We’ve all been there: Over the holiday period, the mind starts to wonder and you get back in touch with your desires. You start to imagine that life could be different next year if only you were thinner, richer, happier or wiser. You want it pretty bad and so you plot and plan ways to make it happen the following year. Then the year starts and slowly but surely all motivation slips away and you find yourself in the same sad place the following year. So what happened and why is it that New Year’s resolutions hardly ever work?

It’s your consciousness which needs to change before your behaviour can change

Most New Year’s Resolutions focus on changing a certain behaviour like going to gym, or starting a hobby. These are both great goals but the problem is that they are focusing on the “what” and not the “why”. The “what” is the thing you want to change, while the “why” is the motivation for needing it, as well as the reason it’s been so hard to accomplish until now. The trouble with the “why” is that it is often deeply unconscious and the reasons why we do or don’t do things are often hidden from plain sight. In the example of wanting to find a hobby, your conscious reason for this might be because you never make time for yourself. This may be true. But why are you never able to do this? There must be a deeper reason why you always come last? In fact, if you dig deep enough you may even find that this has been an ongoing pattern in your life where you constantly put others before your own needs. Perhaps as a child you can remember doing the same thing or you may notice that this pattern repeats itself in different relationships now. This is a far more interesting place to put your energy and investigative skills. Get curious about yourself, how you think and how you landed up here. Figure out ‘why’ this always happens and the ‘what’ will take care of itself!

You don’t really have support

When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions people may try to gather support like joining a running club to get some accountability. This is a good start, but all too often it falls by the wayside. When it comes to really meaningful change, it can be very hard to change alone. This is because change can feel really painful even if it is seemingly for the better. This is because you need to give something up in return for the change and there are often hidden benefits or secondary gains lodged in the negative situation, even in the worst of circumstances. For example if you decide you need to get out of your toxic work environment, you still have to give something up in return. Like getting all that attention from your boss, even if it’s negative, in a weird way also helps you feel useful. Which can feel strangely gratifying. So trying to make any significant change in your life requires a support structure like a sensitive partner or a trained therapist who can help you gain perspective on why you find yourself in that taxing situation in the first place. 

The bottom line

New Year’s Resolutions have got a bit of a bad wrap because of the time of year when they usually surface. Not only because after a whole year you suddenly notice that all this time has passed without you making any significant changes in your life but because the holidays are often a time of open space and less manic activity. More time means more thinking. And thinking can feel really stressful. So often we will try to alleviate this pressure by putting steps and plans in place to save us from the discomfort of the current reality we find ourselves in. So this year, when you’re sitting on the patio and your mind wonders to what you wish your life could be and what you intend on doing about it, rather than planning grand gestures, begin by really trying to figure out why you’re here and what the reasons are for having been stuck for so long. This is a far better place to start a conversation with yourself, as you start a new year.

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