By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately.” ― Charles M. Sheldon
Faulty Logic in Resolutions
As a person in long-term recovery, I made many resolutions to stop drinking and using drugs, most of which were while I was high, couldn’t pay a bill, or I had a hangover. That resolution lasted as long as I felt bad, or about 24 hours.
We in recovery oftentimes seem rude when we call social drinkers “amateurs” on New Year’s Eve. It seems to be a time that collectively, people include more alcohol than usual and as such, resolutions get fueled by a substance that makes people say things they normally might not utter.
Oftentimes New Year’s Eve will find people talking about all the changes they are going to make in the upcoming year. The list would take up an entire page and still not cover all the things that people talk about changing in their New Year’s Resolutions. There is another interesting thing about resolutions. Given that these New Year’s resolutions follow a time of outright excess, no wonder they are doomed to fail.
I question our collective logic. Starting around Thanksgiving, we indulge in excessive amounts of food, followed by gift giving. With the addition of Elf-on-the-Shelf or Mench-on-the-Bench, now some children expect daily presents before the “big day”.
Talk about setting people up early for unrealistic expectations later in life.
Since changing creates a sense of loss in many people, the idea of giving something up or stopping some behaviors implies to many that they will be uncomfortable keeping the resolution. If I remember correctly, around 11:45 PM at most parties, someone would ask, “So, what’s your resolution?”
But Don’t You Have to Change Something?
Filling space, we blurt out the first thing that pops into our mind or we mention a problem area of our lives that we vow to change because we believe we should vow to change something. While we’re honest in our assessment that a particular aspect of our lives could do with an overhaul, making it a New Year’s Resolution is almost always doomed to failure for three simple reasons.
1. We set this particular date/time up as the time we publicly announce our changes without clearly defined goals.
2. We like the idea of change, but are sometimes not willing to put the time, energy and effort into changing.
3. Even if we know what we need to change, we are sometimes focused on an unrealistic outcome from incremental changes or adjustments.
- “I have to lose 40 pounds.”
- “I have to quit smoking.”
- “I have to exercise.”
- “”I have to quit using drugs.”
You probably hear these more than any other resolutions. And people are often serious when they make these resolutions. While all of those would improve the person’s life, how do they hope to carry out these changes?
- Do they have a projected stop date?
- Do they know to expect discomfort?
- Have they enlisted support when they have a craving?
- Are they going to change their eating habits?
- Have they cleaned out the pantry and refrigerator of tempting foods?
Are they even a member of a gym?!
Resolutions: What Am I Doing Wrong?
Typically, our resolutions address what we’re wrong. While the admission of wrong is a good thing, making global statements to change behaviors we’ve done all year does not reinforce change, it reinforces judgment. It is not encouraging, motivating, or prompting of change simply because we state a need to change some behaviors at this particular time of the year. Resolutions set many people up to experience more shame and guilt when they fall short of a resolution by the end of the first week in January because they didn’t have a plan, fell short of the sub-goal, or they reverted to the behaviors they resolved to change in their resolution.
If Resolutions Don’t Work, What Does?
It’s interesting to note, that only about 8% of the population are successful in their resolutions. So, if we’re not typically successful in resolutions, what else can we do? We can set up realistic and achievable goals and sub-goals. A commitment to change coupled with clear goals and sub-goals that are personal to you will help make your resolutions important enough to follow through with them. If you’re going to lose weight, you’ll have to decrease calories or increase exercise. All foods have a caloric count and fresh fruits and vegetables have less than potato chips, plus they are visually more appealing as a substitute and you won’t feel deprived.
Benefits of Following Through
There’s also another benefit. Preparing the food that we consume keeps us in the moment, and for some people, this activity reduces stress, another contributor in weight retention.
A cutting board of raw fruits or vegetables looks like more food than that bowl of chips, plus it’s vibrant and might just lift your spirits.
So this coming year, forego the resolutions and opt for changes with a plan.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart
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