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The Top Three Reasons New Year's Resolutions Fizzle

By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
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Thinking about New Year's resolutions - easy;
Making good resolutions - hard;
Keeping your resolutions - priceless.

You start off hopeful. You want to do better. You want to be better. You're tired of your life being one long disconnect between what you want to do and what you get around to doing.

But then reality kicks in. Like a Hamlet in the world of action, you find yourself torn between two impulses: "to do or not to do." Such ambivalence makes it tough to choose a clear commitment to action. So what happens?

Your positive energy becomes dammed, damning you to yet one more failed resolution. Your determination dissipates. It's too hard. It's too burdensome. Why kid yourself? Are you really going to shed those pounds? Get yourself in shape? Be more organized? Work more efficiently?

You surrender. It's not going to happen. You become cynical. It's stupid to make New Year's resolutions. They don't work. They're a waste of time - especially in the digital age. Beepers beckon, digital devices ding, social networks seduce. With all those accessible, appealing, addictive distractions, how does anybody stick to their resolutions?

You give up. You go back to spending countless hours immersed in activity that has nothing to do with your personal or career goals. No big deal. You only go around once, right? Why not just give in to your impulse of the moment?

Yet in those infrequent but quiet moments of solitude when you're honest with yourself, you wonder if you're teetering on the edge of the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. You know you can do better. Why give up on yourself?

This year, make resolutions that work by staying away from these three types of resolutions:

  1. Resolutions that are way too ambitious. Sure, you want to bring about dramatic change. Unfortunately, change doesn't work that way.

    Instead of resolving to lose 30 pounds, aim simply to lose 5 pounds in January. But what if your goal really is to lose 30 pounds? Lose the 5 in January. Rejoice in your success. When you do, you'll be motivated to continue whatever you've been doing to lose the weight. Why? Because nothing succeeds like success.

  2. Resolutions that feel like hard work. You want to get in shape but hate going to the gym. You pay for a gym membership and promise yourself you'll go. Yeah, right. Gyms get rich on people like you. If you hate the gym, don't go.

    Instead of insisting that you should do what you dislike, find a physical activity that you enjoy. Maybe it's a sport. Or a martial arts program. Or yoga. Or Pilates. Or dancing. Or cycling. Squash the "Yes, but" excuses. Just begin. And notice how much better you feel when you move your body.

  3. Resolutions that are conceptual. "I want to get more organized," is a good concept. Who wouldn't want to be more organized? (Okay, maybe if you're a nitpicking perfectionist, you might wish you were less organized).

    Instead of focusing on the concept, hone in on specific actions you can take that will result in your being more organized.

    Here are examples of action-oriented tasks that will enable you to reach your goal:

    • "I'll spend 15 minutes every day organizing papers on my desk."
    • "I'll discard at least 10 items of clothing that I no longer wear every change of season."
    • "I'll visit an office supply store to purchase organizing aids for my junk drawers."

Now, are you ready? Ready for what? Ready to make sustainable resolutions that will nurture your best self. Anybody against that?

How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age
Copyright © 2011: Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach who specializes in helping people overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. If your life is one long disconnect between what you intend to do and what you actually get around to doing, check out my new book, How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age.

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