Why New Year’s Resolutions don’t work and how you can buck the trend – Part 1

posted in: Beliefs, Goal Setting | 0

Happy New Year to all of you.

It is now January 4, and I wonder how many of you have set some New Year’s Eve Resolutions for 2009? You know, those little promises we make on midnight of December 31, just before or around the fireworks. And than, does it happen to you that on the first, or the second day of the New Year, you behave like many others and just simply forget your resolution? Most people don’t follow through. In fact, more than 90% (I make this number up, but I heard something similar earlier) give up on their New Year’s resolutions by the second month – this is February- to fall back to old behaviours and habits. !

Why is that so I wonder. Would you like to know why, and how to make it work? Well, then simply read on. This is the beginning of a series on goal setting and how to actually achieve your goals. It is for those that never reached their goals as well as those that always achieved their goals.

Let’s start by talking about the situation in which we find ourselves just before we make those little resolutions. Most of us know what is good for us. We know we need to exercise more to get into better shape. We should stop smoking, because it damages our health. We know we should save more money to boost our saving accounts. It is clear to us that that it is not good to constantly use the creditcard, since the banks charge quite a lot for interest rates. We are aware that it is actually better to be more patient with our children.

We commit to it at the spur of a moment to then fall back to old behaviours. Because, it too often happens that we are following those rules that are imposed on us from others around us. Look at the style I wrote the paragraph. There were ‘shoulds’, and ‘need to’s’. These imply that the commitment does not come from within us but has been imposed from the outside of us. If we can actually call it ‘commitment’. Because it is not. There is no drive to achieve it, to maintain the goal, to follow-through, in the first place.

Next, let’s also look at the word “Resolution” and its basis. John La Valle, a NLP Trainer working with Richard Bandler (one of the founders of NLP) had quite some interesting thoughts about this word, on which I want to elaborate.

Let’s take a look at that word in detail: “Re-solution”. Does this imply that we are working on something we ‘tried’ to solve before? Oftentimes, it is true, isn’t it?

Be honest with yourself – are you attempting to work on the same stuff you did a year ago? Are you trying to break the same old habit? You know that it didn’t work right? Are you at least reflecting on what went wrong last year to improve upon the process? If you are honest with yourself, you probably just re-state the same sentence without ‘any hope’ – my apologies if I sound too damning. If it didn’t work last year, why are you even restating the same resolution again. Don’t you just educate yourself that bad habits can’t be broken?

Wouldn’t it be better to develop goals, possible outcomes or directions in 2009? That means that I need to include or write about the word goal!! Because this is what is needed if you want to buck the trend.

Okay, first of all, let’s go back to 2008 some more. In order to teach the unconscious mind to succeed and not to create or maintain a habit of failing loosing or giving up, it is important to realise that we achieved so much in 2008.

Create a list of things or activities in which you have been successful. Even if you maintained something positive. Imagine you maintained your weight. It’s positive, considering the fact that so many of us put on weight!.

Write it down as a success. Write down the number of times you were patient with your children. Or specify certain incidences. You don’t need to remember all.

Take your time doing it. But it is an important activity because it is the little things that can make a difference. What you will realise is that your list is probably pretty long. You will be amazed by how much you have achieved in 2008. And how good you will feel when you relive all these experiences. You can even keep it as a journal to read it again, should you fail to reach one of your outcomes for 2009.

Now let’s concentrate on goals. II understand that most of us don’t actually like the word goal anymore. It is used too much, nowadays, and mostly in contexts that don’t make us too happy either. I am talking about performance discussion within organisations. It so happens that we are asked to develop our goals for next year, or that there is a review on goal achievements in the last year. Dreadful for most.

But remember, this is an activity for you, not for your boss, your organisation or anyone else (only if you are the boss or the owner of the organisation, but then, this is different).

We focus on goals and directions for 2009 as they imply movement, something ongoing. This presupposes or assumes that it contrasts with a resolution of something left behind and not being resolved.

It does not yet clear if the goal is something that needs achievement or if it is something that is to be avoided. This is something I am talking about in a later write-up.

So for the moment, just take a moment and write down what it is that you really want to achieve in 2009. Create a second list, aside the one that you just created for 2008. What is it that you want, or, if this is too hard, even something that you don’t want. Alternatively, you can also write down what you want to avoid in 2009. I understand that sometimes, it is difficult to focus on the positive stuff first.

It is important to write this list fast, don’t think about anything, just scribble down what comes to mind. No worries about grammar, or correct writing or positive or negative formulation. It doesn’t matter, at least not yet.

You need to develop a third list for me after you have taken a first look at your second write-up. Please organise your list under different headers.

These headers as the main areas of our life are:

– Relationships 
- Family
- Career and professional development
- Health and Fitness
- Personal growth and development
- Spirituality

Put your goals under the different headers and it doesn’t matter if some of them fall into two or more areas.

Two more things to do before you are ready for today.

First, clarify if your list contains behaviours associated with your goals. Clearly, many of us write down things like “I want to be more happy” or “I want to loose weight”. These are not really behaviours – behaviours indicate possibility of doing something. Happiness is the outcome of something. It is a state of mind. It can actually be achieved in the nick of a moment. “I want to loose weight” is a bit more behavioural, however, you cannot directly “do loose weight”. There is a differently implied behaviour, for example “eat less” or “do more exercise.” So aside of the goals, just scribble some possible behaviours associated with the goals achievement.

Next, also note a date aside of these goals. When do you want to achieve them, or have them completed. Be patient with yourself and don’t put everything on December 31 2009. What I want you to achieve is some kind of a focus. Take the goal that seems easiest and put an earlier date to it. Take the one that seems to be most difficult and put a later date to it.

Why do we do it that way? Because you want to learn how to achieve goals. There is nothing more frustrating than not reaching goals. You want to have reasons for celebrating successes. And not another failed year. Because, this is going to be the best year ever. May be the first year where you reach your goals. Wouldn’t that be something?

My next write up is about formulating goals in a manner that makes them more compelling.

So come back soon and in the meantime, prepare those lists!



Andreas is the founder of Asia Mind Dynamics and a certified trainer of internationally recognised certification programmes:

  • Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) with the American Board of Neuro Linguistic Programming (ABNLP),
  • NLP Coach Training with the Coaching Division of ABNLP,
  • The Words That Change Minds -Language and Behaviour Profile of which he also is one of 17 Global Master Trainers
  • Creating Your Future Coaching™ Techniques at the Masters Level with the International Timeline Therapy Association
  • Hypnosis with the American Board of Hypnotherapy (ABH)
  • Master Trainer with the International Association of Counsellors and Therapists (IACT).

We also train companies to achieve higher performance especially through our signature programmes on Leadership, Sales and Advanced Communications.

To find out more about us or our programme and what makes us so very different as trainer and coaches, send an email to andreas.dorn AT gmail.com or contact us at +6012 287 5048.

You can also follow us on Twitter or find us on FaceBook.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *