The Reason Most New Years Resolutions Fail

Hello and welcome to 2013. As is usual at this time of the year, the news is full of stories about New Years Resolutions. Some are cynical pieces about how we are bound to fail (the average Resolution lasts just 2 weeks apparently), some more positive about how to succeed.

I have written before about how I am quite a fan of New Years Resolutions. I know that every day is technically a new year (and you should really aim to do something every day to positively change your life, no matter how small), but there is something quite powerful about the idea of a new calendar year and a new start. It is good time to assess and reflect on what you have and what you would like, and start to plan towards it.

So, why do most resolutions fail? Over exuberance can be one reason; diving in and trying to do it all at once and wearing yourself out. Lack of a clear goal and plan is another. But I would like to suggest another, deeper reason why people tend to fail; People do the wrong thing for the wrong reason.

Purpose

We do things for one reason; to feel better. It may be to move away from physical or emotional pain, it may be to move towards pleasure, it may be something totally different depending on how you perceive the world. The problem comes when we make some form of judgement about what that SHOULD be from some, often external, source. Once we starting placing a criteria of what we MUST have to make ourselves happier we are bound to fail.

State

So, ask yourself “Why do I want to make the changes? What is the purpose?” You may think it is to lose weight, have more money, whatever, but it isn’t really, it is to create a certain mental or emotional state. What do you want to feel? Does the activity you have chosen create that mental or emotional state? Or does it (as is often the case) actually create totally the opposite state?!

I had a client awhile ago who came to me because she wanted to go swimming on a Saturday morning but couldn’t get out of bed. After asking her a few questions, she discovered that she didn’t really want to go, she had fixated on the swimming as an action that would make her feel less stressed and more relaxed, but ironically, the activity was making her feel more stressed! So I worked with her to generate some alternative activities that would create that state instead. Problem solved.

Begin by not focusing on the external behaviour, but the internal mental and emotional state that you want that behaviour to create. If the external behaviour you have chosen isn’t creating that state then find something that does!

About Matt Caulfield