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Why do resolutions fail?

January 20, 2018

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Illustration by Sophia Khan
Illustration by Sophia Khan

The year 2018 has snuggled up and settled in comfortably in our lives, it is already three weeks old. New Year’s eve sounds like a distant idea as we get busy in our routines; school and work slowly engulfing us within the same old tracks.

As it has hardly been three weeks into the year, I can safely refer to it as ‘new’. The New Year brings a lot that we look forward to. With a fresh beginning, come fresh hopes, new aspirations, bigger dreams and plenty of motivation to start the year anew.

It is the best time for self-reflection and improvement, and for many of us — who wanted to change our routine, set some clear goals, learn something new or anything in particular — now is the perfect time, to do so. Hence with the idea of New Year, comes the idea of setting New Year’s resolutions. Thinking up and noting down New Year’s resolutions has now become a global phenomenon, more of an annual tradition really.

become a global phenomenon, more of an annual tradition really.

New Year’s resolutions often follow a certain pattern of self-improvement, being better and growing in life or in general having a more productive year. The common resolutions may include, if not all, being healthy, eating well, limiting junk food, studying better, improving grades, reading more, sleeping on time, getting adequate sleep, having a positive attitude, making new friends, spending time with family, spending wisely, saving more, learning a new skill, reducing time spent on social media etc.

These resolutions should motivate everyone to start their year with a promising beginning, we see that it is soon overlooked, rarely acted upon and by the time January ends, none of us really remember what our goals or resolutions for the year was.

What do we conclude from this? Should we stop making resolutions? Are resolutions a bad idea altogether? Well, we are at fault here. Let us break it down, bit by bit, why our resolutions fail, and see what remedies can be done.

Setting unrealistic goals

We often set lofty resolutions, as if making up resolutions is a competition and the biggest ones would win. Our resolutions are often generic and larger than life, offering no clear context as to where to start and apply them in our lives.

Our resolutions also tend to ignore the past and present circumstances and are ill-placed within our routines. If we resolve to read more, we forget that maybe the upcoming exam season would not spare us time for leisure reading altogether.

Or if we resolve to be selected in a sport team at school, we overlook the fact that selections may not start till the next academic year. We might resolve to get an A+ in all our exams, but we overlook the fact that it might not really be possible if we are weak in certain areas or a certain subject is more demanding than the other.

Placing resolutions within timeframes

If you are serious about your resolutions and want them to work, then it is extremely important to make resolutions which are not generic but well-placed according to your life and its happening.

You wish to read more this year? Sure, designate the time you’ll start reading, perhaps after your exams.

You wish to be selected in the cricket team? Great, start practicing during the summer so that you can give trials in the new academic season.

You wish to get better grades? Well done, decide which subjects need immediate attention and which ones you can manage by giving little time to and still getting a better score. Modify and personalise your resolutions according to your style so that they better suit you.

Illustration by Muhammad Faizan
Illustration by Muhammad Faizan

Break them into smaller chunks

Larger than life resolutions can look amazing on paper, but they are impractical in real life. You cannot set a resolution to read 50 books a year if you only start reading in summer, leaving hardly half a year to meet your target.

Similarly, people set up unrealistic goals such as not eating junk food at all, exercising daily or weight loss, but fail to devise a strategy to achieve these.

Do you really have to exercise for seven days every week to stay healthy? Or can you break it down to an hour of physical activity each day, which sounds more doable? Is it possible to let go of all junk food suddenly in one go? Or is it better to restrict it to eating junk food once a week to begin with?

You can apply the same method to all your big, larger than life resolutions, break them down into bits, spread the tasks over days or weeks and see the magic happen over the months.

Keep track

How determined you are to following your resolutions can be determined from how often you keep a check on them. For resolutions to multiply into realities, one needs to constantly keep a track of them, to check how effectively you are following them and hence allowing your current progress be the fuel for further improvement. Only this way can you stay determined, focused and motivated to materialise your resolutions into the desired results.

Be a little selfish

This might sound strange, but there is a certain logic to it. Sharing your resolutions, goals and ideas beforehand with everyone makes you lose motivation to follow them entirely, you have to be secretive about them instead, and let your progress reflect the improvements you make. Besides, there are always questions and teasing from the ones you have told your resolutions to, if they see you not following what you told them and this can lead to frustration.

So jot it all down in your diary and use it as a confidant. If you, however, wish to share it with someone, see if you can keep your siblings in the loop or a certain best friend. For great friends definitely benefit mutually from the idea of improving and growing together for betterment.

Be a little selfless

Did I contradict myself here? Not really, for what I mean to imply here is, our resolutions need not be personal always, it is always good to think beyond the self. For the common good of others, our New Year’s resolutions should not be entirely self-focused, we need to take a step beyond and think of family, friends and community.

Your resolutions should not only be for the sole benefit of you as an individual but reflect the greater positive interest of the world at large.

Some resolutions you can undertake

Plant some trees this year, involve the neighbourhood and clean your street, include your friends and keep everyone away from littering the school grounds, volunteer sometime at an old home, orphanage or hospital, use your free time to deliver some basic educational knowledge to your house help, etc.

The ideas are boundless, again remember to make them suit your life accordingly and I am sure you will find a greater sense of satisfaction when you step up to do something not just for yourself, but also for those around you. Hence, this year, resolve to be a little selfless, and do not forget to map an outline of how you are going to go about it.

Cheers! And a happy New Year!

Published in Dawn, Young World, January 20th, 2018