Will Your New Year’s Resolution Last?
Why resolutions fail and what makes them succeed
If you made a new year’s resolution this year you are full of hope and determination. This time you are going to carry out your resolution because you know in your bones that you “should” be attaining your goal. But, will your new year’s resolution last?
There is a lingering doubt in your head that you have probably buried in the glow of an energetic drive to master your previous weakness. But that little doubt is there for a reason. It’s not there to sabotage you and make you feel like a failure. It’s there because it’s your psyche’s alarm ready to go off when you choose a goal because you “should”, and not because you are drawn to it naturally.
Will your new year’s resolution last if you don’t enjoy the process of achieving your goal?
Asmara a 38-year-old television producer was stressed and overwhelmed with the constant demands coming from everyone in her office and on the set, not to mention her parents, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces who used her as their go to person when they got into scrapes.
Most days she was exhausted, didn’t eat properly, became hydrated, eventually leading to a flare up of her Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). She knew better, but each time she made a promise to herself to take better care of herself it worked for a few days at the most. Despite enjoying and feeling invigorated by bike riding, yoga and mindfulness exercises, she couldn’t keep it up for more than 10 days at a time. She didn’t even notice that these routines had lapsed until her health deteriorated and she was immensely uncomfortable with the bloating and constipation of her IBS.
Will your new year’s resolution last if the ‘high’ you get from doing the job fades away?
It was not until she experienced brain fog and wasn’t able to focus on anything, that she resolved to go back to her 15 minute morning yoga and mindfulness practices. Only when her body felt sluggish and it affected her energy levels and ability to move quickly as the nightly show was ready for airtime that she determined to eat and drink healthy on a regular basis, as well resume her daily jog in the park.
Will your new year’s resolution have more weight than the goal you set last month?
As the year came to an end, and the mad rush of getting presents, sending them out and getting ready for celebrations at work, Asmara vowed to make a new year’s resolution that she was determined to keep. And, she started off really well.
After taking care of herself by doing her exercise and meditation she was able to prioritize her work demands, and nourish her body appropriately. Asmara was proud of herself and was on a bit of a high for a few days. Somewhere after the first week, she didn’t eat lunch and worked 18 hour days with increasing requests from her team members. Scared of being fired if she didn’t accede to every demand immediately, she drove herself into the ground and ended the cycle with constipation, bloating, an acned face, oily hair and sleep deprived. She vented about her team members not respecting her boundaries, and paying little attention to her need for breaks and replenishments. She was hurt by their lack of humanity and expected them to recognize her suffering on their behalf, honor her, and give her permission to switch off.
Will your new year’s resolution last if your stick is more effective than the carrot?
Asmara’s pride in taking care of herself didn’t quite hit the spot that would have made it rewarding enough to make it routine. Doing good things for herself was like getting high and then coming down in a crumpled, defeated mess until the next high. You see, she really didn’t enjoy the act of thinking about her survival needs or physical and emotional well- being. In fact she resented it. She wanted to be thought about, cared for and valued. Asmara sacrificed herself for others and she wanted payment.
When a colleague or family member praised her and thanked her for her superlative efforts on their behalf, Asmara was on cloud nine. She didn’t need food, sleep or mindfulness. The accolade was the high that she wanted – not the high that had to be worked at by creating time for her workouts and food breaks. But when those same people didn’t respond to her requests to back off the furious barrage of time-crunching demands, she spiraled into a state of collapse.
Will your new year’s resolution last if your head says ‘yes’ but your heart says ‘no.’?
Although Asmara was smart enough to know that she had to make sure she engaged in self-care in order to do her job and make the most of her life; emotionally she yearned to be taken care of; to know she was special, wanted, needed and enjoyed. Her entire life had been spent trying to find a way into the hearts of those who should have cared for her when she was little. She believed that taking care of them would get her what she longed for. And they let her do it. They let her take care of them and shift from a people pleaser to an on-demand-slave – because she offered it without hesitation: she gave off the message that she was there for their purpose, and they used her accordingly. She became dependent on the high that she got when getting praise for her slave like behavior.
In her adult life Asmara became aware of the fact that she was used and that she set it up that way – that it was up to her to stop it. But she couldn’t! Because doing so didn’t give her the dopamine rush that she got when someone else made her feel special by valuing her efforts. That’s why her new year’s resolution didn’t last. Taking care of herself felt like work for which there was little reward after the first flush of achieving her goals for keeping healthy.
Will your new year’s resolution last if you are honest about what you want?
When you switch from “I should” to “I feel like,” or “I want” or “It’s important that I..” then you will automatically be picking something that it apt for your stage in life; for your healthy development and most of all for your self-empowerment.
So when Asmara chooses to feel her anger and disappointment that being a slave to others is not getting her what she wants, then and only then will she be motivated to give it to herself and get the same dopamine rush – the same high – except that it is derived naturally from the sense of being honest, authentic and open about what she needs and wants each moment of the day.
When New Year’s Eve comes around again, she won’t need to wonder whether her resolution will last, because she will already be living it.
How did she get there? It wasn’t easy and it took a lot of facing up to needs that she felt ashamed of. But in family or origin psychotherapy, she was able to break the bonds of dependency. Asmara found her authentic self and began to treasure it in individual relationship counseling. Everything else came naturally.
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2021
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