The Trouble With Resolutions—Part 1

by Doc Orman, M.D.

Why do we keep making New Year’s resolutions?  After all, most of the time we aren’t going to keep them. 

Each year around this time, I publish this series of blog posts on why we make New Year’s resolutions, why we break them, and what we can do to keep them.

New Year’s Resolutions: Why We Keep Making Them

Have you been thinking about your resolutions for 2014?   Better yet, are you planning to make any?  If so, what has your track record been?

Do you make resolutions each year and then keep them 100% of the time?  I didn’t think so.  If by some chance you’ve managed to do this, you can take a well-deserved break from reading this blog and come back next week.

For the rest of us, I’m going to use this week to examine this popular tradition of failed promise-making. 

New Year’s Resolutions And Stress

When we make our New Year’s resolutions each year, we are usually filled with hope, optimism, and a determination to improve our life. We usually don’t associate this tradition with stress.

The stress comes several weeks or months later, when we either haven’t kept our word or when it becomes clear we probably won’t as more time goes by. 

Are We Gluttons For Pain?

One theory for why we make resolutions, knowing we aren’t going to keep them, is that we just want to punish ourselves.  At some very deep level, we must feel we deserve this pain.

I don’t subscribe to this theory.  I prefer to think we have nothing but good intentions at heart.

It’s just that we think our optimism will carry the day.  We assume, mistakenly so, that we will simply follow through on our good intentions. 

There’s Something Missing Here

It might seem mysterious why so many people make resolutions each year and yet the vast majority fail to keep them.  But for me, the reason is very clear.

Most people don’t understand what is needed to make a promise and keep it.  It’s not as simple as it appears.  It also has little to do with the amount of intention you have when you make the commitment. Success or failure ultimately hinges on something else.  And it is this hidden factor that most people fail to incorporate into their word-keeping plans.

In my next blog post in this series, I’ll examine what this missing component is. 

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