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The Cure for Resolution Burnout

The Cure for Resolution Burnout

Show of hands: How many of us created resolutions to start off 2019 on the “right foot”? Most of us, right?

Now for those of us who raised our hands (myself included): how many of those resolutions have been abandoned already?

Statistics suggest that 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February. Isn’t that wild? Turns out, it’s not just normal - it’s completely understandable.

Most people set resolutions and goals based on an internalized ideal of perfection. We fantasize about the perfect bodies, the perfect relationships, and perfect financial stability. We become so goal-obsessed that by the time we reach those goals, there’s a sense of anticlimax - After all that time spent fighting for something, NOW what do you invest all of your time and energy into? More often than not, we miss out on the sense of satisfaction and joy in accomplishing our goals, and instead we focus simply on setting MORE goals, BIGGER goals, BETTER goals. On the other hand, what happens when we fail to reach our goals? That’s right - shame is waiting on the other side to discourage us from trying again and following through. We would rather abandon our goals than face the possibility that there’s something wrong with us when we struggle.

If we zoom out and look at the bigger picture, we as a society are socialized to be achievement-driven: We measure self-worth and self-esteem by our accomplishments and our productivity and also by the way we look. Our culture loves to glorify both body image and wealth. As a result, we not only fear imperfection, but we also fear rest, play, and the concept of “good enough”, lest we risk the possibility that we fall behind. We as a society are not taught to embrace “worthiness without hustle” - the idea that your worth is not conditional based upon your net worth, social status, or “shiny things” amassed, but rather that each of us are inherently lovable and meaningful people just because we exist.

So what’s the solution to resolution burnout? VALUES!

In the world of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, we talk a lot about living a “values-directed life”, which is the action of using your core values to choose your behaviors, your coping strategies, your relationships, and the legacy you leave behind. Values are not something you accomplish, but rather, they serve as the guideposts by which you decide what is worthy enough to invest your time and energy into based on the kind of person you want to be. When you use your values to set your resolutions, you ensure that you are serving your best interests, rather than any sort of social pressure or sense of obligation.

The most important thing that will change when you focus on your values is your appreciation of the process, rather than the outcome. The old adage “Life isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey” is a perfect metaphor: Your values are your journey. Your goals are like interesting attractions along the way, and you get to choose whatever pit stops will make your journey enjoyable, but at the end of the day, your values are what keep you moving forward, ever striving for your best self. A value-driven life means that even when you are unable to achieve your goals, the inherent worth of your actions makes your effort meaningful in the grand scheme of your life. On the other hand, a goal-driven life means that when you don’t meet your goals, you are left with nothing, and all of your effort feels like a waste.

To use the journey metaphor again: Even when you miss out on the attraction you wanted to see, your journey is still worthwhile, and you are still able to appreciate the parts of your trip that were enjoyable and life-enriching.

My helpful rule of thumb: Keep asking yourself why your goals matter to you. Why does it matter to you to lose weight or get in shape? Why does it matter to you to be financially stable? Why does it matter that you become a better husband or wife, a better parent, etc.? When you reveal why your goals matter to you, you begin to identify your true values - and, even better, you can begin to develop more flexible ways of meeting these core values without torturing yourself.

And remember - you’re not in this alone - 80% of people who had a New Years resolution already threw in the towel at this point. So don’t beat yourself up over it. Whatever your struggle might be, maybe it’s time for a new Focus. Our team of professionals would love to guide you on the journey towards your own personal core values and finding wholeness in the New Year.