New Year's resolutions don't work. But here's what does… (1 of 3)

New years resolutions don’t work with study after study telling us what we all know: almost none of our resolutions will be fulfilled. But all is not lost –  there are things you can do so you can make real positive change to your life this coming year.

There is a value to this dark time of year when it is possible to reflect on what has happened over the past 12 months and when we want to do for the next. However it is pretty clear that almost no New Year Resolutions actually succeed. As always there isn’t one simple reason for this. Although here is a pretty good one: you get carried away. You are partying, you are surrounded by people intent on having a good time, you maybe have a few drinks more than usual. This means you are in a very bad frame of mind to make a rational decision about anything still less what you are going to focus your energy on for the next year. The same result comes if you aren’t partying but sitting at home reflecting – even if you feel perfectly happy about the end of one year and beginning of a new on. This time of year can be joyful, exciting but also perhaps the darkness of the evenings in western Europe can be depressing (literally). So you are in the season of emotional swings and roundabouts.

On the other hand, 12 months is a pretty good length of time to make significant changes. It is long enough to do something that is lasting but not so long it doesn’t have to seem unmanageable. So I have a three step programme for you. Only three I hear you ask? Yes. That’s enough! I am basing my advice on firm the foundations that the Strengths approach gives us (more about this in this previous blog) . We tend to focus more easily on negative things rather than positive. There is sometimes value in this but what about flipping this so we take time to think about the things we have done well. Our achievements. A classic error is to only try to learn from mistakes. By all means do learn when things go badly, but what about trying to learn from when things went well? And this is the strengths approach.

So, the first for now. Do this when ever you decide you are ready to set out what you really want to do this year – it doesn’t have to be New Years Eve. This is particularly useful you are feeling a bit down about the challenges of the past year but also can be helpful if you are feeling optimistic. I want you to get a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle1. Across the top write these words:

“Achievements and good things from 2019”

and the left column put the header “work” and the right “personal”

Now I know that the natural thing is to put positive and negative things on one sheet. But we aren’t going to do this. We naturally dwell on negative more than positive so this stage of the exercise is to only list positive things. Seriously. Do it.

Nothing else for this step.

And no “but …”s or cynicism. Just the good things. Regardless of the year, I know that people can find some things that have been positive.

And I will shortly give you the second step.

And do let me know what you think…no resolutions

3 thoughts on “New Year's resolutions don't work. But here's what does… (1 of 3)

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