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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Forgot Resolutions Already? 2 Strategies to Get You Back on Track

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 2nd 2010

It's been one month now since the New Year and maybe a month since you looked out onto the next year ready to start anew and fresh with resolutions in hand. Well, after years of disappointment of not actually making it to the gym in the way intended, someone shouted, "resolutions don't work" and now there's been a revolution lately with many people leading a unfair backlash against resolutions.  Here's some news, it's not the lack of intention or effort even, there's a flaw in the resolutions strategy. Here's what you need to know...

There are two ingredients that people overlook:

  1. One major missing ingredient in people's strategies is that there is an inadequate follow-up plan to the resolution.

  2. The second ingredient is a plan to work with that inherent critic that is always ready to say "you suck, this doesn't work."

For the first, it is upon us to schedule a date with ourselves monthly, if not weekly, to review the resolution and see what's working and not working. One thing we know is that we are meant to learn from the history of our behavior, so this reflective period is really meant as a way to refine the plan.

For example, if you have a resolution and a week goes by and nothing happens, when you sit down to reflect on the week, you can see what times you hit the snooze button and perhaps the clock needs to move across the room to make you get out of bed. Refinements can go on and on throughout the year, treat it as an experiment.

The second ingredient, we need to understand and accept that we really do have this inner critic that is lobbying hard for status quo. Why? All kinds of reasons, one major one is a fear that we might fail. Another one, believe it or not, surrounds itself around the emotion of shame. Many of us simply don't feel worthy of self-love. In fact, uncomfortable feelings sometimes arise when we do caring things for ourselves. So you can see why there would be an aversion here.

So, take this as an opportunity to reflect back on the last month, while setting aside that inner judge, just to review how you're doing with your aspirations for this year. If you don't have time now, see if you can set a date with yourself (maybe ½ hour), to jot down what your aspirations were and where you are with them. Do you need any revisions in strategy? As judgment arises, it's best if you can begin to understand what is behind the judgment (e.g. fear of failure, shame), but if not, just thank it for its opinion, let it be and come back to this practice.  

Here's a quick story about Albert Einstein. After 3 years of working tirelessly on his experiment for relativity, the team came to a dead end. One member said, "Dr. Einstein, we've failed, I can't believe we've spent all this time, what waste." To this Einstein said, "Now we know which way not to go."

It's this type of attitude we want to cultivate with this, finding which ways to go and which ways not to go. Resolutions are Ok, engage these two missing ingredients and treat it as an experiment, and sprinkle a little kindness on top.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Self-Love - Noreen Wedman, MS - Feb 3rd 2010

Timely article! Lack of adequate self-love impairs setting and keeping affirmations. I suspect most people have a very conditional self-love based on performance quality or some other standard rather than it being a natural thing to do. I also think most people love themselves, but it is compromised by shame. Shame can be such a "normal" state for people who have experienced abusive childhoods that it may be even hard to identify. Practicing an affirmation/intention can develop self-love.

I have some other ideas about alternatives to resolutions

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