Friday, December 21, 2012

Are New Year's Resolutions Really Such a Great Idea?

Sydney. Fireworks Newyear 2006. Opera House an...
Sydney. Fireworks New Year. Opera House and Harbour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Paul R Mather

Why are New Year's resolutions so infamously hard to keep? What makes all those great intentions disappear so quickly?

Are we really such fickle creatures, or is New Year's Day maybe not the smartest time to introduce meaningful changes into our lives?

The truth, of course, is that it simply doesn't matter which particular day we choose to implement positive changes, so New Year's Day is just as good as any other.

What matters profoundly is our state of mind when we plan such changes, and in this regard, the festive season often proves less than ideal.

Suppose for example you were planning to quit smoking. The cognitive process that leads you to make such an important decision really wants to be firmly rooted in an objective assessment of the pros and cons of quitting versus doing nothing. This decision will impact primarily on your ordinary, mundane day-to-day life - and so that's where it's best taken.

You need to have a coping strategy in place so that when that time of day comes around, when you would normally leave the office and join your fellow addicts out on the street for a cigarette, you know exactly what you're going to do instead. Otherwise, you're sure to trigger some pretty uncomfortable feelings of deprivation and loss.

In this and many other situations, a plan that was painstakingly formulated in the cold light of day is likely to prove infinitely more enduring than one you cobbled together on a well-intentioned impulse, whilst riding high on a wave of seasonal joy.

In fact, it's rarely a good idea to make big decisions while on holiday. It's far too easy to get overly energized by the convivial atmosphere and forget that, in order to achieve your goals, you need to carry that resolve forward through the mundane drudgery of everyday life.

And realistically, what are the chances of that determination you feel whilst dancing the night away with old friends, still being with you on Monday morning as you reluctantly commute into work with a gigantic hangover?

Now, I'm not arguing that people shouldn't bother with New Year's resolutions, just that they should think through the sincerity and strength of their motivation before attempting any significant changes.
There are three basic questions I ask all of my smoking cessation clients:

  • How (long have you been thinking of quitting)?
  • What (is the worst temptation you're likely to face, and what coping strategy are you planning to use to overcome it)?
  • Why (do you really want to quit)?

How, what and why ... before committing to your resolution, try asking yourself those vital questions! And if you still feel confident and adequately motivated to follow through, then by all means go for New Year's Day. But otherwise, why not consider rescheduling?

After all, there's nothing wrong with a well-planned and executed resolution that begins on 1st February - just so long as it works!

Paul R Mather is a certified hypnotherapist and the owner of Cerulean Therapies, a company specializing primarily in helping people to quit smoking. For a free download designed to help with New Year's Resolutions, please visit

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