Happy New Year! We’ve left the last decade behind us and are entering a new one. Every year millions will make a bunch of New Year resolutions, maybe to take a more active approach to health and fitness, improved finances, or learning something for personal and professional development. However, year after year, a familiar pattern will repeat itself, the majority of those resolutions will be forgotten by the beginning of February!
So, why are our New Year Resolutions doomed to fail?
New Year resolutions fail for many reasons, from being too vague, too optimistic or anything in-between. However, a reason that most of us don’t stay committed is down to a lack of clarity; clarity as to who we are, where we are in life, and what we want to achieve.
Why New Year Resolutions are Doomed to Fail?
I just returned from a family vacation to Vietnam. In Hanoi, students study Confucianism at the Temple of Literature. Before entering the gate and having access to the school they have to walk past a pond known as the ‘Natural Mirror Pond‘ to look at their reflection and take note of all their imperfections and deficiencies. Only then, could they walk through the gate to learn, to improve themselves and to become less imperfect.
Confucian principles are a set of thoughts and ideas that refer to the teachings of the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius (551 BC to 479 BC). The objective of Confucianism is to create ethical and moral harmony to produce a just and functioning society. The development of the self is central to Confucius’ vision of a harmonized world, for society’s sake as well as our own.
Whereas Confucianism’s focus is on clearly knowing oneself, a key reason why so many of us find it difficult to stick to our New Year resolutions is that we tend to set objectives that do not coincide with who we are.
Knowing who we are should be our first and primary resolution for the New Year.
Clarity Comes With Understanding Ourselves
According to the Ancient Greeks, the source of all wisdom and clarity is to Know Thyself. The Motto Know Thyself was one of the maxims inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (Greece). With this inscription, the Oracles at Delphi invited men to gaze inwards and discover that the essence of one’s life is not be searched outside ourselves, but within. To know oneself is to see clearly and to know the nature of the Universe.
The path to knowing oneself, according to philosopher Carl Jung (1875 to 1961), is no light stroll. It is a dark and mysterious business; digging into oneself, climbing down directly into the tunnel of one’s being is an agonizing and hazardous undertaking.
When you embark on a journey of self-discovery, you will come face to face with what makes you whole. Every story has a hero and a villain, and in your story, you will be both. There is your hero-side who is wise and rational and will say, “this year, we are going to eat healthily, exercise more and lose weight.” And then there is your villain-side who is less rational, more impulsive, and will tempt you, “you deserve that ice-cream and a lay down on the sofa, maybe even a few hours of TV.”
Knowing yourself is crucial; you cannot control what you do not understand; so, perhaps the first thing to do before writing your New Year resolution is to know and understand yourself. You cannot count on an intrepid knight on a white horse to rescue you from your villain-side. Nobody will come and save you, but you, yourself. You are on your own; be strong otherwise your New Year Resolutions will fail.
New Year Resolution; to Know Yourself
Perhaps the key New Year resolution to work on is to know yourself and everything else will flow from there. Knowing who you are starts with asking the right questions:
- What do you believe to be essential and important?
- What are you really living for?
- Why do you do the things you do?
- What is worth the pain?
So, if your New Year Resolution is to exercise more you should pause for a minute and ask yourself the question as to why, is it essential, is it worth the pain?
In addition to the big questions, maybe the idea of going to the gym fills you with dread. Maybe, you are the type of person who doesn’t like exercising indoors. Maybe you are the type who would rather be outside rather than being in a gym lifting weights or doing a Cross Fit class. If this is who you are, then maybe you should be going out for walks, for a jog, or getting on your bicycle from time to time instead of driving your car.
Why Don’t We Do The Things We Should
So, why don’t we do the things we should? Mark Manson answers this in his book ‘Everything is F*cked’. We don’t do the things we should because we don’t feel like it. Worse, sometimes we do just the exact opposite of what is good for us, like overeating and under-exercising, buying stuff we don’t need, frittering away time and mismanaging our money.
One of the main reasons we don’t keep our resolutions or do the things we should is because we don’t love ourselves; this is an emotional problem. In fact, self-control is an emotional problem. Laziness is an emotional problem. Underachievement is an emotional problem. Impulsiveness is an emotional problem, and emotional problems need emotional solutions.
Solving emotional problems requires self-love and self-acceptance. By accepting your emotions and working with – rather than against – them, you can change your behaviors to better align with your goals and values.
For me, I found out a while ago that the best way to avoid failing my New Year resolutions was not to make any! That’s it, I don’t make New Year resolutions, ever. Instead, I just quietly and diligently do the things that need doing, et voila, simple.
I look a little deeper into this subject in my eBook ‘The Gift of Clarity,’ coming out soon.
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