What's Wrong With New Year's Resolutions

By Annabelle Parr

When we enter a new year, we tend to think about our goals, our values, and how our life currently compares to the life that we wish to lead. A new year represents a kind of reset button that invites reflection, and often a New Year’s Resolution or two.

Starting a new year doesn’t mean that everything changes. It represents a new start, but really January 1 is just another day. We don’t automatically fulfill our well-intentioned resolutions. We have to actually work at them and recognize that the new year is a chance for us to snap out of routine and bring a conscious intention back to our lives. While it’s important to revive a sense of optimism and hope in ourselves, we often find our resolutions falling by the wayside around the third week in January, right? Why? What’s so hard about sticking to a resolution?

We set ourselves up to fail.

Small steps add up to a giant leap

First, we often aim too high. Real lasting change happens in small increments, not in giant leaps. Our resolutions are often an end goal, with no plan for the hundred small steps that it takes to get there. So by the third week in January, when we don’t see the immediate results that we were so eager to achieve, we see ourselves as failures. We think it’s just too hard and give up completely.

But what if we had 'New Week’s Resolutions' instead? What if we set small, reachable goals for each week and congratulated ourselves when we met them? Then set a new goal, just a little bit harder, for the next week. Every week, we could give ourselves the chance to acknowledge our success and capacity for growth, and we chip away small changes that eventually add up to a big accomplishment.

The lens you use determines the picture you see

The second factor to consider is the mindset with which we approach our resolutions. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol S. Dweck - motivation researcher and Stanford Psychology professor – says that there are two mindsets that you can adopt, and which one you choose “profoundly affects the way you lead your life.” 

The first option is a fixed mindset, which is the belief that “your qualities are carved in stone [and] creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.” This mindset doesn’t leave much room for change and growth, and says that both success and failure are qualities present in you rather than events based on your effort. 

The second option is a growth mindset, which is the idea that “everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” Failure is not permanent and success is earned. It’s a “not yet” attitude – a realistic analysis of the present combined with a hopeful attitude toward future possibilities.

If we begin the year with resolutions stemming from a fixed mindset, we are not likely going to start anything new because we will be operating under the belief that we do not have the capacity to do so. If we fail, we will assume that it is because we are not good enough rather than look at the reasons behind the failure. 

But if we begin our new year with a growth mindset, we are far more likely to step out of our comfort zones, try things that don’t come easily to us, and give ourselves grace when we fall short of our own expectations. And we are also far more likely to recognize that big change comes in small steps.

So almost a couple weeks into 2017, try a new approach to your resolutions and to change itself. It’s okay to dream big and set monumental goals for yourself, but don’t forget to give yourself a manageable roadmap to get there. Set yourself up to succeed in small and frequent ways, and adopt a “not yet” attitude. This way, you will be able to create change in your life at any point during the year, rather than waiting until December 31, 2017 rolls around to feel capable of committing to doing something differently.

Annabelle Parr is a graduate at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She was a Psychology major with a passion for writing and learning about people. Connect with Annabelle via email at annabelle.parr@yahoo.com. Find her personal blog at https://slothisismylife.wordpress.com