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KATIE ZERR: Why do we invite annual failure?

Why do we continue to torture ourselves with New Year’s resolutions?
We set ourselves up for failure when we decide the first of the year is a great time to start eating healthier, exercising more, drinking less, quitting smoking, getting away from Facebook, or calling more than texting family and friends.
According to University of Scranton Psychology Professor John C. Norcross, Ph.D., the estimate is that less than 10 percent of New Year’s resolutions are actually achieved. So in reality, 90 percent of us are setting ourselves up for failure.
There is enough failure in our lives without purposely establishing an annual one that will make us feel ashamed for not accomplishing it.
What a great way to start out a new year. The timing couldn’t be any worse to start denying ourselves a bit of pleasure or pledging to become more disciplined in our daily routines.
First of all, we are just coming out of one of the most festive times of the year. For most of us, we have had time with our friends and relatives, enjoying great food and fun. We have just celebrated the dawn of a new year and are excited about the prospects.
That is not a great time to saddle one’s self with a tough goal that will require discipline. If a person’s goal is to look good in a bathing suit in the summer, there is so much cheating time sandwiched between setting that goal and the summer months. How many procrastinations can be jammed into a whole six months?
There are endless possibilities to find reasons to skip those workouts or have that delightful chocolate morsel some caring co-worker left on the table in the break room.
We are so excited to begin being a better person by setting our resolution goals, and have that initial burst of motivation that gets us started, but that never lasts. Motivation at the first of the year is like a shooting star. We all ooh and aah at its wonder, but it quickly disappears. New Year’s motivation gives us that initial shooting star feeling, only to burn out and leave us crestfallen. It is just not sustainable.
Second, people sabotage resolutions by bringing goodies left over from the holidays to the office to clear their homes of temptations. They don’t do it on purpose. But throwing away all the homemade candies, bars and fudge accumulated over the holidays just seems sacrilegious to us.
So we pack it up and take it to the office where, “Someone will eat it.”
Maybe we should make resolutions in March when there is little opportunity to sabotage our resolve with the holiday hangover.
So although New Year’s resolutions sound good on the surface, we are set to fail. In fact, it is expected because a resolution is based on what we think we should be doing, rather than what we want to do.
We pledge to change our existing habits or make new habits. So we decide in a short period of time, like tomorrow, we are going to quit parking our butts in the recliner after work, channel surfing for something to help dull our mind and get outside (in the coldest month of the year) to walk a mile or two after dinner. Yeah, that is going to work. We have been working on that recliner habit for years and now with one resolution, that is out the door and replaced with a new habit that requires discipline and fortitude.
No wonder we fail.
Plus we set goals that are not easily achieved in the most optimum conditions and these are not small goals. Getting more exercise is not a small accomplishment. Eating healthier is not small, especially if a person’s work life is not nine to five. There are so many wrenches just waiting to be thrown into the works, that big goals can fall by the wayside at the end of the first week in January.
Then when a person fails to reach the goal set by a resolution it can make us feel ashamed. We have failed to accomplish what we aspired to have in the future.
For some of us, that means heading to the comfort of our favorite food or drink or the satisfaction of that first puff of a cigarette.
That is not a great way to start out a new year.
It would seem the whole concept of New Year’s resolutions are a set up for failure.
Why go through that torture? Why not make if a March resolution?
Of course for some of us March won’t work. There are birthdays, the first day of spring, that first day we can throw a thick steak on the grill…..
Maybe for some of us resolutions just don’t work.
But for that 10 percent who succeed in accomplishing goals set at New Years, those us who can’t, salute you!