It’s that time of year again: we begin to think of what we did right this year, how our lives have taken a turn for the better or for worse and where we may have gone astray. Perhaps you didn’t live up to your own lofty expectations, or maybe you actually impressed yourself by attaining a better job, or making a lifestyle change that has improved your sense of wellbeing. It’s the time for reflection, and by far the most popular time to make a New Year’s resolution.
Why do resolutions fail?
Not many resolutions are upheld by the pledgers in the long-term, for the simple reason that old habits die hard. On top of that, the expectation that we should make a mission statement for each new year can drive us to set unrealistic or poorly-conceived goals without really thinking about the practical element. Do we have the money/time/inclination? Do we have the appropriate supports in place? Is it something that we really want to do, or is it something that others think we should do? The reasons for failure are as complex or as simple as the people who fail. But if we really wanted to change something about ourselves, we wouldn’t wait for December 31st to do commit, right?
A different approach
If we’re talking about quitting smoking or starting a fitness regime, then you’re dead right. Switching these sorts of dichotomous behaviours (i.e. smoking vs. not smoking) seems like a great idea until you realise it’s easy to say and difficult to do. Changing your whole routine and attitude is not the same as flicking a switch – it needs careful forethought, planning and total commitment. But what if we’re talking about the more complex aspects of our behaviour: things that don’t involve time, money or unfettered resolve? Ahhh – these things may just be a little more suited to the resolution approach. Take the following decision: In 2015, I will find new love. The beautiful thing about a commitment like this is that there’s no concept of what failure looks like, only what success is. It’s the ultimate positive resolution that can be your mantra for 365 days before being rolled over like a term deposit. It might seem silly deciding upon something that by definition involves another person, but what you’re actually doing is more subtle: you’re opening yourself up to the possibility of love. You’re shunning pessimism in favour of focussing on what your future could hold.
It’s not about “asking the universe” for things, or any sort of new-age philosophy – it’s about your own attitude and the way you view opportunity. Take another example: I will accept all social invitations in 2015. This is a very passive but very powerful decision to say yes. You don’t even have to create any events or initiate outings yourself – just resolve to go along to them. You’ve not really done anything, but your statement is potent and far-reaching. Old friendships will flourish, you’ll meet new, great people and you’ll be more connected than you have in years. I will overcome my shyness this year. For those who are prone to shunning attention and have trouble opening up to new people, this one is for you. And what you do about it, ultimately, is flexible and unconcerned with failure. Your resolution can come with a battle plan – to read and gather information, perhaps. Or to create strategies to deal with shyness that help you focus on the best parts of your personality. Perhaps it will start with a referral to a counsellor or psychologist, which will also work for the next potential resolution:
This year, I will face my fears front-on. We’re all afraid of something, but some people are driven by their fears. If you’ve been terribly hurt by a lover in the past, you may be wary of new romance, or you may stop people from getting close to you entirely. It’s a great way to stop future pain – and a sure way to stop future happiness. Nothing good happens without a degree of risk, and that means risking your heart. Deciding to face the fear is not going to eliminate it altogether, but that’s not the point. The point is to give it all you’ve got, damn the consequences. You can’t properly love with anything less.
Small commitments can have a huge ripple effect in the New Year. The final resolution you could make for 2015 requires little effort, but may impact enormously on finding love, improving your social life, overcoming shyness and even facing your fears: In 2015, I will be just a little bit kinder to everyone. This means people at the supermarket, people at a dinner party, your little brother, and the interesting new person who has piqued your romantic interest. Focussing on your waistline or your bank account over the New Year period is fine, but be realistic and understand that you can change these things any time you feel especially motivated. But changing the little things – or some might say the really big things – is easier than you’ve ever imagined.