Why Some New Years’ Resolutions Are A Bad Idea

Will you change your stripes in 2013?

Will you change your stripes in 2013?

Happy New Year, Collaborative Writers!

Here’s a thought that’s been forming in my mind over the past few days, while I’ve been engaged in reading other people’s New Years’ resolutions. Many of these resolutions sound extremely ambitious. Even if these people do the work they say they’re going to do, at some point this coming year, they’re going to lose steam, get sick, or become physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted by their own resolve.

Instead of plowing willy-nilly into your resolutions, consider something educational professionals have known for a very long time: you can only expect to make one major change in a short (three-to-six-month) timeframe.

The aphorism was, and is, expect anyone in the process of learning brand new skills to backtrack a great deal on their way to change. In other words, it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to live up to the deep change most people imply with New Years’ resolutions, for reasons that are not entirely in your control.

You don’t lose initiative, per se, you just don’t take into account how difficult permanent change really is.

When we make resolutions, we’re usually also trying something new. One of those new things might be increasing how much time we give to our writing, for example, or changing the way we think about our writing. Maybe your resolution is to get up earlier and spend more time writing. But what if you don’t get up early now? You’re talking about adding two new systemic changes into your life.

If you seriously want to change your habits, what you should consider is trying one new thing this year. Only one. Make that change permanent, and only after you’ve changed one thing, try to take on another.

Honest-to-god, systemic change, is much, much harder than people who are motivated in the moment take into account when they’re busy making their unrealistic resolutions.

One thing to keep in mind is deep-seated ambivalence. Since changing what time you get up each day requires you to shift a whole bunch of other things around, and reorder your day, you have to know that when you decide to focus on your writing, turn off the television, wake up earlier, push your grandchildren away, or set boundaries around your time, you’re also dealing with any number of reasons why you don’t want to change, including guilt, and a possible lack of belief in your abilities. You have to allow yourself to be ‘selfish’ about how you use your time, and you have to put yourself first.

Those, on their own, might be major changes for you. If you’ve never put yourself first (or done it very rarely) the overwhelming guilt might undo your best resolutions. So instead of thinking about change as ‘merely’ difficult or hard, think instead about what you’re giving up to make these changes, because the thing you’re giving up will pull and tug at you in ways that make you react with ambivalence when any residual emotional need you haven’t adequately addressed rears its ugly head and interferes with your resolve.

You can do it, it’s just not as easy as many people would like it to be.

Change is not automatic; it takes time, resolve, and persistence. You have to believe in yourself and honestly want the change that you’re pushing on yourself. Good luck and best of wishes in this new year!

4 thoughts on “Why Some New Years’ Resolutions Are A Bad Idea

  1. Pingback: How hard are the Three Rs? | Writing Wings

  2. So very true… Lasting change is difficult. I try to make my resolutions realistic and after many years of failing, have learned that trying to make one change at a time is the way to go. Unfortunately, there are so many things I want to try and accomplish… decisions, decisions… 🙂

    • I just don’t think we have to try to take on Superwoman’s cloak all in one year. I was reading the online, email newsletter of someone who is deep in the middle of transforming herself (which I heartily approve of and endorse). However, if you took a look at the list she made for herself, the types of transformation she is undergoing, all in the course of a year, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound like a downer, but she is headed for exhaustion and possible burnout. I have seen way too many younger women get the bit between their teeth and run with it (and they also have a family, and a husband, and obligations there and elsewhere) and I know from personal experience, having been absolutely madly driven earlier in life, that you not only sacrifice health, sanity, and time with family, you also sacrifice what might be the most important thing from the perspective of this business/empire you’re building, which is QUALITY. It is literally true you cannot be everywhere at once, and while you’re busy scattering your seeds, you aren’t noticing that the wind is carrying off some, and the birds are stealing the rest. There are parables written about this for a reason! :-0

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