnier, more attractive, or whatever we are trying to be that life is that much sweeter. In the age of instant gratification, we are constantly in the pursuit of happiness. But we all know that saying, the grass is always greener, right?
The problem with this mindset and a large reason for their failures is that our resolutions are just hopes and wishes but they do not reflect our true internal self. The internal self cannot be altered with a mere a hope or wish, and the likeliness that any happiness of reaching any external goal will be temporary because before you know it, you’ll be on to the next. True change is a process that takes time and conscious effort to reprogram the mind from habits that have been ingrained from years and years of repetition. And realistically, most people are not only not ready but uncomfortable with the process of change.
So are “New Year’s resolutions” a total wash? That depends. I think before any of us can set any goals for the New Year, there is a need for a reality check to determine whether our goals are just dreams versus dreams that are able to manifest into reality. Questions must be asked before resolutions are made.
Do I know what I really want?
Everyone has a general idea of what they want but people have a harder time nailing down specifics. Successful completion of goals require a person to be intentional in the process which requires knowing what a person really wants.
Why am I making this resolution?
Another thing to reflect upon is why we are making the resolution in the first place. Understanding the intentions behind the resolution can tell us a lot. Am I making this goal because I believe that the achievement of this resolution will make me happier? Will losing the weight make me happier? Will making more money really make me happier? And if the answer is yes to any of these questions, why do I think that these things will make me happier? Is it because this is what I believe or what society has told me to believe? Why am I making this resolution?
How committed am I to my goals?
A significant amount of New Year’s resolutions fail because they lack the long-term commitment to effort it takes to achieve their goals. So many walk into the New Year gung ho; they are so excited and motivated to get to the gym or put that extra $50 or eat a salad for lunch every day in the bank but then slowly as weeks go by, motivation slowly dissipates. Why? It is because people’s level of commitment is tied to their emotions and not a long-term plan. Emotions are fickle and temporary, and goals tend to not last very long when it is tied to emotions. One month you are excited the next you are frustrated by the inevitable challenges that change brings.
Commitment is in the plan. Having short-term goals that lead to the long-term goals as well as planning for any road blocks and relapses into old habits. What’s the plan, man?
Like I said, I am not a fan of the “New Year’s resolution.” But if you are going to jump on that band wagon and make them anyway, then keep it 100, and ask yourself those three questions.
And while I am not a fan of the “New Year’s resolutions” ,I do, however, believe in setting goals; I think people have the power to creating change and be whoever and whatever they want to be. I think I am direct proof of that. I don’t however, think the New Year is going to magically make things happen; it doesn’t work like that. Change, the goals we set require effort, commitment, time, and resiliency; it also requires self-awareness of your intentions and a lot of self-honesty. And you don’t have to wait for one day in the year to go after what you want; there is always today; there is always now.