Every year around December, millions upon millions of resolutions are made for the following fiscal new year. Weight will be lost, inches will be taken off the waist line, eating habits will improve, smoking (or other drug habits) will cease, gym membership will be taken advantage of, and at least fifty books will be read. Many goals are set that, when the second of January comes around, are already lost and the resoutions are given up. There is always next year, the resolution makers resolve. They somehow manage to keep that resolution.
I think that one of the chief problems is that people don’t have a realistic concept of what they are capable of accomplishing. Perhaps, on the other hand, people know exactly what they are capable of accomplishing. Even worse than knowing what they are capable of, they are hyper aware on at least a subconscious level and thus they set out from the very beginning of making the resolution to not be able to keep it. Imagine that a friend of yours buys the remains of a car from a junk yard and proceeds to tell you that he is going to take the car and get it to working condition and then will drive it across the country in two days.
You would have to have a little chuckle at your friend because you’d realize that unless your friend drove 80 miles per hour nonstop there would be pretty much no way to get across the country in a matter of two days. You’d really have just two good options as a friend – you could wish your friend the best of luck and say that you know that your friend can do it or you can sit the friend down over a cup of overpriced coffee and say that there is no way that a car is going to make it across the country in two days.
Unfortunately most people go for the former option – and not just for unlikely scenarios as the one I have put out but more likely ones in which your friends swear to you that this is going to be the year that they are going to go from a size twelve to a size two in a matter of months and you do nothing but shake your fist vigorously and swear by all that is holy in the world that they really do have a strong chance of doing it. Never mind that a vast majority of diets crash and burn and the people involved with the diets end up heavier than when they began them. You tell your friend that they are different and they are going to be the exception to the rule. Perhaps it would be more prudent to offer a different sort of counsel so that yours won’t be the shoulder they will be crying on a few weeks later.
Setting More Realistic Goals
The problem with the majority of resolutions is that they are of the extremely radical nature and, like a person who feels extremely socially shy and has never gone on a date with another human approaching a model in Milan and asking to go out for wine, they are bound for failure. This is precisely what I think many people subconsciously realize and since at its heart they don’t want to really put in the long term effor they know they are going to need to put forth to not just accomplish their goal but to keep it strong, they choose something they will obviously fail at. When they fail they can turn to their friends and say, “Well, at least I tried. I guess there’s always next year.” Then it’s off to the bar for sympathy beer. Here are some examples of people who make radical resolutions and the more realistic resolutions that they can make for themselves.
Example 1: Philip wants to quit smoking – he currently smokes about a pack every day. His wife is growing more concerned with every day that he is cutting his life short through his smoking habit. Towards the end of December he tells his wife that for the upcoming fiscal year he is no longer going to smoke. On December 31st he smokes what he proclaims will be his last cigarette ever and there are cheers from all of his friends. By January 5th Philip is a nervous wreck and he can’t sleep at night. He practically chews on his fingers and he is tense like a ball of rubber bands. He hardly makes it to the tenth of the month before he is found behind the garage sneaking a cigarette.
A Better Resolution: Philip’s wife tells him that instead of smoking an entire pack of cigarettes he should perhaps limit himself to no more than eighteen per day. A couple of weeks later this is further reduced to sixteen per day. In a few months he is down to only a couple of cigarettes per day and barely misses the time when he would light up at every opportunity. Further, over the course of these months he is instructed to stricly smoke only when he normally would not – before meals and random times. This breaks him of his smoking routines. By the end of the fiscal year he is completely smoke free. His friends genuinely cheer him on.
Example 2: Martin wants to lose weight. He feels flabby around the abdominal area and feels so out of shape that going up the stairs to the local pub sometimes gets him a little out of breath. Towards the end of December he tells everyone in the pub that he is going to join the local gym and will work out every day for at least an hour or two. He gets a hearty round of applause and someone buys him a beer. At the beginning of January he starts going to the gym every day and in a couple of days he feels sore all over – his body isn’t use to this kind of rigorous torture. Within a few days he says that he is clearly not cut out for this kind of physical activity and everyone at the pub tells him, “Well, at least you tried your best” and someone buys him a beer.
A Better Resolution: Martin’s friend Deano tells him that he should start by going to the gym twice a week and limiting his workout to no more than half an hour – and he gives him instructions on warming up before the workout and cooling down afterwards. Martin starts going to the gym as per Deano’s instructions and finds that he is actually having a good time, especially since Deano made him an awesome playlist for his portable music player. A few months later Martin is still going to the gym only he is now going four times a week and for forty-five minutes at a time. His abdominal area is considerably less flabby and the stairs at the pub are no longer a challenge to him. There is wild applause at the pub and he buys a round of beer for his friends.
Many times we fail to motivate ourselves in continuing in the pursuit of making our resolutions work because we don’t really have any good reason to have made them in the first place. You might say that you want to lose weight because it would make you feel better about yourself but deep down somewhere you aren’t really bothered about it enough to really have a go at the gym or to significantly cut down on your chip and fried food intake. Sometimes the best thing to do is to really have a good look at yourself on the inside, so to speak, to look at where you are in terms of what your proposed resolutions are and why you are really putting forth those resolutions to begin with. Do you want to lose weight because you want to lose weight or is it because your friends tease you about having a ‘love handle’ and you wish there were some way to get them to stop teasing you. Do you want to quit smoking because you genuinely believe that smoking is something you shouldn’t be doing every day or is it because your parents nag you about it? If the reasons are entirely external there is a much greater chance that you’re going to give up on the resolution because there is no real drive behind the resolution.
Once you have chosen a realistic resolution and have come to realize that you are genuinely motivated to go through with it, you can start making small steps towards it as in the examples above. You can be the exception to the millions of broken resolutions and when your friends ask you how you
ever managed to do it you can tell them that you chose to do it in an entirely rational manner. Maybe they’ll buy you a beer at the pub – unless, of course, you have resolved to not drink as much.