Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and What Works Better
Traditional New Year’s Resolutions fall into the category of behavior that I call “control mechanisms.” Resolutions like going to the gym more often or losing 20 pounds are usually based on trying to control the feeling that “there’s something wrong with me being just as I am.” This feeling, called Learned Distress®, is what your brain uses to automatically generate the negative moments of your life. (You can find out your Learned Distress pattern by taking this free personality test.)
Learned Distress doesn’t take kindly to being controlled. Sometimes, the control mechanism just plain fails. You just can’t get out of bed early enough to make it to the gym before work. Oh, well.
Or, if you’re particularly good at controlling it, Learned Distress also can be sneaky and find another way “out.” Maybe you’re three weeks into your gym routine when you slip on the ice and injure your back. There goes your resolution!
Or, your Learned Distress might even find an entirely different aspect of your life within which to express itself. If the feeling is “there’s something wrong with how I look,” you might have something go wrong with some other aspect of your appearance or your someone might criticize how you dress.
You might guess correctly, then, that New Year’s Resolutions are not something I recommend to my clients. However, there is a type of resolution you could craft based on an element of Quanta Change that will work with your brain’s automatic generating force, instead of trying to control it.
First, you should know that the part of your brain that stores Learned Distress only deals with how you feel about being yourself. It isn’t capable of rational thought. And, this part of your brain, your sense of self, deals only with two simple kinds of feeling—”it’s good being me exactly as I am,” and, “there’s something wrong with me being exactly as I am.” Every feeling you have and every moment of your life, positive or negative, can be traced back to one of these two basic kinds of feelings.
So, when you craft a control-style resolution, you’re really reinforcing the “something wrong with me” feeling. Your brain recharges while you sleep with the feelings you experience every day. When you resolve to go to the gym more often to keep this negative feeling under control, your brain actually recharges with it at night, and you wake up the next day with just a tad bit more of the feeling that “there’s really something wrong with my body”—the exact opposite of what you were going for!
So, if you’re going to make a New Year’s Resolution, I recommend making one that reinforces the positive way you would like to feel. Maybe something like, “I feel good in my own skin for the first time in my life.” Or, if the change you want to see has to do with relationships, “When I’m with others, I feel so comfortable just being myself.” Or, if it has to do with being more organized, “It’s so easy to find everything in my house!” You might visualize these outcomes as if they had already happened, letting yourself feel the joy of how different it is to be you in this new way. This helps your brain experience the feeling you want it to recharge with when you’re asleep.
If “there’s something wrong with me” rings a bell and you want to know more about your Learned Distress, click to get a free report that shows your pattern of Learned Distress and how it can change.
Wishing you a new year in which you feel really good being yourself!
Sara Avery is the Executive Director of Quanta Change, and she’s been guiding people through this process for the past 16 years. Click to get your free, personalized SQ report and to sign up for a free, 30-minute call with her to learn the kinds of positive changes you will see through Quanta Change.