New Year's Resolutions, Why Bother?

Posted On Dec 26, 2019 by Dr. Max MacCloud DO, ND, PhD

Part 1 of 1

Greetings friends, the Nutrition Ninja Doc here with my Holiday Greetings and some thoughts about resolutions and goal setting that may be helpful.

What time of year is it (picture the camel in the commercial asking what day is it, hump day of course)? Rather than hump day, in this case, I'm referring to the end of the year and start of the new year.

So, what does that mean? For many people, it means that it's resolution time.

For the VAST majority of those people, I say, Don't Bother! Why waste time and energy? What's the point? After all, the meaning of insanity is doing the same thing yet expecting a different result.

If "someone" isn't going to follow through and do what it takes to stick with and follow through on their resolutions, why bother with making them in the first place? Going through the exercise of making a new year's resolution and then not following through, and therefore failing, merely sets up a pattern of failure.

How many times have you made New Year's resolutions? What percentage of the time have you followed through and accomplished them? For most people the percentage is dismal, why is that? How can you radically enhance your chances of succeeding?

For a resolution to work, it needs some teeth. It needs the same things as any valid goal. It must be 1. Based upon a true desire to achieve the result. In other words, you have to really want it. 2. It must be in writing. Goals and resolutions that are only 'in one's head' have a very low chance of success. Putting them in writing helps to make them more "real." 3. It must be communicated to your significant others or a trusted coach for multiple reasons which I'll address below. 4. It must have a timeframe included. 5. There must be some accountability. 6. There should also be rewards and for some a punishment. 7. Consider having a coach.

Let's take a closer look at each of these essential components.

  1. A strong desire moves a "thought" to a whole other level of importance to the mind. Our actions are controlled by our minds. For our mind to 'bother' paying attention to a particular action or behavior, it must place a fairly high survival priority on that behavior. Let's face it, we all have a lot on our minds. Most of what occupies our attention are relatively unimportant fluff, distractions from much more important things. When a goal is tied to a significant desire, want, or need, it becomes significantly elevated in importance to our subconscious mind and our subconscious has TREMENDOUS ability to either support or sabotage the achievement of our goals.

  2. Put it in writing. One of the greatest achievements of humankind is the development of writing as it provides a more lasting record of thoughts, actions, and events. We've all experienced the demonstrations of how quickly the spoken word can be distorted when conveyed from person to person. By putting something in writing it allows one to have a much more reliable record of what was decided upon. When a goal is merely in one's head, it is far too easy for the subconscious mind to twist and modify it based upon a myriad of variables. The research indicates that putting it in writing helps to "make it real" and dramatically enhances the potential for success.

  3. Declaring (communicating) your goal to your loved ones and other people of significance in your life makes a HUGE difference in your chances of success, here are a couple of reasons.

    1. Activation of the "Mastermind" principle. The mastermind principle has been known for many generations but only popularized in the last century by Napoleon Hill as a result of mentoring by Andrew Carnegie (one of the richest and powerful self-made men of his era). The back story is a bit too involved to do it justice here so I encourage you to research it further. The quick and dirty version, however, is as follows. It is based on the concept that thought is energy and that all minds are interconnected. By focusing on a goal with at least one additional like-minded person, the "collective intelligence or mind" is engaged. It may sound a bit woo-woo to some of you, but I can assure you that it is very real and very powerful. There is far more to our universe than what we can perceive with our very limited sensors and current understanding. So, please take some time to learn about and engage this extremely powerful principle to help you achieve your goals.

    2. Taking advantage of a very powerful psychological phenomenon known as "Escalation of Commitment." Everyone knows the saying and concept of "throwing good money after bad." The idea is that once a person makes an 'investment' in something or declaration of something, especially when done publicly, they will continue to defend that decision in spite of tremendous amounts of evidence and data indicating that they made a mistake. For some reason, our minds do not like to admit we were wrong, admit the mistake, and change to a new plan. We continue to throw good money after bad. To look for the cheese in the same place even after it has been moved. And to defend bad decisions in spite of obvious data to the contrary. Continued blind support of the criminal in the White House is a great example of this.

  4. Time frame. Time is not real, it is a manmade concept. The only time that is real is NOW, everything else is either a memory (based on firsthand knowledge or the accounts of others) or a projection of what might happen in the future. Be that as it may, we still need to plan or goals based on the strong likelihood that there will be a future and that at some point in that future we will accomplish the goal(s) we've set for ourselves. Therefore, the concept or construct of time is extremely valuable and essential for planning and goal setting purposes. Yes, that was probably an unnecessary segue. The bottom line is that we absolutely must put a timeframe on our goals and the steps required to achieve them.

Another important and related concept is to breakdown big goals into smaller sections or components. This applies to time as well as other aspects of it. It is extremely difficult for us to set a goal for 5 years in the future. Our brains have a really tough time projecting that far ahead. Instead, break bigger goals down into smaller goals, baby-steps if you will. These smaller sub-goals should have much shorter time frames in the range of days, weeks, or months at the most.

Achieving your goals is a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day process. Set mini-goals that address the behaviors and actions required on more of a NOW time frame.

  1. Accountability is another absolutely essential component to achieving your resolutions. Some of this is accomplished by sharing your resolution or goal with others and making a relatively 'public' declaration on something like social media but there's a significant, additional level to it as well. You must permit someone else to hold you accountable if you really want to crank it up to the next level. You can permit one person or as many people as you'd like depending on your circumstances. When a person swears allegiance or takes an oath of office, they are examples of ratcheting up the level of accountability for one's actions. This simple yet powerful action magnifies one's chances of achieving their goal and sticking with their resolution.

  2. Rewards &/or Punishment (Pleasure-Pain). Wouldn't the world be even more wonderful if people did things purely for the joy, logic, or personal satisfaction of doing them? Sadly, that world is a fairy tale, people typically need some kind of additional, often externally applied, motivation to help them follow through. Hence, rewards and punishments, carrots and sticks, pleasure and pain. It doesn't have to be anything huge but it has to be something of perceived significance to help harness the additional power that rewards and/or punishments provide. Use your imagination and consult one of your significant others, someone that you've given accountability permission to, to help come up with a suitable reward or punishment for either sticking with and accomplishing or going off track.

  3. Coaching can be an invaluable tool to assist you in setting and achieving your goals. Virtually all of the world's top performers, from sports to entertainment to business, have coaches (or mentors). A good coach can assist with every one of the previous 6 components.

Let's sum up this post on New Year's resolutions' Don't bother making them unless you are serious about following through. By continuing to make resolutions that you do not achieve, you're merely programming your brain for failure rather than success. Each failure adds to the likelihood of more future failures. I believe that one is better off avoiding the extra stress and self-induced torture of continually setting oneself up to fail than continuing on dissatisfied with your current situation while doing one's best to ignore it. It isn't the path I've chosen nor do I advise it be taken by anyone that really desires to improve themselves. My point is simply to take resolutions and goals seriously if you're going to make them and to give yourself the maximum chance for success.

Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year's, and/or whatever end of the year, beginning of the New Year holiday or event you choose to celebrate.

- The Nutrition Ninja signing off.