Here's a fact: 8 percent of people achieve their New Year's Resolution. 8 percent! That means most of us don't have a fighting chance.
Do we make those stupid resolutions so we can spend January, February and most of March feeling crushed by our daily failures? Lost a in mental whirlpool of self-loathing? Damned by a willpower out of control?
Enough! Why do we do it to ourselves? Don't we deserve better? The end of one year and beginning of another is an event in itself. Do we have to compound the situation by reckless goal-setting? Methinks not.
Ask anyone and they'll tell you seasonal cheer turns dirty in January. The most common things you'll hear people say include, 'God, I hate January;' 'January is so long/boring/dark/quiet' or 'I've been to the gym three times this week. By March I'm going to look like [insert name of insanely good looking movie star here.]'
By the time March comes around it's likely we've nestled into old routines such as not going to the gym, watching too much TV and eating a diet that includes take away food, chocolate and beer.
Psychology offers three main reasons why New Year's resolutions fail: 1. People make unrealistic resolutions. 2. People don't have the right mindset to fight off doubt and distractions. 3. People use fear and guilt as motivation.
All of us can identify with one of these reasons. We've done it. Come the end of December we proclaim all the fabulous things we're going to start doing in January.
Most people's lists include goals such as going to the gym (gym memberships go up by 30 per cent in January); quit smoking, quit drinking, quit eating carbs; learn a language; lose weight, take up a new sport, meditate; volunteer at a local charity or spend more time with family.
Whatever is on on your list, it has two things in common with everyone else who makes a list: 1. It contains things you don't do. 2. It contains activities that lead to self-improvement. For some reason we all become obsessed with self-improvement in January and think that doing things we don't normally do will get us there.
This thinking is flawed. If you want to start a new activity, start in November. That way you'll be up and running by the New Year and will have the comfort of a familiar routine to guide you through any dark days in January. This goes for meditation, spending time with family and especially exercise.
But ok, so you didn't start a new activity in November and January is looming and you - like 92 per cent of people - are dreading it. You want the transition to be easy but you're aware that easy is rarely worthwhile. You know it's going to hurt. You resolve to take the pain and soldier on, fight through, be better.
Every January there are millions of people walking around telling themselves to be better: Come on! Move it lazy arse! You're not good enough! Better! More! Now! Doesn't that sound exhausting? How the heck is anyone expected to improve under those conditions?
In my humble opinion, a shift in thinking can solve the problem. Forget trying to 'improve' you, instead have fun. Do things that absorb you. As Einstein advised his son in a 1915 letter, do the things that give you 'so much enjoyment you don't notice the time pass.'
Don't make a list of resolutions, make a list of things that make you happy. Some of these things will be part of your life already, some won't. Look at the list. What are you not doing? Why aren't you doing it? How will doing these things enhance your day, year, life? How can you make it happen?
Forget guilt. Instead get decadent. Do one thing that is deliciously decadent. Then do something that is ridiculously kind. You know yourself, one man's decadence is another man's kindness, so choose whatever is fun or kind according to you.
Most importantly be kind to yourself. Silence the critical voice in your head and replace it with a voice who thinks you're amazing whether you're at the gym or slouched in front of the TV. This January kill the blues by adding a little sugar. Shake things up with one decadent and one kind act. Everything else can wait till February. Or November.