Happy 2015! – 3 Principles to Help You With Your New Year’s Resolutions

hubertMost of us want to be better; to make some sort of positive change in our lives, and the New Year’s holiday is a prime time for rededicating ourselves to those goals. Whatever your goals, I wish you well. However, everyone knows the problem with New Year’s resolutions. That’s right, mostly they fail. Often individuals “resolve and fail,” resolve and fail, and resolve and fail over and over again until they just give up, perhaps internalizing the message that their goals are simply impossible.

I don’t want you to do that. So here are three “foundational resolutions” (or resolutions about how to pursue your other resolutions) that I have adopted in my life. I know from personal experience that applying these principles can produce dramatic results.

#1 – Don’t “Try Harder,” Try Different

In general, willpower is not the answer to making a positive change in your life. If it were simply a matter of focusing your mind, being more intense, and “trying harder,” you would probably have succeeded already. Trying harder at the same method that failed before isn’t the answer. Instead try something different.

It’s likely that in the physical realm you already know this. Say you’re trying to remove a stain from the living room carpet. If the first product you use doesn’t work, you’re not going to keep trying it. Instead, you’ll find a different cleanser and see if that does the job.

When Thomas Edison failed many time to create a working light bulb, he didn’t keep repeating the same experiment only with more “mental intensity.” It’s laughable to even think about such a thing. Rather, learning from each failure, he tried different options until one worked out. You can do the same.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
― Thomas A. Edison.

Resolve not to rely on willpower. Don’t keep doing what hasn’t worked for you in the past. Do something different.

#2 – Seek and Accept Help

I’ve written about this before. Very few things in life are purely a product of individual effort. We all need help. Championship athletes have coaches and trainers. Business leaders use boards of advisors, consultants, and teams of subordinates to drive success. Virtually any successful person (unless extraordinarily narcissistic) will credit others with helping him or her along the way.

Yet, it’s hard to ask for help, isn’t it? “Please help me,” are the three most powerful words in the English language, but also seem to be the three hardest to speak. We don’t want to look weak, to reveal our true selves, to be vulnerable. So we try to hide our struggles and deny our need for assistance, but we don’t fool anyone except maybe ourselves. I’m trying to let go of appearances and get the help I need, from people and from God. You can do the same.

Resolve to seek and accept help – from man and from God.

#3 Just Keep At It

Some would have put this first on the list, but telling folks, “don’t quit,” by itself usually isn’t helpful. I made it last for a reason. Although we all get that ceasing our efforts guarantees “failure,” that fact alone is not enough to enable us to persevere. Too often we quit, declaring ourselves bested by circumstances or by our own weakness of character.

So this principle comes third because when you are actually following the first two precepts – not relying on willpower but trying different things, and seeking and accepting help – it’s a lot easier to avoid quitting. You may have failed, but you’re not a failure. There is always something new to try. Your friends are there to help (physically and emotionally), and the Holy Spirit is encouraging you. It feels good to be working toward your goals.

Resolve to keep at it. Persistence pays off.

These three principles have worked for me and they will for you too.  May God bless you in the coming year, keep you firm in the faith, and help you achieve your New Year’s resolutions.