Are Your New Year’s Resolutions Destined to Fail?

Most New Year’s resolutions don’t work.

What stands in the way? Why are we tempted to roll our eyes at the prospect of yet another collective ritual falling as flat as a Dick Clark New Year’s celebration?

We’d like to provide you with some insightful tools that will aid you in making powerful declarations that can transform the inertia of everyday habits into a real shift in creative possibilities.

A general point to consider is that a powerful declaration does not simply subtract something from your life.

When we understand the self in ecological terms, we recognize that the self is a dynamic system of interdependent physical and social possibilities existing in dynamic contexts. That means that if you want to stop smoking, you cannot simply subtract the habit, or superficially “substitute” something else for it. In other words, we do not just substitute one behavior for another: we envision the way of being that we want to become, and transform the meaning-space that we exist as.

With that in mind, here are four obstacles that may prevent you from accomplishing your resolutions and four ways to have your resolutions work for you. 

1. Your resolutions are stated in negative terms.

Instead of focusing on what not to do, focus on what you can do. You might resolve to improve your cardiovascular health, and follow practices that support that goal (like setting a date in which you can run a 5k on the treadmill within a specific time-frame). Smoking is just not compatible with that practice.

  • State your resolution in the framework of a positive goal with a measurable plan of actions. Ex. “I’m going to loose weight,” versus, “I’m going to reach my ideal weight.” 

2. Your resolutions are vague.

“I’m going to be more open this year.” “I’m going to be more efficient with my time.” “I’m not going to be so impatient.” Specificity, specificity, specificity! It’s hard to know what “being more open” looks like in the precise meaning-spaces we inhabit.

  • Resolve to pursue very specific goals, and spend some time outlining the conditions of satisfaction for those goals—outline measurable outcomes and markers of success. Ex. “I will reach my ideal weight of 145 pounds by June 1st. I exercise three times a week and I am mindful about what I eat. Markers of success: I release three pounds a month.” 

3. You don’t have practices in place to support your resolutions.

The ecological self inhabits a space of goals and ways of being through its habits and practices. To transform the creative possibilities that shape our lives, we have to take up practices, because we are those very practices.

  • Pursue specific practices and daily rituals that cultivate and support the person you wish to become. Your plan of action should include practices that you take up as a way of being. Ex. “I practice yoga twice a week and go running once a week. I practice mindfulness, which allows me to stay present to my commitments.”

4. You haven’t given enough thought to how your environment shapes your results.

Our lives proceed within specific contexts. Freedom lies in how we come to author ourselves within the fluid boundaries of those contexts. Not everything is possible, but we can shape the context and the possibilities for our lives by becoming excellent navigators, and that requires becoming keen observers.

  • Practice observing the embodied emotional and social space you tend to inhabit. Register without clouding your observations with judgments as to how you think things “ought” to be (see more of our posts on specific mindfulness practices). Ex. “Does it make sense to have candy and sweets in my fridge if I am committed to being healthy this year? What do I observe in myself and my environment that will aid or hinder my success?”

Finally, resolutions that stick are powerful declarations, and through declarations we bring new things into being. But we have to sharpen our understanding of the context from which those declarations arise. What are some of the many reasons you want to be healthy? Who do you wish to become, and what do you mostly care about?

You’re bound to meet resistance from the impulses and desires that show up in your actions. But when you clarify who you want to become, and you sincerely vow and commit to becoming that person, you begin to integrate those impulses, avowing what matters, and disavowing what stands in the way.

You are not every impulse that shows up in your life.

You can integrate your life along a thread of commitments and declarations that you sincerely embody in your practices.

Resolutions can work. Here’s to success in your pursuits!

–May this illuminate what was always there to begin with: infinite abundance!

© 2017, Ideal Coaching Global, Kevin Perry & Bettie J. Spruill

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