Before you make any new year’s resolutions, read this

Why we do new year’s resolutions

Probably the main reason we feel a need for new year’s resolutions is that the holiday season is memorable and easily compared with the previous year which gives us a sense of perspective. A year also seems like a long time and there is a feeling we can achieve our goals in that time no matter how ambitious they are. The reality is that sadly, according to research, 88% of new year’s resolutions fail. [1]

Another reason for resolutions is that we can often look back over the year and feel that in some way, our achievements aren’t enough, that we could have done more, or that something is lacking. This can happen even in a successful year.

It is difficult not to compare ourselves with others. Comparison is an attribute of our genetic inheritance designed to encourage us to compete socially. This comparison is massively accelerated by the images we can project of ourselves in the 21st century. Facebook being the ultimate example of course. [2]

What is the alternative
So how can we make the most of our energy and desire for change without making rash promises or setting ambitious and unlikely goals? There is a very real desire for change that we should harness to our benefit.

My suggestion for making beneficial change is to ask yourself this question: “How much conflict has there been in my life in 2015?”

Conflict is counter-productive compared to it’s alternative which is collaboration. Conflict is evidence of our failure to convince or persuade. Relating smoothly proves we are successfully integrated in our community. It shows how much respect we are held in and whether we are viewed as hostile or collaborative by our peers.

How much conflict we experience is the only authentic and realistic measure of progress in our self-development practices. Nothing else can possibly be as authentic or as useful.

Measuring our progress
Here is an example end of year progress audit.

“Have I experienced more or less conflict in 2015 with my:

  • Partner
  • Family
  • Partners family!
  • Friends
  • Colleagues
  • Partner’s friends…
  • Neighbours
  • Acquaintances
  • Business contacts
  • Others”

Write less or more next to the category and give yourself an overall score. More conflict or less.

You can make up your own categories or do it thoroughly person by person, but we will all know pretty quickly, just by bringing to mind those people or groups, whether we have had more or less conflict with them in 2015 than we did in 2014.

Our new year’s resolutions then become simple, achievable and sustainable.

If there was less conflict in 2015 than 2014 for any group, identify why that is and your resolution will be to ensure that trend continues and grows in 2016.

If there was more conflict in 2015 than 2014 for any group, identify why that is and your resolution will be to try to reduce the level of conflict in 2016.

If you’re fortunate enough to have not experienced ‘any’ conflict in 2015, then your resolution will be to help others to also experience that in 2016.

Happy New Year to you all!


  1. A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning.
  2. Facebook makes us feel worse about ourselves (surprise!).