Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Year, No Resolution

Good afternoon to you all. It is a beautiful sunny day out here on the east coast of Canada and I'm inspired to write so here I am; and here you are. A few days ago, we all rang in the new year in our respective ways, in our respective places around the world. One of the traditions with New Year's Eve is to form a resolution that one intends to commit to in the coming year. I think it's time we lay this tradition to rest or at least start being honest about it.

I don't make New Year resolutions for my own reasons but one of the largest contributing factors is the set up for failure. Now I'm not going to blame the media or entertainment for this one, although they do help perpetuate it. No, the blame is mostly on ourselves. The biggest failure is the goals that we set for ourselves are usually ill-thought out or downright unattainable for one reason or another. This leads to a significant rise in the number of failed resolutions and because we fail so often at our resolutions it has become a part of the custom now too; to fail. It's an expectation we carry consciously or not and it is a direct result of our failure to accomplish or follow through.

I was going through my Twitter feed post-New Year and reading the many resolutions as well as the many cynical resolutions and what I came to realize is that we're not really setting realistic goals and I will explain why using some of the more common resolutions I come across. 

I'm going to get in shape/eat healthy/join a gym/exercise/lose weight.
By far this [these] is the most common resolution I think we decide upon each year. While keeping in mind this is a fantastic resolution, let's take a moment to really examine and think about it. What this resolution implies is that you are the opposite of this; that your current behavioral pattern and comfort zone do not include staying as fit and healthy as you want to be. So what we're talking about here isn't just doing these things, it is changing/adding behavior from outside our comfort zone.While the zest and zeal of the promise of a new year and positive change is inspiring, it requires will and determination once those expire; and they do for most of us within the first two weeks.

I'm going to quit smoking/drinking/drugs.
No you aren't. If any of these are a real problem in your life, or even if they aren't but you consider them habits they will not be solved overnight. A significant amount of will power, determination, control and support is required for a serious attempt at abandoning these habits. Like the first mentioned above, this resolution is unrealistic for most of us; we simply are not prepared for such a monumental change to our way of life. Habits, especially habits that can cause physical dependencies, are especially difficult to break. While I have known a small number of individuals who have accomplished this feat, they are few and far between and unique among the general masses.

I'm going to be nicer.
If there was a resolution that I dreamed people could stick to, this would be the one. It warms my heart to know so many people have at least the inward desire to be better people; it saddens me that most remain the same as this one is the most quickly forgotten. I am not saying that the people who make this resolution are bad to begin with, what I am saying is that this resolution in particular is difficult to stick with because it is often easily discouraged; especially in the world we find ourselves currently. When we decide to attempt to, again, change our behavior to be more thoughtful, kind and nice, we generally develop expectations of the results of this change. We expect people to notice, to show thanks, to return kindness and to be happy around you. Sadly, this is most often not the case. Many times people don't notice the simple kindnesses, they are ignorant or indifferent to it and some even become turned off by it and may return with negativity to your kindness.

These are just three of some of the most popular resolutions. I'm sure you may have even used one of these yourself before; I know I have more than once in my past. When you decide to make a life changing decision, you have to really want to commit to it. Just because you make it on New Year's Eve does not mean you will have any extra strength or ease to accomplish a previously unattainable goal.

If you haven't found the will necessary to accomplish any of these resolutions, chances are it isn't just going to arrive because you decided, out of custom, to change your lifestyle. This sort of change requires planning and commitment combined with attainable short and long term, measurable goals. You cannot commit to this sort of endeavor on the whim of one night because of tradition; you are setting yourself up for failure. Your best bet is to make a resolution to draft up a plan to accomplish your final goal. A step by step guide on how you see yourself getting to the actual goal; don't worry it can change as you go. Something that's more flexible will allow you to reach your ultimate goal without being setback by smaller failures.

I'm not trying to discourage any one of you from pursuing your resolutions, I fully support your efforts and hope you are able to follow through on them. If you're not one of those people, then don't give up on your change just yet. Take some time to re-examine just what it is you wanted and reflect on yourself (you know yourself better than anyone) and come up with something that might be more attainable; something small and short term. Once you get that done, go a little further. With each small accomplishment, you will gain confidence, feel better about yourself, what you are doing and reach your ultimate resolution much faster than not at all.

Remember, December 31st is just a day on a calendar. There are 364 other days on that calendar and they are all good days to make new life resolutions. Because isn't that what the whole tradition/custom is about? Getting rid of something negative or adopting something positive in our lives permanently? Changing who we are by adopting or abandoning behavior is, for the most part, not done on a whim; it takes time, planning and commitment. It also takes a few mistakes and failures. As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day, and you should not expect to reach the end before you've even started. 

Thanks for reading and I wish you all the very best over the coming year and in attaining any goals you've set out to reach! Stay safe, love each other and always, always smile.