Existential Psychology

Make Your New Year’s Resolution Stick

By  | 

It’s that time of the year again. The time where inebriated people shout out implausible promises around friends and family. They believe that despite their track records, despite repeatedly failing to make even one of their past new year’s resolutions stick over the long term, this time things are going to be different.

But unless you take a different approach the result won’t be any different. You’ll put in a half-assed effort for a couple weeks or months before coming up with a rationalization and quitting. We’ve already charted some of the challenges around new years resolutions from the perspectives of behavioral psychology and motivational interviewing. Here we’ll use an existential model.

From our existential point of view you shouldn’t actually put your focus on the resolution but instead on discovering the authentic reason behind it. We could say that there are bad reasons and good reasons to make any life change. But we don’t mean bad or good from the standpoints of morality or social desirability. We mean bad or good from the standpoint of personal meaning. If the reason feels personally meaningful it’s good. If it doesn’t feel personally meaningful it’s bad.

All change is hard, really hard. There’s no reason to believe you’ll successfully enact your chosen life change unless you really want it and from the existential point of view if it’s not filled to the brim with personal meaning then you don’t really want it. You’ve got to feel that psychological pull, that voice speaking your language telling you that this life change represents your path, a path that will help you actualize who and what you are. Otherwise you’re just wasting your time, putting effort into something you only want at the superficial level. To make life changes stick you’ve got to dig deep, you’ve got to fight and struggle and keep going when things get tough. There just isn’t enough there in those superficial desired life changes to compel you to keep going. If you have a good reason then you have a chance to make a new year’s resolution stick. If you have a bad reason then despite how good it looks on the surface you have no chance.