Why New Year’s Resolutions are hard to keep
New Years Resolutions are famous for falling by the wayside come February/March.
The gym membership that gets used in January, then not so much month on month. The tidy house that within a few months is back to where it was before. The resolve to stop smoking, that becomes “a cheeky one” here and there, until you are back to 20 a day. The clean eating regime, that gets interrupted by chocolate binges after a few weeks.
The problem is that if we approach a New Year with a sense of self that we think needs to do better in the world, we’ve failed before we’ve even started. If our new behaviour is driven by our ego’s desire to make us ‘good enough’ then that same ego is going to be the thing that hobbles the whole crusade.
Take, for example, the resolution to eat healthily. Makes sense, right? To have a healthy body, and therefore a sense of wellbeing for the personal self that we see ourselves to be, we need to eat well, and not poison ourselves with processed food, alcohol and caffeine. Our ego is rooting for us to get healthy, as that will temporarily improve our sense of personal wellbeing. However, a personal sense of wellbeing is inherently insecure when you closely examine it. Our bodies are not indestructible, so it doesn’t matter how hard we try to be healthy, we cannot secure our health. It also doesn’t matter how nice and kind we are, or how successful, or beautiful – we cannot secure being liked or respected by others. It doesn’t matter how rich we are, and how many amazing experiences we have, we’ll always be able to find greener grass somewhere else.
So this personal sense of self, the ego, is up and down feeling insecure and lacking in various ways. There is always a ‘more, better, not this, something’ that is lacking. The ego seeks to cover over the sense of lack in order to feel better and will use certain behaviours to achieve a temporary ‘hit’ of relief from that insecurity. On this occasion, a chocolate binge is the hit of choice. “I’ll feel better if I eat that chocolate”. Well, temporarily, yes. But, long-term, no. So the very same thing which is pointing us in the direction of health and wellbeing being important to us if we want to be okay also seeks the things that hinder health and wellbeing (which, by the way, is also not the route to long-term happiness).
So we’re doomed to fail!
Well, not really. All we need to do is take an alternative perspective to the ego’s sense of self. To stop looking at ourselves as this separate person, with a personal agenda, and other separate people to compare ourselves to. To start looking deeper into the sense of “being” that makes us who we are. That sense of “I am” that precedes anything that we think is important. If we trace our sense of self back to there, all feelings of lack drop away. We can see that who we really are needs nothing to be any different or better in order to secure the self.
With that knowledge, we can return to the sense of the personal, and explore whatever makes sense to explore, with a curiosity for where it will take us. Without the idea that whether we are good enough or not is at the end of the rainbow.
That is how we can be ‘successful’ at New Year’s resolutions. By having nothing on them.
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