Every New Year, many people make resolutions; including yours truly. Yet such resolutions are hardly kept beyond the first week of January. I have seen friends who decided to forego smoking only to meet them (of course embarrassed) purchasing one more packet.
My favourite resolution every year is to hit the gym membership and cut some weight. To the contrary, I have never managed to shed even an ounce simply because like most of my friends, it is hard to keep such resolutions. So why do we fail to implement such good resolutions? I decided to do some reading to gather knowledge on why despite the best of New Year Resolutions, we hardly keep them.
The desire to change one’s life and particularly getting rid of what one considers a bad habit requires an enormous inner will and skill but one must also be ready to understand himself better. Various research and scientific journals on human behaviour give over-ambition as the main reason why more than 80 per cent of New Year resolutions fail.
Behavioural scientists including David Wallen subscribe to this theory. In his essay “10 reasons why New Year Resolutions fail” David Wallen says people put high demands on themselves and therefore are not able to cop. But my own view is different. People fail for other reasons as well.
In his bestselling book “The Road to Character”, David Brooks explains that failure to manage one’s expectation has more to do with the inability to reconcile one’s inner desires with society’s expectation of an individual. People tend to play more to the public gallery than looking at their own inner need to achieve their goals. This explains the failure by individuals not only in achieving their New Year resolutions but also failure to achieve satisfaction in life and plan well.
David Brook links his thoughts to the Lonely Man of Faitha monograph written by a Jewish Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik where the author describes human character from a biblical perspective.
Here the story of human creation is explained from two opposing sides of our nature. Soloveitchik describes how the story of creation in Genesis offers two types of images of Adam. One side of Adam is described as Adam 1 where he portrays a more ambitious and showing attributes of a human being wanting to achieve much but then fell for Satan’s temptation. Soloveitchik does not declare one image of Adam to be the right one, but rather identifies the struggle we must undergo as human beings. “Which is both spiritual and material, mystical and scientific, redemptive yet empowered”.
The influence of other people on our lives is unavoidable, meaning they can also have a positive impact, but others including friends can also disrupt ones achievements as well.
Whenever we plan to do something the disruption or support we get from others -based on our needs-must be taken into account. When making New Year resolutions, people need to understand the impact of other variables in their live’s that can either hinder or facilitate in succeeding in their resolutions.
To implement New Year resolutions we need to have discipline similar to what Soloveitchik refers to as Adam II; the ability to endure and sustain a personal will even under tough conditions.
According to the Stoic Hellenistic philosophy of the old Greek mythology, “individuals can easily achieve their goals by accepting a moment as it presents itself, by not allowing themselves to be controlled by their desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using their minds to understand the world around them and to do their part in nature’s plan, and by working together and treating others in a fair and just manner.”
Therefore, New Year resolutions cannot be isolated from an individual’s general behaviour or his interaction with friends and family members because they have a lot of influence on the individual.
Depending on which side of Adam I or Adam II you are, the ability to realise your goals will, to a larger extent, be determined by character. If you intend to change it is not wise to limit it to a mere a resolution about stopping smoking or cutting back on some kilos. It takes more than that.
As a start, one needs to take an inventory of and understand his character. People fail simply because they fail to understand who they are before they undertake any effort to correct some aspect of their lives.