Why New Year’s Resolutions Are Not Good

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It has been a week today since setting New Year’s resolutions. However, this time New Year started on a Monday meaning that Monday and Sunday – the two worst days for starting any personal changes – came into one. If you have not given up already, then you fall into the group of perseverant ones, and if you continue with your resolution for another week or so, consider yourself an exception.

But why is this so? Why are New Year’s resolutions so bad? Why cannot people stick to them throughout the year? There are several reasons:

  1. Although generally, you want a change, you have been postponing it all year. Yet if you know what you want, and you really want it, then why wait this day specifically? The truth is that you probably want to enjoy your current lifestyle more than the change you had in mind.
  2. Given that you have either delayed the change or tried initiating it several times by now, you have become really good in postponing and giving up. Over time, you have also become excellent in justifying yourself why you have not been doing what you should have been.
  3. You waited so long for that special day your life will become better, and you have become impatient. In anticipation, many people only underline their bad habits more and go in the wrong direction just before starting the change. Then, they wait for the change to happen overnight. The pressure becomes too big, unbearable and the change drastic and hardly sustainable.
  4. Although you have talked a lot about the change – if not with others, then with yourself – you have not really spent much time preparing for it. Moreover, you have not taken the time to think about what will happen and what the change implies.
  5. Although you can change just about anything you want, many decide to change everything or the most important thing. They skip the small steps and dive in, thinking they can do it.

Still, if you already started the process of change and decided to do something the question is – what now? How to persevere and make the change become part of your new standard and lifestyle? Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Dedicate yourself to getting ready for the change. Chew over even the slightest change and take some time to think about it and what it means to you. If you have decided to quit smoking, that is great but mull it over – what will you do with the extra time and lack of short brakes during the day? What is your replacement?
  2. Name your support. Every change implies daily challenges and occasional lack of motivation or enthusiasm. Identify the people you could ask for support and encourage you not to give up when it becomes hard.
  3. Think about what you lose with the change and what you gain with old habits. We rarely think about the things we lose when we improve something, but the fact is that you have persisted in your bad habits for some reason. Let us say you decided to cut out chocolate from your diet. In this case, you are losing moments of pure pleasure, the taste and sensation from enjoying chocolate. What will you replace chocolate with?
  4. Think of change as a goal and set the steps for achieving it. Every change happens gradually. If you decide to do it overnight, you will gradually get used to it. If you set a goal you want to accomplish, you will make a plan taking you to that goal/change.
  5. Set your whys. We all have a reason for a personal change. However, the more reasons we have, the more persistent we will be. Although our health should be a good enough reason, I assure you that for most it is not. Name a few more of your whys and make them your reasons that others do not have to know or understand. If you have a list of whys you want to persevere in the change, your focus will be clearer on days you feel less motivated.

In the end, we all change whether we want it or not. We become different people over time: a little bit more mature, a little bit smarter, and a little bit more determined. Or not. The changes we plan are usually healthy and good for us, and those spontaneous ones that we do not plan usually mean adopting bad life habits. With that in mind, even a New Year’s resolution is a step in the right direction. If we added these aspects of preparation to that New Year’s resolution, it could be a process making you stronger in the future, whether you succeed in your change or not.

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Igor Čerenšek, mag. psych.

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