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Are Resolutions Unrealistic and Self Defeating?

Anna Lloyd | Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

| Mindfulness |

“Each morning we are born again. What we do today matters most”.

~ Buddha ~

Every year as the new year rolls around I hear lots of talk about what people’s new year’s resolutions will be, and what kind of year people are planning to have. I have long been fascinated by this phenomenon because personally I have found New Year’s resolutions to be a rather futile act of self-deception, and a surefire way to invite self-flagellation, hopelessness and despair, if not by mid-January, then certainly by early February.

The idea that I could identify a behaviour that up until the 31st December I was doing often enough or self-destructively enough to impact my life negatively, and then somehow become different overnight just because it’s a new year, and then maintain that behaviour change…..is at best unrealistic, and at worst, incredibly self-defeating. For me, this idea lacks compassion for self and denies the complex and mysterious forces that hold behaviour in place. It fails to acknowledge the ebbs and flows and subtle nuances of life and experience that can affect our daily choices and our moment to moment capacity to choose self-nourishing behaviour. It seems to deny the constantly evolving process that life actually is.

For me, making news year’s resolutions about behaviour is a far from adequate way to manage my behaviour responsibly or make changes. What is far more helpful are daily resolutions. Rather than checking in with ourselves once a year and making impossible demands on ourselves that are somehow supposed to last 365 days, we can treat treat each new day as reverently and hopefully as we treat the New Year, and ask ourselves…What kind of day would I like to create for myself today? What do I need to do to achieve that? What will I attempt to refrain from behaviour wise today in order to stay on track? What are my needs? What am I willing to do today in order to care of my mind, body and spirit?

When we ask ourselves these questions daily and then act on the answers, we are much more current and realistic with our resolutions. We are ‘in the moment’ of our lives in terms of what behaviours need addressing, which choices would have wisdom and which would not. We can also let go of whatever happened yesterday or last week because that has passed and our power and vitality actually lie right here in this brand new day. New opportunity, new life, new hope and self responsibility do not lie just at the beginning of each new year. That would be profoundly self-limiting. They lie at the beginning of each new day, and really each new minute. Because from the moment we wake up in the morning we have choices, and we can use them to live wisely and well, or not.

In my experience, it is important to be responsible in this process, but also realistic. Every single one of us, is human. We are not Gods. We are imperfect. We make mistakes. We violate our principles. We-de-rail our own goals. Some days we are tired or hormonal or our life context is impacting us in ways we are struggling to cope with. Compassion and gentleness with self around all these unavoidable realities are vital, because otherwise we whip ourselves for having failed, which robs us of energy, weakens us rather than strengthening us, and can eventually lead to feeling paralysed and impotent in our lives. Accepting our mistakes and forgiving ourselves for our struggle to do better or differently is just as important as treating each new day as an opportunity and the birthplace of the life we want for ourselves.

So when January 1st roles around next year, I will be doing what I try to do every day of the year….bowing down to the ever-present flow of life and paying some mindful attention to where I am today on my journey. I will be asking myself… Where am I at today? What do I need? What needs attention? What do I choose for myself today? How do I want to treat myself today? What acts of self-care and self-nourishment will I engage in today? How will I honour the life I have been given today? I will endeavour to be present to the ever-changing and evolving process of my life, and and make my daily resolutions from that place. In engaging with this self-reflective and self-honouring daily practice, I will enjoy the ultimate creativity…the creating of my own life, in the aliveness and flow of that very day, and I will be wishing myself a Happy New Day.

Anna Lloyd

Anna Lloyd is a Family Therapist at Byron Private and a Clinical Psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney’s Inner West. Anna is interested in people, mind-body healing, spirituality, relationships, families and communities. Anna holds a Bachelor of Communication and completed her core training in Gestalt Psychotherapy, continuing on to train in Bowen Family Systems Theory and Systemic Family Constellation work. Passionate about family systems and the power of systemic approaches to wellness, Anna brings 15 years of experience living and practicing the work and has experienced firsthand the incredible changes that can occur in a person’s life when they commit to recovery and wellness. 
Anna works with individuals, couples and families and values warm, holistic, life-affirming therapy grounded in practical wisdom. Anna has broad therapeutic experience but has become specialised in working with Addiction Recovery/Addictive Family Systems. 

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