Don't ditch your resolutions just yet! Re-think them!

Updated: Feb 10


Let’s face it! By now, most of us have made and broken several New Year’s resolutions. Psychological research shows almost 90% of us fall in the category of people who do this every year. That number may be even higher this year because it is really hard just to be a human right now. 2020 took a toll on our health, mental health, finances, and general capacity for handling strife and hardship. So, no, you are not a loser if you did not yet manage to lose a pound a day, or raise enough money for your cause, or do an obscene number of Burpees, or if you broke down and had that burger on your no-meat day. You are not a loser if you have already given up on (stupid) resolutions and see no hope of keeping them.


In fact, you may now be in the best position to get something done. You see, while you are not struggling to meet your (stupid) New Year’s resolutions, you can take a clear-eyed look at what is going on here. It turns out a lot of resolutions are driven by judgment – you or others judging you as too fat or incompetent or sedentary; or they are punitive – you feel you shouldn’t have eaten all that sweet junk at Christmas and try to make up for it by vowing to NEVER TOUCH SUGAR AGAIN. Knowing the brain, these are guaranteed to fail. You can’t just will yourself into doing things as the Frontal Lobe’s capacity to sustain will power is limited, and it has other essential tasks like problem solving, working memory etc. Psychologists know it is hard to change habits unless they fit with your values and with the person you are, and unless they add to your feeling of personal worth. They suggest examining why you make the resolutions you do, and whether they will make you a better, happier person. If not, don’t bother.


So, reset your vision for 2021 and let’s try again. Keep it simple. Pick one thing that is important to you. Then take a word or two that best describes what you want and make it your mantra. Say it, sing it, see it - in your mind, on your computer, on your wall, everywhere. This harnesses the power of motivated perception (to see what you want to see), and leads your attention to a specific thing or behavior. You might choose Health, Courage, Beauty, Family –whatever makes you happy. Experts recommend being specific and keeping track: do x, so many times a week at such time for so many minute… This may work for some, but leaves others trapped in a stressful, goal-directed mindset. Perhaps consider a more bohemian, less constrained approach. For example, if Beauty is your thing, simply aim to see more beauty around you – when driving, walking down the hall, watching your kids play etc. Maybe take a picture or write down what you find beautiful. If you keep the word in mind, you will find you start to notice more beautiful things without having to make much effort. If you picked Courage, you might let yourself be bolder next time you feel afraid of failure or have to make a choice or decision. Don’t be hard on yourself, love what you accomplish and try to learn from what you don’t. After all, life is short and “Time keeps on slipping into the future.” (Yes, I just quoted the Steve Miller Band.)



Post by: Nadia Fike

The Center for Neurosciences Foundation

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Tucson, Arizona 85718

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