New Year’s Resolutions: Willpower is Not Enough

Comfort Zone NoteMany of us, myself included, make New Year’s resolutions, then promptly forget them – only to find myself at the end of the year, shocked again that I hadn’t accomplished my goal.  After decades of this annual ritual, I decided to investigate why the hopes from the beginning of the year often go unfulfilled.

I started my research with the good ol’ dictionary.  The dictionary defines resolution as: “a firm decision to do or not to do something.”  Firm is a key word in the definition – meaning fixed, unmoving, while decision is an outcome of a full, painstaking, concentrated mental effort about a single subject.  Now, how many of us conduct that kind of concentrated thinking before stating our intentions? I don’t. Therefore, how many of the “resolutions” I make are actually wishful thinking, yet, by virtue of this thought occurring at the end of the calendar year, gets mistakenly elevated to the status of a resolution?   Oh.  Now, that’s a light-bulb-turning-on kind of question.

Invigorated by seeing a little light, I kept thinking.   Possibly, the “resolutions” were unfulfilled as the “resolve” I perceived were only wishes to guide me, not the concentrated, painstakingly complete consideration of all facts before declaring my “resolution”; therefore, I had no (or little) courage for the needed consistent effort and the willingness to hold myself accountable, so I could reach my aim. A-HA!  Once again, discovering more probable explanations about my lack of success in fulfilling my “resolutions” during previous years.

I continued my wonderings, by asking myself what the effect(s) may be of a resolute, i.e. firm and unwavering, commitment to challenging some troublesome behavior might be?  After all, I’ve been living with said behavior for awhile now, and like an old shoe, habits fit snugly; what exactly would I be letting go, and was I ready to let that go?  Was there some benefit in the familiar, even if its troublesome?  And, what subsequent reactions had I created to said “troublesome” effects, to mitigate their impact, if any?  Boy, what a tangled web.  Start pulling one habit string and the whole shee-bang starts unraveling.  If I did start tugging, pretty soon, what exposure would I open myself up to, in order to confront one said issue in my New Year’s Resolution?  Yuck.  Who wants to take on that monster?  I didn’t.  A-ha #3.  No wonder there was less fulfillment than not at the end of the year.

So, moral of the story: think through any resolutions and be courageous one moment at a time to move beyond your comfort zone, no matter how scary.   Fear is a great motivator, to try and stay the same, as well as remove oneself from difficulties or trouble.   I’m starting to wonder, if in trying to stay comfortable and avoid feeling not afraid, then what have I possibly sacrificed in bad AND good possibilities?  Well, we’ll see how much this short burst of thinking will do to actually move me toward fulfilling my goals by the end of the year.  The optimism about doing something different is still abundant, given it’s only January, the honeymoon period of New Year’s Resolution making.  Check me in March or even in October, and let’s see if I can remember the wording of my resolutions.  Then, we’ll know where, or even if, the rubber met the road, and where intellectual talk was mistaken for bravado.

Photo Credit: CSLacker
h/t: Partimeperfectionist

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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