New Years Resolutions: Do they work?

One strategy for making changes in the New Year is extremely simple. It’s one stated in three words, relieves us of all pressure associated with a New Years decision and, ultimately, allows us to progress physically, mentally and spiritually at our own pace

This week’s “In Depth” feature on Page 3 features New Years resolutions from students attending Linden Lanes Schools.

When the calendar flips to Jan. 1, it typically represents new beginnings, both for organizations and individuals. Of course, most people establish the clichéd promises to themselves at that time; becoming physically active, quitting smoking, saving money, eating healthier and the like.

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However, a December 2015 article published in U.S. News says 80 per cent of resolution setters fall off the wagon they have built for themselves by mid-February. The article’s author and clinical psychologist Joseph Luciani suggests outside-in solutions to problems individuals would like to solve are doomed to fail if nothing is considered for sustained motivation, stress management and discomfort associated with making a change.

“Unless you first change your mind, don’t expect your… goals to materialize,” Luciani states. “As the saying goes, it’s not the horse that draws the cart, it’s the oats. It’s not the gym, Pilates class or diet that will change you – it’s your mind.”

The writer goes on to suggest several tips in successfully maintaining a New Years resolution, including seeking small successes; building self-trust; inventing different challenges; cultivating optimism; and developing critical awareness.

Considering the difficult challenge of holding on to resolutions and how this failure is related less to our wants or needs than our attitudes towards them, one may consider one of three different tactics when attempting to accomplish the goals they set out for themselves in 2019.

The first strategy is don’t set goals; set intentions to accomplish resolutions. This one practice seems to reduce the pressure we put on ourselves when we falter on our paths towards the success we seek.

Don’t want to go to the gym? Just put your gym clothes on, says Scott Adams, the creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip and author. In his book, How to Fail at Almost Anything and Still Win Big, Adams suggests putting on your gym clothes or just preparing for whatever activity you intend to do but don’t want to or feel like doing. On most occasions, this one act flips a switch in your brain to follow through on the intention. “Well, I’m dressed for the gym,” the mind says to itself. “Might as well go.”

Another strategy is to work on the hard drive instead of the software. If the problem with failing at accomplishing goals is the mind, why are we trying to fill it with ideas that the mind will ultimately ignore?

Instead, resolve to develop the mind itself. There is a multitude of books, videos and conferences to help you do that, including the above mentioned book by Adams. In essence, seeking to develop the mind instead of the habit will move you towards a long-term tendency to do both.

And the final strategy – one taken by a majority of people – is extremely simple. It’s one stated in three words, relieves us of all pressure associated with a New Years decision and, ultimately, allows us to progress physically, mentally and spiritually at our own pace.

What’s the strategy?

Don’t set resolutions.

© Copyright Westman Journal