Sunday Thoughts – On New Year Resolutions

Hello my dear readers,

The new year is upon us, which means that millions of people are making resolutions to kick off the new year right.

Today’s article is all about the thoughts that go into making a resolution, the reasons why people fail to make them happen, and some solutions to make your resolution easier to accomplish. Without further ado, let’s get into it. Enjoy!

Why do people make resolutions?
People make resolutions for several reasons, including:

- A strong desire to be better than they were last year
– To set and accomplish new goals
– To make up for past failings (i.e., a “fresh start” or “clean slate”)
– To remove the guilt and shame with previous shortcomings

The first two reasons are usually a deep-rooted inspiration to expand one’s mind and experience of life. These reasons revolve around an idealistic self-image of one as great. The latter two reasons revolve around one’s motivation to undo past mistakes, avoid the things that happened, and make up for the things that didn’t happen last year. Now, you would think that people are more likely to succeed if their motivation is in the first two reasons. Yet, interestingly, in my conversations with and observations of people, it seems that we can fail to realize our resolutions regardless of which reason we choose for making them.

Why do people fail to actualize their resolutions?
People fail to make their resolutions happen. This is normal. Yet, how people fail despite their best intentions warrants attention. The four reasons mentioned above can be divided into two categories.

First, you have the people who seem genuinely interested in becoming better in terms of improving their experience of life and accomplishing new goals that will take them further in their personal and professional lives. These include the first two reasons listed above.

Second, you have the people who desire very badly to move forward from the previous failings or mistakes of last year. Either something regrettable happened, their choices were not clear, they were not determined enough, or whatever the case may be, the underlying motivation seems to revolve around the idea of wiping the slate clean and starting fresh.

So, now that we have clarified the two types of groups, we can explore the reasons why people fail regardless of which group they’re in. The major reasons for failure seem to be:

- Fear of failure
– Fear of criticism
– Fear of rejection
– Lack of self-efficacy/confidence
– Lack of social support
– Overestimation of mental readiness for change

The fears of failure, criticism, and rejection are enough to stop most people in their tracks. They revolve around caring too much about the opinions of others. Next, one’s lack of self-efficacy/confidence implies a lack of trust in one self. Doubt is the main culprit here. The lack of social support from close friends or family means two things: one, you don’t have people that matter to you backing you up, which reinforces your lack of self-confidence; and two, you need new friends. Seriously, real friends love and support you. They’re out there. Lastly, we have a tendency to overestimate our ability to handle new challenges (read: resolutions). We believe that we can handle a lot more than we actually can.

Now that we’ve explored the reasons for failure, let’s come up with some solutions for them.

How can you make it easy to realize your resolution?
With regards to the fear of failure, criticism, and rejection, all we need to remember is to let go of people’s opinions of us. This is your life; no one else can or should live it for you. You have the keys to the damn lamborghini and you’re about to hand it over to that 14 year old brat just because he’s skinnier than you and looks at you funny when you run? Didn’t think so. Use your anger toward that kid as motivation to reach your goals faster and prove him wrong.

To increase your self-efficacy/confidence, pick one and only one thing to do each day that will help you realize your resolution. When you do that one thing everyday, you begin to realize that you really can make it happen. Gradually, as the days pass, you increase your self-efficacy (your belief in yourself to make something happen). This is how self-confidence works. Hell, if you want healthy teeth, all you gotta do it brush them twice a day. It becomes habit after only a few weeks. Give it at least 20 days. Just do it for yourself.

To address the lack of social support, we need to change the external situation. It has been said that you are the net result of the five people you spend the most time with. Significant others (friends, relationships, etc.) influence you deeply on conscious and non-conscious levels. My best tips for finding supportive friends is to be honest. Find your values and live according to them. Here’s a starting point: when someone asks you how you’re doing, don’t say “fine”. “Fine” is everyone’s way of saying, “I’m actually not ok, but you don’t need to worry about my issues. It’s easier if you just stay out.” Instead, speak what’s on your mind. You never know what kind of positive interactions you’ll open up. People care about you, and you just need to open up your heart to them so they can help you. I remember a time at the store when I was waiting in line with some people. The cashier asked me how I was doing, and I told him that I just moved here and needed some guidance as to how to make it on my own. Turns out they have a prayer board and wrote my name on it while praying for me. If I said “fine” none of that would have happened. Now when I go to that store, they ask me how I’m doing and we converse as friends rather than strangers.

Lastly, in regard to the overestimation of our ability to handle so much, just break it down to simple, doable tasks. Just like the process I outlined to increase your self-efficacy. Do one thing at a time until you master it. Then move on to the next one. It’s just that simple. Life doesn’t happen in one day, so don’t think for a second that you have to be the hero who changes everything overnight. Develop a vision of the person you want to be, and nurture it slowly. It takes time, but it’s well worth the effort. The juice is worth the squeeze.

These are my insights and tips for helping you make your resolution a reality. I hope it helps. Let us know in the comments section what your resolutions are. We can help you get there!

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