The Trouble With Resolutions: Part 2 (Why We Don’t Keep Them)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

To continue my three-part series on New Year Resolutions, which I re-publish each year during the first week of January, I’m going to focus today on why I believe we don’t keep our resolutions.

In my first post this week, I looked at why we keep making optimistic resolutions, even though our track record pretty dismal.  I suggested that the reason we keep doing this is not because we desire to fail. Rather, it is because we don’t fully understand what it takes to make promises to ourselves and keep them consistently. 

Have you ever made a resolution to exercise regularly or start a new diet?  Have you ever told yourself  you were going to exercise today, only you never managed to make it happen? 

The Missing Ingredient

Well, if any of this sounds like you, you may have an incorrect blueprint for what it really takes to make a promise or resolution and keep it. 

You see, making a promise and keeping it is not a simple act. Keeping your promise in the face of all the many factors in life that work against you, is a formidable task.

It is these opposing forces in life—many of which are external to us, like the weather or other people, along with others that are internal, like our own thoughts, feelings, etc.—where the real challenge to keeping your promises occurs. 

We are pretty good at keeping our word when everything goes well to support this.  But when forces turn against us—which they often will do—this is where many of us fall down. 

And the reason we fall down is because we haven’t made the effort, all throughout the year, to train ourselves to defeat these promise-breaking influences.

Word-Keeping Is A “Muscle”

Keeping your word is an important skill you need to constantly work on. 

It’s just like a major muscle group that you need to build up and then maintain.  And if you fail to keep honing this “muscle” of word-keeping through constant repetition and success, you will lose your personal power and confidence to follow through. 

Unfortunately, most of us fail to build up this “muscle” of word-keeping all throughout the year. Then, every New Year we go out and make promises that we truly want to keep.  Yet we haven’t done the prep-work to turn this into a reality.

Test This Out Yourself

Just make a simple promise that you will walk for 30 minutes sometime later today.  And then sit back and watch what happens. 

I guarantee you that the world will rise up against you to make sure you don’t keep your word. Forces you never even imagined will suddenly appear to throw you off track.  Your kids might get sick. You might have a work emergency.  Your feelings might change.  Even if you end up keeping your test promise, just notice how many obstacles and other forces you had to overcome to do so.  If nothing comes up the first day you try this, just give it a few more tries and you’ll know what it means.

This is the nature of making promises.  The world will rise up to resist you. And if you haven’t built up you word-keeping skills that you are going to need to overcome this resistance, you are likely going to fail. 

Yet, here we stand, as every New Year approaches, resolving that we will keep our promises this year, even though we haven’t done much during the previous twelve months to ensure a successful outcome.

That—in a nutshell—is why we continue to make resolutions each year, and then we fail to keep them.

In the third and final post this week, I’ll give you some suggestions for how you can build up your muscle of word-keeping.  Hopefully, this may improve your chances for keeping any resolutions that you make for 2014.


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