A Mixed Bag – A bit of everything under the sun

An analysis of New Year resolutions

Posted on: December 29, 2009

Another year is going by and we are all making preparations for the next. This time of the year is always filled with resolutions and new found confidence that you will follow them come what may. In general, this year and every year, you plan to become more disciplined and more awesome!

But … How many have honestly followed a resolution? Well, truth is bitter.

Why do resolutions fail?

1. There are too many – Seriously, our small brain cannot hold those many at once and follow all of them. We are bound to sideline some of them. The optimal number, I would think is just one at a time.

2. Self talk does not work – Can you keep saying to yourself that you will do a task regularly? It is not long before my own mind starts to ignore me. How consistently can I keep writing to myself that I am going to follow my resolution and put them where I can see them? Before long, I will walk right past it without even noticing. Such measures honestly don’t work.

3. The problem always lies elsewhere – There are so many steps to a goal and the reason for failure is always a basic problem lurking somewhere in the process.

For example, if my resolution is not to eat out often and I fail to do it, it is mostly because I would have come home tired and not found anything ready to eat. Being too lazy to cook then, I’d have opted to eat out.

I’d do better by deciding my resolution to be “to cook in advance” than not to eat out. The least indivisible the step is, the better is the probability that it’ll succeed.

4. It is too much of a deviation from our usual self – You are a night owl and suddenly from tomorrow, are you going to become an early riser? Is that realistic? Of course, even before you decide that, I can state you will fail. Inertia sets in and the body will resist it with all its might. We never make it easy for us to follow!

So how do we make them work?

1. Keep one resolution at a time – Enough said. That is indeed the best number. You will fare better deciding on one resolution a month than 12 all at once.

2. Make it as indivisible as possible – The ultimate goal should only be a consequence of doing something else, not a resolution by itself. Your resolution should lead to it.

For example, if I want to lose weight, a better resolution would be to go swimming. As a result of this I will lose weight. The fewer the steps involved in achieving it, the better.

3. Make it the most convenient thing for you to do – The best way to follow a resolution is to arrange everything else so that it is the next natural step to take. It will not take as much effort as required then.

For example, if I plan to journal at the end of the day, do you think I’d follow it if I keep the journal in my study room?

Instead, picture this.  I keep the journal on the bedside table next to where I sleep with a working pen next to it and a bedside lamp which I can switch off right there. How much of an effort is it then to write a line before going to sleep?

4. Pre-prepare: Have everything ready – When you plan to kick off something by January 1st, decide the steps you are going to take beforehand. If you wait until the D-day and you are clueless about what to do, you are going to lose the enthusiasm. Instead use the energy to catapult yourself by keeping all the required resources ready. Have an action plan ready, gather all the materials necessary, keep them in strategic locations, all before January 1st. That way, when you wake up to the New Year, you have everything you need to carry out your resolution.

5. Excite the inner child in you – Remember the school days when we would be excited to start school again when we bought the new books, uniforms and pens? Remember the days in kindergarten when they would make our days exciting by fun things to do like coloring, painting etc? The child still lives in us; excite it by adding fun elements into your steps to keep you going. These fun little steps should make you want to follow your goal.

If I want to lose weight, I would have a colorful chart stuck to the door with a nice felt pen beside it to chart my progress. Seeing my weight go down and down, I would definitely want to do more of it.

I would buy pretty little inexpensive boxes to make frozen dinners that would make me want to use them. Each of us will have something that will make us happy in a childlike way. Recognize it and use it.

6. Make a specific list of steps you will take – Keeping all the above factors in mind, write out a detailed plan of what actions you will take to achieve your goal, how you are going to make it easy for yourself, what materials you require, what obstacles may creep in and how you will get around them. The clearer you are, the better you will succeed.

That being said, are you going to expect a 100% success? Of course not, there will be times when we stumble, but the most important rule is to get up soon before it is out of your mind. Reading anything remotely related to your resolution and talking about it helps you not forget your goal altogether and keeps you motivated.

I hope these ideas help you. A detailed plan about my resolutions will follow soon.

5 Responses to "An analysis of New Year resolutions"

Great (and realistic!) tips! Thx!

Very well-written plan. And you’re right about the self-talk thing, in a sense. I find that, unless I truly want to do something, trying to tell myself to do it never works. I always end up saying “oh well, I’ll do it tomorrow.” However, when we do really want to accomplish something, telling ourselves “I can do it” is a big help.
Thanks for a useful read.

Thank you cevraini and Deanna:)

Really helpful!


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