Why New Years Resolutions don’t work: A theory

January 1st is a great time to commit to making positive changes in our lives. It’s a new month, a new year, and an opportunity for a fresh start. So why, more often than not, do we find ourselves falling flat by February? I have a theory.

Creating new years resolutions has become a time honoured tradition in our society, we pledge to reshape our lives for the better come the new year. This aspect of our culture gets us thinking positively about the year ahead, and how we can make it better than the last. We commit to improvements to our health through diet and exercise, better control of our finances through planning and frugality, or more organized spaces with promises of purging collected items. Whatever the resolutions might be, they come from a good place and are set with the best of intentions. But here’s the thing: despite our best intentions most of us will fail. Why?

December 31st rolls in every year with plenty of pomp and celebration. We reflect on the year that’s passed and, caught up in the moment, we vow to make the upcoming year THE BEST ONE YET! We are collectively inspired by the ceremonious fresh start we are all granted, and we FULLY COMMIT to betterment in that moment. Yes! We can DO this! WE CAN DO ALL THE THINGS!

Aaaaaaaaaaand then we wake up to January 1st…..I don’t know about you, but January 1st I’m still laying on my sofa, eating cookies and trying to avoid playing Jenga with the kids for the millionth time. If my new years resolution was to be more active and eat with more of a healthy initiative, well, I’ve already failed. Day one. Many of us feel if we don’t begin our resolutions within the first week of January we’ve failed. We tend to fall back into our daily routine, the fire we intended to commit to change snuffed out. We’ve over committed. We’ve added these new, awesome, life-changing resolutions, but we haven’t stopped to plan for them. Maybe this is our first mistake; committing to change with no real plan in place.

I saw a post the other day of someone saying they had been working over the holidays on their plan, and subsequent resolutions, for 2017 and they were. READY. TO. GO!!  Amazing! I applaud you. Honestly. I wish I had that drive, forethought, and commitment to planning resolutions over the holidays but, I don’t.

For some of us the Christmas break is a hectic mess of chaos filled with long to do lists, and multiple parties and events. Its spent running all over the place, kids in tow, brain full of worry that you’ve forgotten something ‘important’. For others it’s an actual break, a time away from work, a rest for the busy brain, and time spent relaxing with family. Time to do actual, and much needed, NOTHING. There is also a growing portion of our society for which the ‘holiday’ is spent working, sometimes even harder than during the rest of the year. Whatever your situation, or combination of situations, for most of us the holidays are not spent happily planning out our wicked awesome 2017. So when January 1st comes around it’s not likely we have a sparkly, well thought out plan in place, but that doesn’t stop us from committing to our chosen resolution.

So what can we DO about this? New years resolutions are, theoretically, a positive, well intentioned, goal oriented, idea.  I think it is a deliciously good thing we want to commit to them.  Well, this year I have a plan. But it wasn’t in place by the first of January.

This year I am taking the entire month of January to explore and plan for my resolution. I set an intention, just as I do every year, but this year I have a back up if my goal is too lofty and an entire month to try again. My new years resolution is to increase (ahem…begin) my physical activity. It’s a major factor in maintaining my mental health and I have let it fall to the bottom of the priority list, meaning I already know I don’t have time for it in my current schedule. Throughout the month I will be testing out different options for getting my ass to the gym more regularly and, if (when) my grand plan to be at the gym 4 times a week doesn’t work out, I’ll modify to 3 or 2 but maintain my resolution.   The plan is that by the end of January I will have a really good idea of what kind of space I can make in my life to accommodate my resolution. If I’d made my ‘4-days-a-week-at-the-gym starting January 1st!’ resolution in an inspired, celebratory moment, I’d be far more likely to fail before February even begins.

The factors that are in the way of us successfully sticking to our new years resolutions are these: taking the time to properly plan for the changes we want to make, and then making room in our lives for these changes to actually occur. The issue is two fold, and taking the month of January might just help sort out these problems. First, you need to have a resolution you can commit to realistically. This doesn’t mean you can’t resolve to organize every single room in your home, or pay off a huge pile of debt. You can. Your resolution can be out of this world fantastic (in the true sense of the word). BUT, your current life either needs to have the space to allow for the changes required, or the flexibility to make room.

If we haven’t made room for our resolutions, and we are constantly failing to meet the unrealistic goals we’ve set to meet them, by February our good intentions are bruised and our resolutions thwarted. It’s so difficult to follow through with a commitment if your current life does not have the space for it. It doesn’t matter how good and true your intentions are, if your current life doesn’t have, or make, the space for these new changes, its nearly impossible to follow through.

So this January is resolution month! If you haven’t committed to a change you’d really like to make there is still plenty of time. Make your new years resolution and start testing out how it will fit into your life, chances are one of your tests will stick.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Cheryl
    February 1, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Great post 👍 More please!

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