Why Resolutions Fail
26 Dec

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Change takes time.

Somewhere between 30% and 50% of adult Americans are busy considering this year’s New Year’s resolutions. Dissatisfied with their lives, they weigh and measure (often literally!) various aspects of who they are, how they look, and what they have. With firm determination to do things differently, they make lists and then sit back and wait as the final days of 2015 tick away. Sometimes there is even a celebration of excess of the very things planned to be left behind as the New Year rings in.

But what, exactly, is different about any of us between 11:59 p.m. on December 31st and 12:01 a.m. on January 1st? The answer is: nothing. Except that we are two minutes older. And nobody changes in any meaningful way in two minutes. That is why most resolutions fail as early as the first week into the New Year.

The end of the calendar year is an ideal time to take stock of our lives, just as birthdays, anniversaries, new semesters and new jobs are worthy times for introspection. I prefer a gentler approach to this annual inventory taking, because change takes time. And the bigger the hoped-for change, the longer it will take the metamorphosis to happen.

For as long as I can remember, I have made a list of four or five goals for the coming year. Sometimes I do this on my birthday, sometimes at the calendar new year, and sometimes on Yom Kippur. On this list are a few things that I know I will be doing. Perhaps I’ve signed up for a class already, so on my list I place, “Take abnormal psychology class.” There are also a few items on my list that I need to get done, but have perhaps procrastinated on: “repaint boys’ rooms” or “finish book” (this last one finally got checked off in 2015!). These are attainable goals, which I feel certain I can accomplish and, therefore, look back over the year and know that I have moved forward, in baby steps. A few years ago, I allowed my children to write some goals for me. On the list was, “Learn the entire Gangnam Style dance and perform it.” That one never got checked off. It wasn’t my goal, and certainly wasn’t my desire, so I lacked the true motivation necessary to accomplish it.

Typical New Year’s Resolutions like losing weight or quitting drinking or smoking are monumental changes which have no place on a list that expects you to be a different person from 11:59 p.m. to 12:01 a.m.  These are worthy changes which require the culmination of all parts of one’s being to make happen. However, an all-or-nothing approach which is thrust upon you at the stroke of midnight leaves no room for progress in baby steps. At the first sign of transgression—a cigarette or donut—most people will feel defeat and abandon the resolution for another year.  The negative toll on your psyche is significant.

Sometimes, the best we can do is pray “to be willing to be willing” to make the change. To open our hearts and our minds to the possibility of change is the first step in making a change: Being willing to be willing. Change takes time. This year, make the only resolution worthy of your dreams: to allow yourself the time for true change to happen.

Blaire Sharpe is the Author of  “Not Really Gone.” 

3 Responses to Why Resolutions Fail

  1. ShawanaPGinn

    June 7, 2016 at 6:26 pm

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  2. GaleXMrnak

    October 7, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Keep on writing, great job!

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