It is the time of year when people go through the annual ritual of making New Year’s Resolutions, and too often abandoning them. About 50 percent of the population makes resolutions to change their lives, effective at midnight, December 31. However, research indicates that by February 1 of each year, as many as 88 percent of all resolutions have failed. Yet people persist, sometimes making the same resolution year after year.
The most common resolutions focus on self-improvement, like eating better, losing weight, exercising more, or a combination of all three. Other changes that people often decide to implement include giving up smoking and managing their money more wisely. With such good intentions, how can it take less than a month for the majority of resolutions to completely fail?
Why Do Resolutions Fail?
Resolutions fail for many of the same reasons that substance abusers have so much trouble giving up the use of their dependency. Changing your life takes more than desire and willpower, but it also takes planning and sustained effort.
Some researchers describe the New Year’s resolution phenomenon as the “false hope syndrome.” They argue that most resolutions are unrealistic and not consistent with the way people really think, or how they perceive themselves. The result is that most resolutions fail before the person has given him- or herself a chance to succeed. Additionally, resolutions take effort, intention, and planning.
A resolution is a positive step, but it is only a first step. A resolution is a goal. Like any goal, it requires work in order to achieve it. You can make a resolution with complete sincerity, but without a supporting plan, it’s more realistic to call it a “New Year’s wish.”
Hope and Imagination
Every New Year’s resolution is an exercise of hope and imagination. Resolutions come from a desire for self-improvement, to get closer to being the person or having the life that an individual wants. Resolutions are usually about changing or abandoning a habit. Most people make a decision – sometimes thoughtful, sometimes impulsive – to change a habit without considering what need the undesired habit meets. It is important to think about how it became something you rely as a coping mechanism. Self-awareness can be the difference between success and failure.
Breaking bad habits and replacing them with better ones is very difficult, particularly when the bad habit developed to meet an emotional need. People who struggle with substance abuse or eating disorders know only too well that deciding to change is not enough in itself to change for more than a short time.
It is no coincidence that the process of successfully implementing change in your life resembles 12-step programs and other recovery processes: acknowledging a problem, deciding to change, making a plan, being committed to the plan, and relying on a network of support. With a detailed plan of action, you will increase your chance of finally fulfilling your resolutions.
Making it Work
You’ve made a resolution, complete with a detailed plan to help you reach that goal. That is the important first step; however, it still takes more than a plan and an intention to change your life.. What happens if you stray from the plan? Do you give up on the resolution, or accept it as a temporary setback?
Many resolutions fail because people give up as soon as they encounter any difficulty, rather than learning how to overcome the problem. One possible reason for succumbing so easily to failure is because you do not believe in yourself, and are subconsciously affirming some hidden self-esteem issue.
Afraid Of Change?
Another possibility is that you are afraid of change or fear the future. Over time, you have developed a comfort level with who you are. Attempting to reinvent yourself can be very intimidating. There is an inevitable conflict between the familiarity of your current life and a different life that you have dared to imagine. Fear manifests itself as other emotions, making it really easy to remain with the status quo rather than persevering and implementing the positive change for your future.
In order to stay with your intention, involve other people for accountability. They will help you remain strong in your goal and might even join you in the process. Additionally, learn to be more lenient on yourself. One missed workout or one donut does not make you a failure. Instead, acknowledge your mistake, learn what caused the setback, find ways to prevent it in the future, accept and forgive yourself, and move on with your life. If you forgive yourself for your mistakes, then you will not feel like a failure and will be more willing to persevere with your plan.
You wake up on New Year’s Day ready to make a change for good reasons – if you backslide at some point, remind yourself of those reasons instead of giving up.
On some level, New Year’s resolutions appeal to the procrastinator in us. Most people have known all year that they are doing something harmful, but they tell themselves that they will quit – when New Year’s Day comes around. If you genuinely want to make a significant change in your life, why put it off? One reason, of course, is that it is natural to resist change. It is very appealing to think about making changes, especially during the holiday seasonal round of over-indulgence in eating, drinking and spending. And starting the change on the first day of the year is symbolic.
Resistance to change is usually rooted in an unconscious fear of the unknown. Consciously, you know that certain things, such as over-eating or substance abuse, are bad for you and that you should stop. However, experience has taught your brain that it can reward itself through such behavior. There is a level of fear preventing you from trying something new, and your brain continues to rely upon what it knows rather than the unknown. Successful rehab teaches you to avoid triggers and retrain your brain with new rewards and constant reinforcement of your motivation. The same lessons apply to successfully completing a resolution when you make one.
There’s nothing wrong with making a resolution for the New Year. However, just remember to be realistic, create a plan, set up a strong support network, and be forgiving. Additionally, be fearless—don’t let fear of change or the future stop you from becoming the person you want to be. You should also remember one important thing: resolutions do not have to be just an annual occurrence at New Year’s. You can make a resolution to change your life and implement it any day of the year.
Reclaiming your Hijacked Brain the Family Edition – Larry Smith from Sovereign Health Group
Blog post by: Marissa Maldonado