Resolving Resolutions

Did you do dry January? Or start a new exercise regime after the festive excesses of December? Or resolve to eat less chocolate? If your resolutions were to do any of these, or similar, chances are you won’t make it to mid February.

Doomed to failure

Around 80% of people fail to keep their new year resolutions for longer than six weeks. Why? Because we consider our goals to be arduous and therefore allow ourselves get-out clauses, and because doing something we think we ‘should’ do is a lot less appealing than doing something because we want to do it.  

It also seems we only have so much willpower at our disposal. Some recent research showed an astonishing 20% decrease in physical ability after a short time spent trying to avoid eating sweet treats, versus others who weren’t trying to avoid such temptation. Avoiding what we want is hard work on our brains and our bodies.

In addition to all of this, our brains aren’t very good at dealing with negatives - if you’re told “don’t think of pink penguins” it’s pretty certain that’s exactly what you will then think of. So, when we tell our brains “I won’t eat chocolate”, our brain hears “chocolate”.

Is there anything you can do?

January is often a time when articles and blogs give tips on how to work around these limitations in order to achieve our resolutions. Focus on what we do want (vegetables?) rather than what we don’t want (chocolate?). Work towards a goal, ideally with the added peer pressure of roping a friend into your plans. Build on positives rather than fix negatives. And so on.

There is another way. Give up on resolutions. Instead, just do more of what you love, less of what you don’t. Just enjoy being who you are, as you are, perfectly imperfect, and utterly human.

‘There is no solution because there is no problem’ (Duchamp)