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Digging deeper into the success vs. failure of New Year’s resolutions
Intention: noun a thing intended; an aim or plan.
Resolution: noun a firm decision to do or not to do something.
The term itself, “New Year’s Resolution,” can lead to the flopping of many, for when there is an err or slip in the firmly stated resolution, there is loss of hope and determination as one becomes aware of their weakness. “I have failed,” or “I am not able,” all too easily becomes the voice in one’s head. However, this need not be the case.
One thing that may be helpful in the implementation of change is to frame a resolution as an intention, that is, a direction that one intends to pursue. This can help us experience our slip-ups with grace and acceptance of humanity, not fully falling off the wagon because the firm resolve stated in the clock hour of 12:01 am of January 1st no longer exists. Synonyms for intention include purpose, aim, intent, or goal; all words which reflect an overall strategy and direction. Resolution, on the other hand, is the noun form of the verb resolve, which is synonymous with determination, steadfastness, tenacity, and perseverance. Interestingly, the word origin of resolution is the Latin word resolvere, having the meaning ‘loosen or release’ which is somewhat opposite to how we have come to see what a New Year’s resolution is. How would our attitudes change if we came to accept our resolutions as letting go of something rather than firmly directing our behavior?
As a musical term, the word resolution means ‘the passing of a discord into a concord during the course of changing harmony.’
To change a lifestyle…
Changing a lifestyle pattern or behavior involves many, many factors, regardless of how large or small. Take, for example, the desire to change dietary patterns around snacking and instead resolving to eat three meals a day. Sure, on day one this is fine as it is a holiday, and there is time for meals and eating with friends. Day two until the weekend perhaps you can also make it through, particularly if you have planned ahead. But by the next week when the kids are also back at school or the job is in swing full force, how are you finding time for breakfast, or fitting in lunch with so much in the workday ahead? By week three you give up, and resort to an assortment of snacks again at the desk or the office. Let’s assess this simple example and think about a couple things that led to the fallout.
- The old behavior was working well in terms of time and necessity. So how can changes be put into place for the new behavior to also meet these needs? What reasonable variations of the new behavior are acceptable? Can a smoothie or a nutritionally complete snack bar be an exception for days where there is a crunch on time? How about planning ahead better with leftovers? Considering what was working with the old behavior will help guide what changes are necessary to have the new behavior take hold.
- There is no positive reinforcement system to encourage continuation of “new behavior.” It is highly likely no one else in the office has made this same resolution, and often office policies are not to take a “real lunch.” Your kids don’t care if you are getting breakfast in the morning, and probably are only thinking about their needs being met. Maybe someone else can come on board as a partner at the office who also is seeking to make this change, or one of your kids could be tasked to put breakfast on the table a couple days each week? Of course, you may be shorted with a banana and a yogurt or pack of snack crackers, but with time this may improve, and it can be a learning lesson for them.
- Habits and behaviors are learned and reinforced over a period of time, and so must be new ones. Rather than just on day one, take time each day or week to re-set your intention in a ritualistic practice. This could be by starting the week with a freezer full of meals or smoothies already prepared, or for others with a resolution of exercise, mapping out gym times or classes that will work in the week ahead. Even sending oneself a reminder on Sunday with a hyperlink to the gym schedule is one way for this to be repeated and reinforced weekly. Technology can be utilized to benefit more than the workday with such strategies!
One more definition: as a musical term, the word resolution means ‘the passing of a discord into a concord during the course of changing harmony.’ Perhaps the somewhat painful moments in the process of making change can be considered as just that, a movement from one key to another, through which one experiences discomfort and uncertainty only to come to a new place of comfort, that finally feels like home…
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Dr. Carrie Decker
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