In 2022, let’s work on our strengths, not on our weaknesses

The Cast Stone

A LEAP OF FAITH Most people like to make new year resolutions but they shouldn’t be the be all and end all. Pic: istock

The Cast Stone
Michael Gallagher

I’ve always hated New Year’s resolutions. The annual collective rush to ‘improve oneself’ in the opening days of January never rested well with me. Maybe I’m a bit odd, but I never felt comfortable being part of the great throng of humanity taking to the gyms, roads, tracks or fields in a brutal burst of energetic endeavour just after Christmas.
At the start of every year our world is decorated with fluorescent-covered bodies moving forward towards a brighter, lighter future. It’s a wonderful sight and an even greater target, but I leave that to others and try to spread my personal spontaneity over the entire year.
The fact that I hate dwelling on flaws and negativity also means I always avoid New Year’s resolutions like the plague. I believe we would live in a much better society if we approached things in a more positive frame of mind and American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt seems to agree with me.
The New Yorker, who specialises in moral emotions, believes too many people concentrate on negative aspects of life when a more positive outlook would serve them better.
His recent comments on the annual January resolutions reflect his thinking on how life should be approached: “Work on your strengths, not your weaknesses. How many of your New Year’s resolutions have been about fixing a flaw?”
In my muddled brain, Haidt hits the nail on the head here. We rarely begin the year by praising ourselves for something. Instead, in the days after Christmas many of us dwell on how much we’ve eaten or drank and promise to get rid of excess flab, exercise regularly, alter our eating habits or improve ourselves in one way or another.
This is mirrored in many corners of the planet and a study in the American Journal of Clinical Psychology tells us the five most popular New Year’s resolutions are - exercise to get in shape (19.7 percent) - diet to lose weight (18.3 percent) - save money (14.8 percenr) - eat healthier in general (11.9 percent) and something for self-care (5.5 percent).
The study also asked respondents what they found to be the easiest and most difficult types of resolutions to keep. A total of 26.5 percent said that personal development resolutions, such as learning a hobby or reading more, have been the easiest to keep going.
On the flip side, 32.7 percent said that healthy eating or diet changes were the most difficult to hold onto.
In general, the data showed how difficult it can be to keep a resolution. Almost 37 percent reported that they were only able to keep theirs for one month or less while 81 percent were able to keep them for six months or less, and only 11.4 percent said they were able to make permanent changes.
Why is the successful number so small? Why is the annual failure rate so large time and time again? The same American study gives three reasons for the lack of success.
The learned men and women say many of us feel fundamentally flawed and believe we’re undeserving of success and happiness. The study also says we self-sabotage because we’re afraid of the new existence success will bring. The third reason is a belief that more success brings a bigger burden requiring more and more effort.
Personally, I’m not sure about any of this – and most people will hone in on the large number of New Year’s resolutions ending up in the graveyard of broken dreams. However, all I know is almost one-eighth of people succeed in bringing their New Year’s resolution to fruition, which is great. Every year, millions of people across the world make a promise to themselves at the beginning of January and end up fitter and lighter with more money in the bank.
Many of the readers of The Mayo News will be part of this cohort, which is wonderful, but nothing will get me to join the resolution-rush every January. Instead, I will try and focus on the positives in life and keep driving forward day by day, step by step. Maybe, I’m trying to avoid resolutions in case I cannot see them through, but that’s my way of doing things.
If you’ve made a resolution, I wish you total success. Enjoy every moment and be aware that millions of people around the world make their resolution happen.