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Jan 04

Three Steps to Making New Year Resolutions Actually Happen

New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions.” – Mark Twain

It’s that time of year again, where we all celebrate the coming of a New Year, and of course make goals (resolutions) for the coming year. If you are like most people, it is probably not a surprise that research shows that almost 9 out of 10 resolutions fail. Research has also shown that while most people sincerely wish to follow through with their resolutions, within the first few weeks of the new year, most people already begin to slide back into old habits or modes of thinking, and within a few months, most people are back where they started (or even worse off). A major problem with the making and subsequent failure of resolutions is that it can lead to depression, and the reinforcement of negative modes of thinking (“I can’t do ______”, or “I have tried to _____, and failed each time”). New Year resolutions can be powerful motivation to effect positive change in your life, but it is important to understand what you really want to change about your life, and understand how to succeed, and then follow through, whether it be January 1st, or any other day of the year.

The reason that most resolutions fail is because 1) They are unrealistic, and a reasonable plan to accomplish the goal isn’t followed, 2) You aren’t truly ready to change, and 3) the underlying root cause of the problems/issues are not addressed by simply resolving to “change”.

First goals should be realistic and attainable, and broken down into smaller units (quarterly, monthly, or weekly). For example, instead of saying I want to lose 50lbs this year, resolve to lose 4 pounds a month. This will allow you to more easily keep yourself accountable, and it will give you a confidence boost when you meet or exceed your unit goal. Also, if you don’t meet your unit goal, you can more easily make necessary changes and get back on track. Don’t be unrealistic in your goals because that is just setting yourself up for failure. Also, make sure you have a reasonable plan in place to accomplish your goals. For example, if you are out of shape, and haven’t really ran or trained in recent memory, your resolution shouldn’t be to compete in the Iron Man competition this year, instead perhaps make a goal to run or walk in a 5K or 10K, and follow a reasonable training program accordingly.

Second, you must be truly mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to make whatever change you have identified. Most people jump into New Year resolutions without really being “ready” to make the change, they merely give the change lip service. For example if you have resolved to stop or cut back on smoking or drinking, or even to get in better physical shape, setting an arbitrary January 1st start date is not going to help you achieve your goal, unless you are going to put forth the necessary effort and willpower. When making your goals you should ask yourself, “how serious am I about this?”, and “am I really willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve this goal?”. If you hesitate in affirmatively and unequivocally answering “yes” to both of these, you need to seriously evaluate your resolutions, because you may be setting yourself up for failure.

Third, when making New Year resolutions, it is important to really identify the root cause of whatever issue that needs to be rectified. For example, instead of saying that “I want to be less stressed”, or “I want to be happier” you should identify what is causing you to become stressed or unhappy in the first place. If you simply wish to be less stressed or happier without rectifying the underlying stressors and causes of unhappiness, you will most likely be simply glossing over unresolved issues, that will continually bubble back up to the surface. If you want to break a habit such as smoking, drinking, overeating, etc., again, look at the underlying cause of the issues, are you performing the habit because of underlying and unresolved issues? If so, resolve those first, and the necessary changes that you would like to make will fall into place.

Good bye 2011! Hello 2012!

For me personally, I have resolved to get into better physical shape, rather than simply “lose weight”. I recently purchased an exercise bike, which should be user friendly for me since I have recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and I have to be careful to avoid high impact exercises on a regular basis. It has a “fitness test” mode that I will use every few weeks to track my fitness progress.

I have also resolved to write at least a blog post a week. This should be easy to track, and my faithful readers can keep me accountable. 😉

I have also resolved to get back into my meditation routine, which I have been slacking on during the past few months. Meditation gives me a clarity of mind, and sense of peace and ease, as well as a great sense of awareness of the present moment (living in the now), which I really find lacking when I stop meditating regularly.

Finally, I have finally finished my comparative religion manuscript, so I will begin the process of shopping it around to various publishers for publication. My goal is to at least send it to two (2) different publishers a month until I hopefully find the right fit.

Practical Tip: Make a physical or mental list of your resolutions, and make sure that, 1) they are realistic and attainable goals, and that you develop and follow a reasonable plan to accomplish them, 2) that you are truly ready to change, and 3) that you deal with any underlying issues, and you will be well on your way to positively changing your life.

What are your resolutions or goals for the new year? Please share in the comments, or let me know back channel at Jason@LivingInTheNow.net
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Also please check out my book, “The Path: Using the Religions of the World as a Guide to Personal and Spiritual Development.” (Click on the book cover to view on Amazon.com)

8 comments

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  1. Christina Cronk

    What wonderful advice! I agree, just because the start date of a resolution is January 1 does not mean you will be successful. By goal this year is to become healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually. To accomplish this I laid the groundwork little by little last year- I quit smoking in November, bought hand weights and Vibrams to start a walking routine and build up from that, and am making a conscious effort to reenter my spiritual practices which have unfortunately been on hold lately. I have no doubt that with positivity and mindfulness, we can both achieve our goals. I wish you a happy 2012.

    1. Jason E. Marshall

      Great goals Christina! I wish you success, and thanks for sharing

  2. Charlie Harper

    “Second, you must be truly mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to make whatever change you have identified.”

    It’s easy to pay lip-service to this one. The idea that because I “should” make this-or-that change frequently gets substituted for actual interest or readiness to make the change.

    -Congratulations on finishing your manuscript

    1. Jason E. Marshall

      Great point. I think that is something that may seem like a subtle difference, when in reality it is a huge difference! Thanks for sharing!

    2. Jason E. Marshall

      That is very true, and it is an important distinction. Thanks for your comment!

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