By Sondra Whitt
Typically, my only New Year’s resolution is to not make New Year’s resolutions. After all, how many people commit to them on January 1st and have already given up on them by the 31st, if not before? Quite a few, according to the FranklinCovey Company’s annual survey. The top resolutions people make are: 1) Get out of debt or save money, 2) Lose weight, and 3) Develop a healthy habit like exercise or healthy eating. Although the survey showed that ninety percent of people will make a financial resolution, seventy-five percent will break their resolutions within three months and a third will break them by the end of January. Why is that? Forty-three percent of the respondents said it is because they’re not really committed to their resolutions and twenty-five percent said it is because they have too many other things to do.
It may seem strange that people would make a resolution that they aren’t actually committed to. But there are a lot of reasons why we do this. We might feel pressure from someone else to do it or we have some kind of internal feeling pushing us, like we “should” or “have to” do it. Maybe we want someone else’s approval and think we’ll gain it by making a particular resolution. We often fail in keeping our resolutions because we don’t see the reasons behind them or those reasons might not be important enough to us to provide the motivation to stick with them. Sometimes the consequences of not making the change aren’t severe enough. Even when we’re sincere in wanting to make a certain change in our lifestyle we can be defeated by self-limiting beliefs or negative self-talk. We also often fail to make a step-by-step action plan to achieve the change. We tend to think that we made the resolution; therefore it should just magically come to pass, instead of having to actually work for it. Or sometimes the change is so big that it’s over-whelming to us and even though we want it, we don’t know how to achieve it.
Even though there are all kinds of reasons we break our resolutions, whatever time of year it is, there are also a lot of things we can do to help ourselves succeed in keeping them. So, if we’re really going to stick with a resolution to make a positive change in our lives we, first of all, need to make sure we know why we’re making it and that it is meaningful to us. It needs to be something that we believe in, we really want to achieve and we’re making it to please ourselves, not anyone else. One of the ways we can do this is by looking at where we are right now in our lives and how satisfied we are with being there. Although it’s also helpful to look at how we got here to begin with, we can’t dwell on the unchangeable past. There’s nothing we can do about it now so there’s no reason to waste our energy feeling bad about it, dwelling on missed opportunities or past failures. Instead we want to look to a better future and what we’re going to have to change if we want it to be different than our present.
A good place to start is in making a list of what we want out of life, things we want to do, be or have — again, not what someone else wants for us but what we really want deep inside. I don’t know anyone who is motivated to save money, lose weight, or develop a healthy habit just because someone is hounding them about it. We’re all a lot more likely to make and keep resolutions along those lines when we spend some quality time thinking about why we’d want to make those changes, for our own good, and what we need to do each day to work towards our ultimate goal in those areas. And if we do fall off the wagon and break our resolutions, we can always pick back up and continue working towards them. As Samuel Johnson said, “Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.”