I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t really like them. I’ve found that a lot of people share that attitude, even some people I know who make them every year.
In reflecting lately on this cultural oddity, I have a theory as to why we so dislike New Year’s resolutions.
We make them in the first place because we genuinely want to better ourselves, and often goals help us do that, and the new year feels like a fresh start so we have a good feeling that this year will be the year.
But in doing so, we are deciding at the beginning of the year, irregardless of any intervening factors, what our standard for success will be 12 months later.
But for those big goals, like exercising, quitting smoking, loosing weight, eating better, saving money—you know, the big ones we Americans traditionally make and break—we don’t keep them because there are deep seated, unconscious motivations influencing our behavior in those areas.
So they are not the kinds of goals that willpower alone or simple strategies will fix.
In using only superficial means to address unconscious issues, we’re using the wrong tools for the job and so cannot make more than superficial, short-term progress, so we fail to meet our pre-established standard for success, and then we feel terrible about ourselves, reinforcing the inner beliefs that caused our problems in the first place, making it even more probable we won’t break the pattern.
No wonder so many of us hate New Year’s resolutions.
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