The Thursday Thesis - 23/1/2020
Well, here we are – three weeks into a new year and what’s changed?
For most people, nothing has changed. Just a few weeks down the line from making definite, potentially life changing promises to ourselves, most of us are already right back where we started – or we soon will be.
Our New Year’s Resolutions are beginning to fall apart, with around an 80% failure rate, according to Inc Magazine.
So the majority of people make definite decisions to take action and change their lives for the better, but 8 out of 10 of them will fail...
Once again, it seems that doing what most people do is not a good idea. If we are prepared to observe the masses and do the opposite, there’s a chance that the 80% failure rate could become a thing of the past.
It’s not that New Year’s Resolutions are bad, in themselves – who could argue that taking better care of one’s health, finances or relationships is a bad thing?
No, the problem isn’t the Resolution, it’s the implementation.
Here’s what doesn’t work, most of the time: we make a decision and try to stick to it. If we diverge from our decision in any way, even just once, we throw out the whole thing and beat ourselves up for having no willpower, backbone or self-discipline.
We have failed, and it is over.
Sometimes this leaves us feeling even worse than we did before we made that decision, and that can have profound ramifications.
But what if we were wrong about that failure – how would that be?
Let’s suppose your New Year’s Resolution was to give up booze, but last Friday you had a couple of drinks with friends. You didn’t want to break your resolution, but your friends were so persuasive and bought your drinks for you.
When you woke up on Saturday you felt disappointed – you’d let yourself down and everybody knew you’d broken your resolution. Now you feel like crap and begin to tell yourself that there’s no point even trying again, because everybody knows that New Year’s Resolutions always fail...
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
But what if we chose to think of that catastrophic and final failure to stay clean – that unwanted behaviour - as something other than the end of our resolution: suppose it was really a successful test?
What you really found was a successful test of a behaviour that you didn’t want. That test was necessary to make sure that you didn’t want to do it, wasn’t it?
If that were true, you could eliminate it from your list of potential actions and resume your ongoing tests of behaviour that will support your long-term aims, in this case you New Year’s Resolution.
The core of the problem is that we over-respond to a single, momentary failure and let it define us. If we had decided to stop drinking alcohol and “go on the wagon” at New Year, but had fallen off the wagon last weekend, the sharpest thing to do is to get back on the wagon right away. An intelligent person would ask themself what happened and what they could do differently in order to stay on the wagon, rather than curse themself and throw themselves back under the wheels.
The intelligent person reminds themself that it was just a test, and then asks themself “so, what might work better?” because they know that is a thousand mile journey, but it is lived in inches. The intelligent person recognises the inch of lost ground when they fail, then strides out to regain that inch and then some.
So, if your own New Year’s Resolution – or any other decision – has been broken, today is another inch of your thousand mile journey: another chance to test what works and what doesn’t work, another chance to become who and what you want to be.
© Neil Cowmeadow 2019
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