Paul Tafelski PC - January 2020

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January 2020

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What’s in a Resolution? My Problems With New Year’s Resolutions and Why I Do Them Anyway

The new year is here, and if you’re anything like me, you got your resolution figured out last year around 6 p.m. on Dec. 31. Late timing, I know. The truth is, I don’t dedicate much thought to the tradition until the holidays. Then, as countdowns begin to happen around the world, I find myself compelled to give resolutions another shot despite my misgivings about them. You can make a change in your life any day of the year. You don’t have to wait until you’re putting out new calendars to go on a diet or exercise, but so many of us wait anyway. Even though I know that starting a resolution on Jan. 1 is functionally no different than starting one on, say, Aug. 14, I still feel compelled to set at least one goal by the time the ball drops in Times Square. I think that’s because logic isn’t the only consideration here. There’s a psychological component to New Year’s resolutions. It feels like you have a blank slate — a fresh start on the year to come. You can either say to yourself “Here we go again” and do nothing, or you can make a commitment to make 2020 better than your 2019. Resolutions give us a positive running start. Of course, that momentum can be hard to keep up. Sure, making a major life change in January can be inspiring and gives you an easy date to keep track of when looking back on your progress. But the “fresh start”mindset rarely survives February, let alone September. Are we doomed to always throw in the towel on these resolutions, or is there something we can do to help them stick? Well, a great deal of researchers have dedicated their lives to that question and have written many (often contradictory) books trying to answer it. Based on this, I think it’s safe to assume that there’s no single silver bullet solution to sticking to your goals. The best advice I can give is to experiment and find the method that works for you. “Are we doomed to always throw in the towel on these resolutions, or is there something we can do to help them stick?”

In my case, I’ve found writing things down helps immensely. Just the act of sitting down and putting a resolution to paper can ensure it stays top of mind, and it also forces you to put your goals in coherent terms. Prior to writing it down, I usually have an abstract notion of what I want to achieve, like “be healthier” or “lose weight.”The act of getting these ambitions out of my head forces me to confront the specifics and define what success looks like. Does this technique work every year? No. But over the course of my life, I’ve found it works more often than not, and it makes getting back on a resolution easier during those times you fall off. We’ll see how well my goals for 2020 shake out. While they aren’t guaranteed changes, it’s far better to try to make a resolution a reality than to not set one in the first place. Just remember that there’s no rules against restarting a resolution or coming up with entirely new ones halfway through the year. If you find your goals waning, don’t throw in the towel and wait for next year. Any time can be the day you decide to make your own fresh start.

Happy New Year,

-Paul J. Tafel ski

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