New Year Resolutions Don’t Work

New Year Resolutions Don't WorkMost people don’t understand why New Year Resolutions don’t work.

This is what I wrote about why New Year Resolutions don’t work in my 2015 book, High Impact Leadership: 10 Action Strategies For Your Ascent

New Year resolutions have become a comical theme. The classic scenario goes something like this:  In a heartbeat, people discover a truly noble desire worthy of a change effort. When they attempt to execute, they discover it’s uncomfortable, unpleasant and difficult. When close friends, associates and others hear about their attempt at their life-changing effort, they are quick to share all the stories of their friends who have failed and readily predict your failure. This adds to the discomfort, synergy ensues, and the noble desire is extinguished—a hot fire doused with freezing water. 

To bring to fruition the noble desire that comes as quick as a heartbeat may take a lifetime of strength, willpower and resolve. Strength, willpower and resolve that have not been called upon before, thus have not had a chance to develop. New nascent strengths that have not been honed on real-world experiences and that are continuously undermined by the collective, negative reinforcement of community and friends adds up to a weak support system at best. The noble desire is doomed from the start.

That’s why you will hear me often repeat as a mantra “personal resources must be developed. We do not come to be full of resolve, confident, tactful, and diplomatic and self-disciplined, self-directed, self-correcting, and self-generating naturally from birth.” The old maxim still applies. You reap what you sow. We would not expect triumphant success with other minimal inputs. If you invest $100.00 to buy a car, you know the kind of car you’ll get. You wouldn’t rely on it to carry you very far. So, too,  it is with our personal resources. If we minimally invest developing our self-discipline for example, we can’t expect it to take us to new heights. It simply won’t work.   

It’s not that complex, really. The famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung—who developed the ground-breaking personality theory that introduced the Myers Briggs personality assessment, shed light on how to create real change.


Jung observed, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.” 


In other words, we operate by subroutines that are automatic, even subconscious. Until we see how we are directed by our thinking, previous experiences, and our conditioning, we are fated to the zombie status quo. That’s the basis for the truism; the mind is a beautiful servant but a terrible master.


New Year Resolutions don’t work unless you do.


To make New Year Resolutions work, shift in two broad areas:


First, look in the mirror. Ask yourself, am I accepting responsibility for my life? Or, am I accusing, blaming, and declaring the problem is “out there?” Shouldering responsibility for your life is a zero-sum game. You can’t be partially responsible. In their book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin point to responsibility as fundamental to leadership. Leaders are responsible, period. Look through the window to give praises and look into the mirror to assign blame.  


It’s the same premise whether you are leading a team or yourself. Taking full responsibility for your life is the ultimate freedom. You are no longer enslaved to things outside your control. It’s like a client’s recent revelation. Brian, “I spent my life trying to manipulate outside circumstances for me to be OK. What a miraculously freeing discovery to realize that my being OK had nothing to do with anyone outside of myself. All the while, the power was in me!”


One of the most courageous things any leader (human being) can do is recognize the internal conversations-the constant chatter of thoughts that draw tremendous amounts of energy and attention away from our direct experience of daily life.


Awareness is an innate human capacity that we don’t need to acquire. We only need to develop access and familiarize ourselves with this dimension, this capacity which is more “you” and more useful than any other so-called training or practical skill. 

With responsibility and awareness, you won’t need a new year to start. Everyday will be a New Year Resolution.


You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. Jon Kabat-Zinn


© Brian Braudis 2020, All rights reserved



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