Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Why resolutions don't work.

Studies show that the huge majority of resolutions made January 1 are broken before January 31. That's of the same year. Why don't resolutions work?

There's a simple answer. Resolutions are overwhelming. A resolution is focused on an end result: I will lose X amount of pounds this year, I will get a better job, I will write the great American Novel. And so, when on January 15, you've gained 2 pounds from leftover cookies, you haven't sent a single resume out and for the last five days haven't written a word--you give up. Who wouldn't? Or--if you've been going to the gym every day for 2 hours, you've sent out 100 resumes and gotten no responses and you spend every morning until 5 a.m. writing, you're so exhausted you have to quit. Who wouldn't.

There's a better way. Break it down.Don't try to lose 50 pounds, work on eating healthier and losing 4--this month. Send out 2 to 5 resumes and choose who you send it to carefully, and plan on writing every day--even if it's only a sentence.

That's doable. Then celebrate your successes. And ignore your failures. Didn't lose any weight? Don't try to lose 8 pounds the next month, just stay with the program. If you do more than you expected, celebrate, but don't increase the goal.

If you have manageable bits, you can be effective and it will happen. For example, I started this entry on January 2 in the morning and am finishing it January 4 in the evening.

But it is finished.


Jim Murdoch said...

I've always thought the big problem with a New Year's resolution is the fact that people think, "Oh, it's the new year, I should think up a resolution," and really their heart isn't in it. If you resolve to do something then just do it and be done with it. If it was more like NaNoRiMo where there are other people working towards the same end and supporting each other then fine but usually we resolve to do things that only involve us and they're things we're not especially passionate about.

My weight has been fluctuating between 12st 9lb and 13st 3lb for years but over Xmas I hit 13st 4lb. Bad me. Did I suddenly get in a flurry and resolve to go on a crash diet? Did I heck. A good walk will lose me that extra pound and the rest will go when it has a mind to now all the goodies (maybe that should be baddies) have been consumed.

The other thing about giving up on resolutions is that there are usually no consequences; things just revert to what they were before. Oh, there may be a sense of failure but failure's not that different to guilt, it's something you learn to live with quite quickly.

Conda Douglas said...

Good points, Jim. Ah, but you're not a descendant of those good ol' Puritans (lucky you) with their "have you come to God" guilt and work ethic (all work, all the time). Here in America, one extra pound is cause for panic--especially among women. Or as my mother used to say, "You can never be too thin or too rich." She died weighing less than 80 pounds.

Americans are nuts.

The Muse said...

Every year the weight thing is on my list. The last on my list, but it haunts me.

This year it's on my list again. However, my list is much longer and detailed. Perhaps it will be accomplished, in the midst of all the other things, as I will have no time to eat!

Conda Douglas said...

Take heart, Muse. Studies have shown that those who have a goal (or intention) to losing weight may not lose, but overall don't gain, or if they do, gain far less than those without the intention. Trying counts.