Every January of the new year, thousands or perhaps millions of people worldwide make new year's resolutions: vowing something that they promise to either do, stop, alter or add into their lives. With most folks it is supposingly to become richer, healthier, a better person or something they consider a positive step.
Most resolutions involve health; losing weight, exercising more, eating more nutritiously or giving up sweets, fats, drinking alcohol or smoking. Well, the truth of it, according to an article in the Independent is that sometimes those resolutions, although made with good faith can do more damage than repair to a person's psychological health.
The article stresses the philosophies of author Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School. She has a new book, "Presence" that no doubt she would like people to buy, but just analyzing her steps and suggestions from the article makes a lot of sense.
Cuddy says most people's mistakes when setting goals for themselves, whether in a New Year's resolution or just at some point of their lives usually falls into one of four categories:
- Dealing with absolutes
- Negative in essence
- Eye on prize instead of process
- Reliant on outside influences
Dealing with Absolutes
If one says "I am going to lose 50 pounds this year!" they will undoubtedly start strong, and weaken as time goes by unless they are a super power. This promise to do something positive has suddenly turned into a scenario for failure, loss of self worth and cause for stress. The effect may even negate the entire good that has occured so far and hold back potential for losing perhaps 10 or 15 pounds.
Negative in Essence
"I will stop smoking!" is a resolution that many family members and friends want to hear from loved ones, but it may be attempted from a negative viewpoint instead of trying to just cut down or limit the number of cigarettes per day. Like with the weight shedding promise above, it will be motivating at first, especially with support from family, but at the first break of motivation, will there be a sense of letting everyone down? Will the original purpose of stopping smoking for health reasons suddenly be lost in trying to please others?
Eye on Prize Instead of Process
You hear it all the time: sports figures, entertainment stars and motivators telling you to "Keep your eye on the prize!" like that is the most important thing, regardless of how one get's there. But that philosophy does not work well with personal resolutions like losing weight or quitting smoking. Each step along the way of the entire process is important. A better resolution would be to say by a certain date, they hope to lose 2 or 3 pounds, and then when meeting the goal, go on to the next one. Someone could lose 50 pounds by doing harmful things like binging and purging, or taking addictive drugs; the prize of being thin in that case did not justify the means. The prize would certainly carry some tarnish.
Reliant on Outside Influences
Getting healthier by joining a gym, losing weight with a support group, attending seminars on quitting smoking could all be good first steps, but many people fail at their goals and blame the outside influences for the failure. "It was too far to travel", "the people were bossy" or you didn't like the speaker could all be bogus reasons to abort your good efforts. Set goals for the New Year that only take you, personally, to reach and you will feel better at each step along the way.