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Why You Aren’t Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

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This past week, I went to a yoga sculpt class, and it was one of those times you could palpably feel the anger of everyone in the room just emanating with each squat and mountain climber they did. It was like we were all feeling forced by some overbearing friend to be there, despite that we’re actually consenting adults who enjoy yoga, pay for a membership, and made our way in evening traffic to get into that crowded, hot room.

Surely the mean person who forced us to be at the yoga class wasn’t the same fun-loving fella who encouraged us to eat most of a cheese log and three pieces of pie (even the kind we don’t really like that much) on Thanksgiving. That guy is a blast. He reminded us that it was the holidays, and thus, we were well within our bounds to begin drinking every day, Thursday-Sunday, starting at noon.

Like many others, I suspect, I struggle with balance during the holidays. The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve become a push and pull between my self-disciplined and gluttonous parts. When I picture them, they become my strict, self-contained 7th grade teacher, Ms. Black, who constantly discouraged laughter in the classroom, and an old, jovial Italian uncle who loves homemade sausages and wine with breakfast. Maybe we’ll call him Fat Sal.

Between the weeks of Thanksgiving and New Year’s, it’s like I’m on vacation, not only from work, but also from being so restrictive with myself. After all the times of Ms. Black steering me away from the snack food aisles of the store and pushing me to yoga in the mornings, Fat Sal is finally muscling to the front to let me know that it’s perfectly acceptable to have wine and Fritos for dinner.

Which explains the anger we were all feeling at yoga. It’s like we’re in discord with ourselves—the two parts are trying to edge each other out. Collectively we agree as Americans that our Fat Sal part wins over the holidays. Tis the season to treat yo’ self, after all. But when the weeks of over-indulging and neglecting exercise are done, we inevitably feel guilty, and resort to berating ourselves to get back into a routine come January 1st…and we sort of resent it, which might account for the fact that only 8 percent of New Year’s resolutions are kept.

It’s not to say that either of these ways of operating is inherently bad for us. According to a 2013 study by Wilhelm Hoffman, people with high self-control are happier than those without. It gets us out of bed in the morning, and contributes to us having a good job, sense of purpose, and friends because we actually keep social engagements. And obviously knowing how to let go of tasks and enjoy ourselves is important too.

So now that I’ve got you wondering if you not only have a problem with resolutions, but possibly multiple personality disorder…you might be wondering how in the heck can you strike a balance as you approach the New Year and all the hope it holds for us in making personal transformations?

I’m a firm believer that it all comes down to first bringing a little more awareness to how we’re currently showing up (what’s working, what’s not working).  Then learning to connect more often to the side of yourself that feels clear, calm, centered, and in that space, determine what values and beliefs you really hold. From there, it’s possible to scale down the extreme parts, learn to consciously use them when it make sense—when it’s time to work, to push, or to rest and have fun—without shifting back and forth reactively.

If you’re interested in finding a way to break the New Year’s resolution cycle that leaves you lamenting your life come February, and you want to learn more about how to find balance, determine goals based on what energizes you, and create resolutions that actually stick, contact me at rebecca@rebeccaneelis.com to find out more about my New Year’s Prep coaching package that I’m offering now through mid-January.

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