My New Year’s Resolution? I Resolve NOT to Resolve.

My New Year’s Resolution? I Resolve NOT to Resolve.

Resolutions didn’t work for me.  Not on New Year’s, not ever.  And I guess I’m not alone.  Something like 200 million Americans will make a New Year’s resolution this year.  Fewer than eight percent will keep them.  Think about all those new pieces of exercise equipment in garage sales by summer.  Think about abandoned diets and stop-smoking pledges never really kept.  And more critically, think about the life-or-death issues of repeated attempts at sobriety for those who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction.

This was my story for many years: “I woke up in the middle of the night and threw all the [fill in substance of choice] down the drain.  I swore I was done.  But by [fill in time] the next day, I was back at the [fill in location] for more.”

Does the above “resolution scenario” sound familiar? And yet we do it over and over.  And over. And over.  We all know Einstein’s definition of insanity:  doing the same thing over and over and hoping for different results.  That’s what a New Year’s resolution is to me:  insanity.  To “not do something” or “do something” forever?  It’s so overwhelming.  It’s too absolute.  For people who already suffer from anxiety, worry, depression and addiction, it’s like piling on MORE pressure which ultimately sets us up for failure.

BUT THERE IS HOPE! People DO change.  They get sober; they achieve emotional balance; they live happier, more purposeful lives.  If making resolutions, oaths and promises to ourselves and others isn’t the answer, what is?  Here are a few tactics that really work:


Forever is a REALLY long time, especially when I’m struggling in today. But a single day isn’t nearly as overwhelming as a year or forever. And each day is a new opportunity, a new day to change.  Set yourself up for success by focusing on what you can do in just THIS 24 hours.  If I focus on making positive changes today, I can keep myself out of the danger zones of “yesterday” and “tomorrow.”  Yesterday is gone and I can’t change it.  Tomorrow isn’t here yet, so why worry about it? If even 24 hours seems overwhelming to stay “in” your new behaviors, break up the day into more manageable segments.  “Pillow to pillow,” “an hour at a time” or even “just for this five minutes” are different ways of looking at it.  But whatever you do to get through the day, just don’t get blindsided by “forever” thinking.


I can’t change my life all by myself, and that’s OK!  Making a New Year’s resolution implies that we have the power to change our bad habits all on our own. It’s right there in the definition of “resolute”: purposeful, determined, unwavering.   We might make statements like “I am going to get sober this year.” “I’m going to stop bingeing on food and lose weight.” “I’m going to stop worrying about everything and be happier.”  If it was just a matter of making a firm determination to get sober, get healthy, or get happy, there’d be a much higher rate of success in achieving those kinds of long-term goals.  But that clearly isn’t the case.  Recovery from addiction and other unhealthy habits and mindsets is a “we” thing.  We’ve got to admit that we’re powerless on our own, ask for help, and be willing to accept it.  Asking for and getting help isn’t weakness – it’s ultimately the strength that can restore us to sanity and bring us purpose and happiness.


Practicing gratitude is another thing we can do in 24-hour segments.  When we go to bed at night, a simple “thank you” for any progress we’ve achieved is a peaceful way to end the day. We can review our day and think about how we can do better tomorrow if we’ve fallen short of our goals.  We don’t beat ourselves up, we mindfully congratulate ourselves on even small accomplishments.  When we wake up in the morning, we can sit down and make a gratitude list for what we have instead of wallowing in worry, remorse or self-pity.  Gratitude keeps us in the day.  (There’s that 24-hour thing again!)  Yesterday is gone and we can’t change it. Tomorrow isn’t here yet, so why worry about it?  Let’s just stay in today, do the best we can, and be grateful for what is.


The happiest people learn how to simply “be.”  They take pleasure in surrounding themselves with friends and family. They forgive easily.  They practice acts of kindness. They don’t worry about what other people think of them.  They know the feeling of contentment with what “is.”

These are not things we “resolve” to be or do.  But we can practice being present each day, each moment.  In early sobriety, I learned a trick about staying mindful and I find myself practicing it today in times of overwhelming stress or anxiety.  As I go about my daily tasks, even the simplest ones, I talk myself through them by saying:  “The only thing I have to do right now is __________.”  Put the groceries in the car. Tie my shoes. Brush my teeth. Open the door. Set the table.  It keeps me mindful and present.  It keeps my head clear and my feet on the ground.

Before you make another solemn vow or pledge to stop unhealthy behaviors forever, try incorporating a few of these baby steps toward positive change.  The pressures of New Year’s resolutions might work for 8 percent of people.  Since the odds are not very good, I’m going to resolve NOT to resolve and just try to stay in today.

About the Author:
Mary R. is a wife, mother, daughter, retired business owner and recovering alcoholic who relocated to southwest Florida from Ohio. As a person in recovery, she writes from the heart and shares her strength, hope and experience with others so that they too may recover from the prison of addiction. Her sobriety is strongly engrained in the belief that “you can’t keep it unless you give it away.”  When not volunteering for David Lawrence Centers or actively participating in 12-step meetings, you can find her living her life in recovery to its fullest potential playing tennis, traveling, or trying out a new recipe with family and friends.

Jan 03, 2017 | Blog

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