Why do you bother with New Year Resolutions? Isn’t it just a set up to failure?

Photo by Cathryn Lavery

Have you ever found yourself wondering why so many of us feel compelled to set New Year Resolutions? How often have you set them and achieved what you set out to do? Do you “resolutely” refuse to get involved?


Whatever your story it is worth recognising that the idea of New Year Resolutions is a part of our culture and there must be a reason they persist.


Here is my take on it, you and I are looking for meaning and purpose in life.

The search for meaning and purpose is as old as time but why is it so important?


In Positive Psychology the importance of meaning and purpose has been studied a great deal over the last two decades. Finding a sense of meaning and purpose will improve your general well-being and health. As a species we do better when you have a sense of what the point is.


Setting new goals each year is part of this search however there is a risk you are setting yourself up in a hope /disillusionment cycle. You start off full of optimism and then run out of steam when life intrudes.


So this year I have a suggestion. Instead of looking forward start by look back instead. Review your year and identify the meaning from the experiences of the last twelve months. Many of you will have had a tough 2019, I certainly know I did, so make sure you check which lens you look through as you review. Here is a simple set of steps to follow:


  1. Write a list of all the standout moments of 2019 (big and small, positive and negative).
  2. Sort your list into sections; for example, “moments that lifted you up or made you smile” and “moments that challenged or disappointed you”. You might even have a list of things that were painful.
  3. With each item identify what you are grateful for. For example, in the final days of 2019, my Dad died. I am grateful that I was with him at the end and got a chance to tell him I loved him. I also delivered a eulogy at his funeral in January.
  4. With each item make a note of what you learnt. For example, I was reminded that my time is precious and I needed to review where I was spending it. I made some important decisions based on this learning.
  5. How has your perception changed about who you are over the last 12 months?
  6. Finally, what do you want to carry forward with you from these experiences?


Is Photography one of your New Year's Resolutions?
Photo by Paul Skorupskas

These are my musings for today and if I wrote them again I might write them differently. What meaning can I take from that? Life is ever-changing and being flexible and willing to let go brings peace and serenity to me.

What is the most important learning you discovered in 2019?


Melody Cheal MSc MAPP
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