Why new year’s resolutions tend to fade and how to achieve them

Year after year, so many people make New Year’s resolutions that over time wither and fade into another failed attempt to transform some aspect of their lives. What begins with a hopeful optimism unravels in yet another unmet aspiration.

It’s always a curiosity to me how we come to try to evoke change in the same way that gives us the same failure. I imagine that if we conducted a survey six months after the New Year and asked people about the success of their resolutions, we’d find an abysmal rate of failure. Our struggle with change is resoundingly difficult and scant attention is devoted toward understanding why that’s so.

Change begins as a thought, underscored by a wish or even stronger, a desire. This may set in motion an even stronger feeling, an intention. Most people find themselves somewhere within this continuum. Clearly, where you fall within that range is important toward the eventual outcome, but nevertheless insufficient for an assurance of reaching your goal.

What typically prevents the success is the necessary commitment–the vaulting into action–that supports the transition. A number of years ago, on the occasion of my voicing a resolution —to get into shape and work out regularly—a dear friend asked me when I’d actually be doing that. I said, ” at least three times a week.” He responded with a ringing clarity, ” If it’s not in your calendar, day and time, you’re not committing to it.” He was quite right. The intention wasn’t enough.

It’s not uncommon to initiate the change, but over time we tend to retreat back into the old familiar zone and loosen our grip on the new progress. Sustaining change is often more difficult than initiating it. This is because we haven’t fully committed to the progress. We make a bit of change, breathe a sigh of relief and give ourselves a break. And the change evaporates.

The commitment, if grounded in conviction, can lead to what I call a defining moment. It’s an instant in which we become so invested in the change we desire, that we commit to a turning point in our lives. We are in fact changed as of that moment. This is a defining moment in which we come to see ourselves differently, act upon it, and become transformed.

The defining moment alters everything. It is the engine that drives the change. The introduction of this new catalyst alters how we think and how we operate. It introduces a new habit into our being and literally alters our bio-chemistry. Neuroscience is now clearly confirming that our thoughts do indeed alter our brain chemistry. Sustaining the new thought, embracing with conviction the new resolution is achievable with a deep and rooted commitment. Anything short leaves us falling short.

Old habits die hard because old thought defends its territory. Thought and behavior are inextricably connected. This habitual pattern literally creates a groove of thought, feeling and behavior. And it here that we get stuck. In order to disrupt that habitual pattern, we must intervene with a significant force, the defining moment in which we embrace the change and nothing stands in the way. This requires embracing the disquiet of new behavior. We need to take the discomfort and make it our ally as we align with the new shift. A resolution isn’t enough; a turning point into new terrain is required ans the energy to sustain it.

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  1. Gerardo Salinas
    Gerardo Salinas says:

    Absolutely true, we often make a list of the new year´s change proposals, but i believe that if we could stick to just one we will definitely succeed, sustaining the desire to create a new habit is the hardest part, not creating it as a thought or wish, i´ll give an example

    I´ve always been a person interested in arts, (i´ll write from my own perspective, i am not trying to generalize) as for me, this kind of people are worried more about intellectual stuff rather than sports or exercise, i´ve never thought i would be interested in work outs or diets, until i was 27 years old i´d never done any kind of exercise, but this year was the year of the change, because i believed that i needed to work out because i was gaining up weight, i´d never had that need, when i was younger i could eat all i want without getting fat, but now is different

    I started going to a gym, which i thought it was boring because i felt it as repetitive, a bunch of persons making repetitive movements looking at the mirror, admiring their own biceps, what the hell? i was 4 months there, then i wanted something more fun, that´s when i found boxing, i´d registered in the Box Academy, and i´m still there, it´s been 7 months since i´ve entered and every day i like it even more, so, this year´s desire could be reached as i wanted, what was the secret? a thought….

    a friend told me once that exercise is like a drug, once you prove it you want more and more, that was the thought, i had this in my mind the full year, and thanks to it, i´ve reached my desire, now i´m 22 pounds down and counting, so i believe we just need a thought that could be aligned to our one big desire to focus on, it´s true, because in a time that thought becomes a belief, and that´s what makes the shift, of course, this is only the beginning as we may change a lot of aspects of our lives, but after all, that´s how life is, and experimenting that is the very substance of life.

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