The Problem with New Year's Resolutions

Why don’t most people’s New Year’s resolutions lead to lasting change? The underlying message in most of our New Year’s resolutions is that there is something wrong and we better fix it or else….   We are bombarded with the message that we should be better – not just that we could be happier or more effective if we chose to make a change – but that we must be better or else we are inferior, inadequate, and bad.  How much time and energy do you spend fighting yourself and/or the universe?  I shouldn’t be feeling this way.  I should have gotten that contract.  My spouse should do what I ask of him.  Most of us are so steeped in our own rigid perceptions of what is acceptable that we refuse to see the world as it really is.   And then we wonder why it is so hard to make a change. Can you imagine how much easier and more pleasant life would be if you could accept that you are completely fine exactly the way you are?  Nothing needs to be altered.  Nothing needs to be fixed.  Really. This is hard for most of us to believe since we are usually so focused on trying to improve in some way.  What most of us “need” more than anything is to practice acceptance of our own humanity, to recognize that nothing we do is ever going to reach our definition of perfection, and acknowledge that the universe is a wacky, unpredictable place.   Yes, this definitely takes it practice.

You may be thinking, “but I want to make more money” or “but I want to lose five pounds” or “but my sister really is an intolerable witch.”  Sometimes we think we have to reject our current situation or else we will be sentencing ourselves to a life of resignation and misery.  Consider that the opposite may be true.  It is only by accepting a situation as it is that we have any real possibility of changing it. We don’t have to reject the past (or the present) to embrace the future.  It is possible to be okay with the current situation AND look for ways to move forward.

Consider the classic New Year’s resolution, how can you both accept yourself the way you are now AND proactively try to get into better shape?  Look for aspects of your body that you can appreciate.  Do you have nice hair, or attractive feet, or strong arms that allow you to pick up your child?  Focusing on the positive helps us to feel accepting about where we are, and when we are feeling okay about ourselves it is much easier to make a change.

Or look at a scenario where you want more clients. Say you made 50% of your sales goal for last year.  On one hand you could see that as a failure, and on the other hand you could interpret it to mean that a lot of your actions and policies ARE working AND there is room for expansion and improvement.  When our energy is focused on the negative it is impossible for us to get a clear and realistic view of the situation.  Without a clear understanding of both what is working and what is not working, any changes could actually be counterproductive.

Like so many things in life, this is simple but not easy.  That is why people hire coaches to support them through the process of transformation.