How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions in 2018

We all do it: We make our New Year’s resolutions and mean to keep them but half-way through January we’ve already broken almost every one. For example, we’ve vowed to go off sugar but suddenly we find ourselves biting into a jelly doughnut.

Or, we’ve pledged to quit smoking and yet here we are on January 5th, lighting up a cigarette. Or, we’ve resolved to be more responsible with money, but somehow find ourselves at the mall one week after New Year’s, purchasing another unneeded item.

Are we so weak and helpless in the face of our bad habits? Do we have no will-power? Is it impossible for us to keep any of our New Year’s resolutions?

The answer to all of these questions is no. We can become more empowered with regard to our bad habits if we understand what’s actually driving these behaviours. We can keep our New Year’s resolutions if we shift from “shoulds” to wants, and we can access our will-power when we understand how to use it.

A major problem with our New Year’s resolutions is that they’re impositions. We tell ourselves that we “should” make these changes and then wonder why we can’t stick to our plans.

No-one likes to be forced into doing things. There’s a big difference between making the changes that we really want and trying to do what we think we “should” do. When “shoulds” are at the root of our choices, it’s very common to experience resistance.

If we want our changes to stick, we need to tune in to our authentic wants and have our resolutions spring from these. For example, maybe the reason we’ve decided to give up sugar is that there’s a history of diabetes in our family and we want to be more proactive about our health.

Maybe we decided to give up smoking because we watched a relative suffer from a smoking-related lung disease and the last thing we want is to go through what they did.

Maybe the reason behind our resolution to spend more wisely is that someone we know had to declare bankruptcy due to excessive spending and we don’t want to follow in their footsteps.

If we connect to our real wants, we might end up making identical resolutions, but they’ll be coming from a very different place and we won’t have to force ourselves to keep them.

Another thing we need to understand is that all of our bad habits arise out of an unconscious belief that these habits will meet our deepest inner needs. Whether we’re engaging in overeating, drinking alcohol, abusing drugs, gambling or over-spending, what we’re actually doing is pursuing external solutions to our internal needs.

Hurtful or traumatic childhood experiences have left us with emotional wounds and unmet emotional needs. Today, within our psyche, we long to heal these wounds and meet these needs but we don’t know how to do this for ourselves. Often, we see our bad habits as our only possible source of soothing and nurturing.

Each one of our bad habits provide us with some degree of numbing, distraction or stimulation that feels kind of like soothing or nurturing, but it’s all a false fix. No amount of sugar, alcohol, spending or gambling can do the trick. What we actually need is self-nurturing and self-soothing.

When we validate ourselves through positive affirmations and when we practice self-healing and self-compassion, the urge to engage in our bad habits diminishes and it becomes easier to keep our resolutions.

We don’t have to be helpless in the face of our bad habits if we become empowered by recognizing the truth about them. We can see that these behaviours will never meet our real needs.

If we take responsibility for giving ourselves the soothing and nurturing we need (whether on our own or by finding a counselor or therapist to help us), keeping our New Year’s resolutions will be a breeze.

Knowing all of the above, you can feel confident in making your New Year’s resolutions for 2018, knowing that the likelihood of keeping them will be the highest it’s ever been.

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Marcia Sirota

Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series