Failed New Year’s Resolutions? Now What?

failed New Years resolutions

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

We have a natural tendency, at the beginning of a new year, to reflect upon where we are and then set goals or make resolutions for the upcoming year. Actually, as I think about it, the tendency is evidence of an innate desire, as human beings, to learn, grow, progress, and succeed. We recognize that we are not all of who we want to be or have not accomplished all of what we desire and so our inclination is to make promises to ourselves about what we’re going to do differently.

Of course, statistically speaking, most people fail to keep their resolutions more than a few weeks or months into the new year. It seems that those who benefit from the exercise are fitness centers and authors of weight loss books. The vast majority of people simply run out of steam. They don’t have the momentum to sustain the feelings (very genuine, by the way) that they want to improve and become better people.

If you have too many failed New Years resolutions and, consequently have given up making resolutions or get down on yourself and wonder why you can’t sustain your worthy desires, then I want to suggest an exercise. Write a letter to yourself. The problem with resolutions (even goals, for that matter) is that they lack context. Although they reflect our desires they lack deep roots. Writing a letter is like giving them roots. The process gives scope and context to our aspirations and, thereby, deepens their meaning and importance.

The process is rather simple. Grab a pencil and notebook or laptop and go to a quiet place. Take a little time to ponder your life, perhaps this past year, or where you are today. Then write a letter to yourself as if you were writing from the future, perhaps one year from now. You are looking back upon the past year. Write in present tense. Describe how you are living and being, what you have accomplished and what you are doing with your life. Include as many parts of your life as you desire–self improvement, family and relationships, career/work, finances, friendships, community involvement, living environment, etc.

Here is an abbreviated example.

December 31, 2020

Dear Roger,

Wow, how nice to look back on this past year with deep feelings of satisfaction and gratitude. Not that everything was easy, but I am proud that I made good choices on so many fronts. I’m in great physical shape. For the most part, I’ve eaten well and stayed with my exercise routine, losing 15 lbs in the process. (I’m sure those who know me are chuckling at that one.) I’m more aware of myself, my inner feelings and thoughts, which has made me a little quieter, less reactive, more peaceful. My relationships feel richer because I listen better to others. I really see and hear them, more than their words. I can’t believe how my business has grown. I’ve doubled the number of subscribers and now have 40,000 students who have bought one of my online programs…

And so on. Write your letter from your deepest desires, how you would like to be and what you would like to accomplish in the next year. Be audacious but realistic. Include only what is important to you. Simple things count, such as how you want to decorate your home or a gadget you’ve wanted to buy. Don’t worry about grammar or a nice writing style. Simply include whatever comes to your heart and mind.

Then take time to read your letter, perhaps several times. Visualize yourself having lived and accomplished what you describe. Put yourself into this emotional state with all of the images, feelings, and thoughts that accompany it. Don’t hurry on. Savor it. Allow its meaning to take root inside your mind and spirit.

Then put it away. Don’t take it out until next year. You will be surprised how close you’ve come to accomplishing it. You’ll have so many more successes and fewer failed New Years resolutions.

And please leave a comment letting me know about your experience and encouraging others to write their letters. Let’s support each other in a great year.


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