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New Year's Resolution - Time For a Change

New Year’s Resolutions – Time For A Change

This is the time of year when many start reflecting on their life. Some notice areas they

want to improve and make a New Year’s resolution. My question is why do we keep

doing something that has a failure rate as high as 80%? Especially when failing often

results in feelings of guilt, sadness, disappointment, self-loathing, harmful self-talk,

feeling worthless and so many more negative emotions. Something that is meant to

empower and bring positive changes turns negative. Yet, year after year this cycle

continues. Some do succeed with their resolutions but most don’t. This year, let’s work

to change the cycle.

Changing the Cycle

If you haven’t seen them already, soon you will start noticing articles on new ways to

succeed at your New Year’s resolutions. Personally, I stopped making them years ago.

Why? Besides the negative emotions often felt when you don’t fully succeed, I prefer

not to wait to make changes. There are many reasons resolutions fail such as not being

fully planned out, being unrealistic, not addressing root causes etc. This year consider

working on goals/changes right away instead of delaying them. Below are some

suggestions that may help.

Set realistic goals

Really look at the things you want to change. Are they realistic? Below are some

common resolution examples and how you can change the focus of the goal to

something that is more manageable and realistic.

Goal: Losing weight. Many want to get down to a weight they haven’t been since

they were a teen or in their early 20s. Maybe it’s possible, maybe it isn’t. I think a

more realistic resolution is to eat healthier. So, an alternate goal could be “cut out

20% of the processed/junk food eaten and replace it with healthy fruits and


Goal: Exercise 30 minutes daily. This may seem reasonable but if you work long

hours, have children to attend to, a busy social calendar etc. this goal may be setting

you up to fail. Instead make it more manageable such as “increase my active time

each week by 10 minutes”. You can do this until you reach a level of activity that fits

in with your lifestyle and makes you feel healthier and energized. This goal is easier

to fit into a busy life because you can easily add in things like parking the car further

away to get in more walking, going for a short walk during work breaks etc.

For goals to succeed they need to be realistic and attainable. Otherwise, what’s the


Find the Root Cause

After you have a realistic goal or short list of goals that focus on positive, reachable

changes now comes the challenging part. Understanding the root cause of the issues

you want to change. If you skip this step you will most likely end up back where you

started. You need to figure out if what you want to change is a habit/learned behavior,

an emotional reaction, self-sabotage, or possibly a fear reaction? Have you

subconsciously developed a negative association with exercise or eating? Without

understanding why you do what you do, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s crucial

that you understand your mindset, believes, habits, fears and any benefit (positive or

negative) that you are getting from continuing with the behavior. I believe most people

struggle and/or fail at reaching their goals because they skip this step completely or

don’t explore deep enough.

For example, let’s say you go from one unhealthy relationship to the next. You just

don’t understand why you keep ending up in similar relationships or picking the same

type of partner. Maybe it’s a learned relationship norm from childhood. It could also be a

trauma response or a fear of abandonment issue that is still unresolved from childhood.

It could also be a fear of intimacy or of being vulnerable? So, the unconscious benefit

of going from one unhealthy relationship to another could be that it keeps your

relationships at a surface level so you feel less vulnerable, less exposed, and

emotionally “safe.”

You see where I’m going with this. You can work hard to reach your resolutions but

without knowing the root cause it’s a “band aid fix”. This type of fix often leads to goal

failure because you are trying to change symptoms without knowing or dealing with the

root cause. So, the change doesn’t stick. It’s a temporary solution to an issue but the

underlying cause isn’t resolved. I feel this is the reason most goals fail.

Create a Plan

Once you’ve found the true root cause and figured out any “hidden benefits” for

behaviors you want to change, you can move forward and create a plan.

- The plan needs to include ways for you to deal with the emotions, habits, fears, and

previously hidden benefits that led you to the behavior. Just knowing the “why” of a

behavior is not enough because these past barriers will most likely resurface again.

- So, you need a plan and tools to work through them.

 Don’t try and make too many changes at once or you are setting yourself up for

failure. Keep the list manageable. One-two resolutions is better but three is okay if

they are similar.

- Once you have a plan, don’t put off the changes you want to make. If you find

yourself procrastinating then you have more work to do on the root cause because

something is holding you back.

Alternative Goals

If you feel stuck or like you are just going through the motions of life, you may want to

try the below suggestions as they may help you start to move forward.

Practice gratitude

This is my go-to attitude adjuster. Practicing gratitude is powerful

and one of the fastest ways to change a negative attitude to one of peacefulness. It can

even help improve feelings of sadness. If you feel yourself getting bogged down in

negative emotions trying running through a mental gratitude list. It doesn’t work if you

just think or say the words without really feeling the meaning behind them. You really

have to feel them. At the top of my list is “I woke up this morning”. I focus on what a

wonderful gift it is to have more time and specifics as to why I’m grateful for it. You can

keep a mental or written list of all the things for which you are grateful and use it when

you’re in a negative mindset. Studies show that gratitude practice has lasting, positive

effects on the brain and our mental health.

Change negative self-talk

Work to change negative messages like “I’m so stupid! I

can’t do anything right” to “I’ve got this. I can and will figure this out.” Change your inner

voice to one that is nicer, supportive, and motivating. Keep switching negative

messages to healthier more supportive ones. Eventuality, the negative self-talk will shift

to healthier messages. I just recently wrote an article about this topic which you can

also reference.

I hope you find this information helpful but it is not intended to diagnose or treat. I hope

everyone stays safe, healthy and has a wonderful New Year!

Melissa Spino MA LPC CDMS

Life Transitions Therapy LLC Founder and Therapist

Phone: (616) 238-2116




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