Why do resolutions not work?

December 31st 2023

Will New Year be new or just a repeat of behaviours from last year? Here is how you can change that.


Why do resolutions not work?

There are a number of reasons for this, the biggest typically being that there is not a big enough reason to invest the energy to make the change.  For example, the cost of not eating the doughnut is, in that moment, much lower than the pleasure of eating it!

This often comes down to a battle between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind and I know where I’d put my money on this every time!

The other reason is that the scale of change is too big.

I was struggling one year to achieve a goal and it felt like I was climbing Mount Everest.   A friend turned round and said to me, “Forget the peak, how can you get to Base Camp?”  It completely changed my motivation as suddenly, getting to base camp seemed possible.  All she had done was help me break the challenge down to a level that felt possible.

Here are 7 things that you can do in the first week of January (or to be honest, any time) that are easily achievable and also contribute to changing mindset (getting the subconscious and conscious to stop fighting!) and reduce stress.

Jan 1st (day 1)

Make a list of people you wish reconnect with and diarise when you are going to contact them. Spread them out across the year.

Who have you sent Christmas cards to that you haven’t spoken to for a year?  Or who do you think of often but it feels awkward to contact again because it has been too long.

Once you have a list, if there is more than 12 people, take the top 12 and put one name in each month.  If there are less than 12, either put one a month or spread them out equally across the year.

Then make a commitment to yourself to reach out to that person. It may be an email, a call – it doesn’t matter.  Key is to let go of the reaction.  If you get a rejection, that is OK.  It is not a reflection on you but a reflection that they are in a different place now.

I did this in 2022.  I had 4 wonderful lunch dates with people that are now back in my life.  3 people I had great conversations with and the door remains open to continuing those.

The more connections we have in life, the more mentally resilient we are. By reconnecting with people from the past, you not only strengthen your network but also reconnect with the positive energies that created that friendship in the first place.

Jan 2nd (day 2)

Start developing an attitude of gratitude.

The mind is just like a muscle and when you flex it, it gets stronger. So when you flex the muscle that sees positive things, you can create a much more positive mindset.

This can not only increase your enjoyment of life but also reduce stress and it takes no more than the 2 minutes whilst you brush your teeth at night – it is that simple.  To find out more, access the free download here.

Jan 3rd (day 3)

Reflect on last year and list all the successes and good things that happened. Then list all of the things that you don’t want to continue doing this year.

Our natural focus is on the latter – the things that didn’t go well and we want to change.  We often neglect all the good things that happened and what contributed to them happening.  By giving thought to this, it makes it much easier to look at how you can create equally positive events this year.

What I find however is that when I do this, the positive list is longer than the negative and this provides more motivation to reduce that negative side even more.   You may not find the same but this is a starting point.

Jan 4th (day 4)

From yesterday’s list, choose one thing from the list of things you don’t want to do and identify one small thing that you can start doing today that will break that habit or behaviour.

This may well feel like making a resolution!  What I encourage you to do though is to take on board my Everest and Base Camp scenario – what is something that is more achievable to changing that habit that by doing, will take you closer.

Then ask the support of friends, colleagues or relatives to help you continue to take that step. We are willing to let ourselves down but less likely to let others down.  So ask people to hold you accountable to make that change, and keep making it.

Jan 5th (day 5)

Write down one thing for each month that is seasonal for that month that you don’t normally do. Then make space in your diary to do it. For example, when did you last go to the seaside in June and eat fish and chips on the beach?

Here are a few ideas to get you going:
January:  Go for a walk in the countryside and take pictures of snowdrops

March: Organise an Easter Egg hunt with friends just for fun

June: Go for fish and chips at your nearest beach or lake side

October: Carve a pumpkin

November:  Gather together some wood, create a bonfire in the garden and eat toasted marshmallows

December:  Go to a craft centre and make a new Christmas decoration for your tree or as a gift.

Jan 6th (day 6)

Clear something out in the house that you have been meaning to do for a while.

Clutter can easily build up and just by sorting out a cupboard, it can change the energy of a room.  I often find that you discover things at the back of cupboards that you have forgotten about and that in itself can be fun!

If you find it hard to let go of things, ask a friend to help you and really challenge you on whether you need to keep something.

I have taken this up a level and put a plan together of sorting out one room in the house each month in this coming year and set time aside in my diary to make sure this happens.   I know the house will feel differently this time next year.

Jan 7th (day 7)

Being in financial debt is stressful. However, so is not having enough time to do what you want to, or not having the energy.

Look at these three things as currencies and start to apply good practices as you may to money.  Where can you invest energy that will then show a return – ie top your battery up?  Where can you invest time that will give you more time in the future?

And then we start trading between the 3 currencies!   Download the 3 currencies document that will help you identify if you have areas that are in the red.  Then use the exercise to see how you can create a balance in the 3 currencies and start investing in them to get a greater return on how you spend each.

There is a mixture here of little things you can easily fit into a day or week that over time will make this year one that you create real change.  There are also activities that by diarising and committing to do will give you things to look forward to and also contribute to that last activity – changing how you spend your time and energy into things that are investments rather than costs.

And even if you only do one of these, you are creating something new in the New Year!

What are you willing to commit to?

Caroline Cavanagh is an anxiety specialist  and hypnotherapist in Salisbury, Wiltshire.  She is an author and professional speaker and would love to talk to you if you would like to know more about her work

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