Resolutions and why they fail

All the rest, drop out somewhere in between this new year and the next.
Image for representation purpose
Image for representation purpose

HYDERABAD: When I decided, to be with the times, and write about resolutions, I started my search for information on Google. Well here’s the story. Apparently, 4,000 years ago, the Babylonians who celebrated the new year in March, would make promises to the gods for the new year. And since then this concept of a  resolution for a new year evolved. Did I just say evolved? oops sorry... no evolving happened there, and nothing has really changed for us humans.

Over time, the pressure to make resolutions, and the guilt of not following them, has transcended culture and geographic distribution.

Children, adults, and the elderly alike, make and break resolutions. The article I was reading went on to state that less than 25% of people stick to their resolutions till the end of January. As many as 48% of people drop out in the first week and less than 8% of people actually follow through with their resolutions. All the rest, drop out somewhere in between this new year and the next.

Now given this rather discouraging statistic, the next discussion would be on why we make resolutions, only to break them, time and again, year after year?

‘I want to lose 15 kilogrammes of weight.’ Yes! Achievable... then, there comes the catch.’ I want to lose 15 kilos in 30 days!’ Not just difficult, but also unattainable. Then starts the process of unhealthy diets, starvation, food fads, unhealthy lifestyles and prohibitive amounts of exercise. And then one gets so tired... that one breaks the resolution and spends the rest of January, and a good part of the year feeling anxious, sheepish, guilty, miserable and despising oneself for failing. If this person had said ‘I want to lose 15 kilogrammes in six months’, it would have probably unfolded a journey of discipline, realistic expectations, and some level of success.

So I ask you to think... are resolutions more about attaining difficult goals or about a healthy journey and attitude towards a process of gentle change?

So how must our resolutions be in order to avoid giving them up?
I don’t claim any great success in my own resolutions, I have failed too at times, many times in fact, but here is some things that worked for me and I hope they make sense to you too.

  •  Keep them small and in stages. Yes! Please dream big, but keep your resolutions simple and have a clear goal plan that is attainable.
  •  Understand that there may be pitfalls, delays, and failures. Keep only the big picture in mind and not the little failures.
  • When goals are broken up into little pieces, the chances of success add more and one takes pride in the smaller goals attained.
  •  Practice discipline (the hardest thing to do) without being too hard on yourself. Forgive yourself if you fail at times. Take a deep breath, rest, and start afresh.
  •  Understand that your game plan may need to be altered or modified at times. It is not a sign of failure, it just means you are realigning and perfecting your plans, and that’s perfectly okay.
  •  Don’t make excuses. ‘I really want to but I’m so busy’, ‘I really have no time’, ‘I’m just caught up with other things’, ‘I have other responsibilities you know’, start now! You really can’t get into your personal ‘Hall of Fame’ unless you start.
  •  Lastly, please remember, personal discipline is what will drag you to the finish line. Celebrate, you made it. Doesn’t matter if reaching there took longer than expected, or was harder than anticipated, or if even the complete goal was not reached, celebrate! You did it! And that’s what matters.

 And for all those of us who did not achieve our resolutions well, there’s always next year.

(The author is a mental health professional and psychotherapist at Dhrithi Wellness Clinic)

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