New Year resolutions don't work

New Year resolutions don’t work eight out of ten times.

They don’t work because we know what we want and what to change – common resolutions such as drink less, start exercise, eat better or save more – but we hardly do any homework or research to understand how to make that change. Without the strategy, there is no success.

They don’t work because we are loose on resolutions and don’t see them as goals. Because we don’t see them as goals, there aren’t any deadlines. Without deadlines, we soften pressure and naturally push it to the unlimited next time. Somehow we all think there is so much time next time. Behavioural economists Gal Zauberman and John Lych found that when people were asked to anticipate how much extra money and time they would have in the future, they realistically assumed that money would be tight, but expect free time to magically materialise. Tomorrow time is an evading idea – it never comes or has already gone.

They don’t work because we always take unrealistic and idealistic resolutions. Either we want the best or nothing, and never settle for the second best. Even if we realise, in the course of our practice, that we may not be progressing towards our ideal, we give up rather than changing course to the more realistic, second best resolution.

They don’t work because we are generally not happy with single or simple resolutions. We want our resolutions to be complex and multiple. We have the habit of listing out our bad habits – usually many – and throw in a few of those as resolutions. Almost seven out of ten times we take more than just one resolution.

They don’t work because instead of taking time to understand ourselves and changing our course throughout the year, we cram our complex self-analysis into the merriest month of the year, December – filled with drinks, food, chocolates, shopping, fun and partying – and expect immediate change.

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