New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Bother!

Like many people,  I spent New Year’s Day catching up on news and sports, watching some bowl games and eating left over holiday treats. One of the news programs hosted an educator from Harvard who was on to tell us why New Year’s Resolutions fail. Her point was that people tend to focus on the behavioral outcomes (e.g., I’m going to lose a few pounds) and ignore the underlying reasons as to why they over eat (e.g., I feel emotionally unfulfilled). HELLO! This is news?  Welcome to the world of counseling!

I think we are drawn to New Year’s Resolutions precisely for the reason they are doomed: They boil down to an over-simplified wish list of what we would like to magically appear in our lives. Missing is the exploration of why these things are not in our lives to begin with! We are who we are and we behave as we do for very complicated reasons. It’s in the genes! It’s how we were raised! It’s because of what we see on television! It’s because of our inherent human failings! It’s because of birth order …station in life …religious upbringing. It’s all of these things and it’s none of these things. And regardless of the cause, the path forward is as unique as a finger print and complicated by all the hang ups and baggage we carry with us on the journey.

So the best advice I can give about New Year’s Resolutions is to ditch the traditional New Year’s Resolution. Instead, resolve to be curious about yourself. Head into the new year with a determination to understand yourself better, question yourself without criticism. Say good-bye to the lament, “Why do I DO that?” and instead ask, “Why DO I do that?” You will set yourself up for a much more productive year!


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