Help! I can’t keep my resolutions.

Question: It is not even one month over, and I have already broken my New Year resolutions!

Answer: New Year is a good time to take a look at our life, assess our progress and identify things we would like to improve or change over time. However the importance of New Year is purely symbolic. Since it feels like a fresh beginning, it may act as a catalyst for change, but the ideal is that of continuous progress. We need not wait for another 1st January to grow, and we can make changes any moment, any day. In fact giving too much important to New Year resolutions can make some people anxious and afraid, which might not be helpful.

One has to find one’s own process of growth, and what helps and what doesn’t in this process. May be it is helpful for you to write in a diary, keep reminders, read stories of other people making similar changes, have friends or family members supporting you etc Further it is good to make a list of all the difficulties you might come across while trying to make these changes, and plan in some detail how you may overcome them. Sometimes we are not fully prepared when we start, and our initial failures give us a feedback to plan better and restart the journey.

Question: I see others acting upon their resolutions. I feel I cannot grow in life, since I cannot follow up on my own promises to myself.

Answer: Comparison, if any, has to be with your own past, instead of with other people because we all start at different places. You may already be good at some of the things other people are trying to change, and vice versa.

Also, when we are trying to bring major changes in our lives, it is natural and even expected that the process will not be very easy. There would be times when one gives in to temptations, fall back upon old habits or break resolutions. This may make us feel that there is not much we can really change in ourselves and we are cast in iron. Further, if the resolutions were made in front of others, or communicated to others, we may feel ashamed or upset about losing face in front of people whose opinion we value. Overall, we may feel like giving up on ourselves.

But during such moments, we have to remind ourselves of the real reasons we are trying to bring change. We have to remember all the times we have done well in past to overcome similar or different challenges, as well as the benefits of this change we are trying to make, if we successfully persist. Also tell yourself that you are brave enough to choose a difficult target, and it is ok to fail occasionally. It may also help to assess the situation, and identify all factors (both external and internal) which may have contributed to the failure. Then make a plan as to how you can successfully handle them, next time you come across them.

Question: How do I grow as a person?

Answer: It can start with discovering your deepest dreams and desires (look for things you enjoy doing, activities which make you feel happy and energised, which gives you meaning and purpose, which you often day dream about or visualise doing during your relaxed moments). Turn such dreams into specific goals and then break this into smaller reachable goals. Now plan how you may reach these smaller goals, and don’t forget to plan how you will manage the hurdles on the path. Sometimes when one feels that one is not progressing, finding reasons behind it and trying different strategies to go beyond the blockage is important for continuous progress. Further, it is good to remember that since the outcome of our efforts are determined by many factors beyond our control; one has to also learn to enjoy the process, almost like a play.

Expert:Dr Jyotsna Agrawal

Dr Jyotsna is assistant professor of Positive Psychology at the Dept. of Clinical Psychology, NIMHANS, Bangalore