Blog ID Number: RSC.001.18 | Wellness Category: Wellness Resources

This Blog in a Nutshell 

You have just recovered from your New Year’s celebration, looking up to a sky of unlimited potential, and staring at a horizon of unfulfilled desires. You are full of enthusiasm and convinced that this year it will be different.  Energized by your ambitious plans to conquer your goals, you have already made up your mind about the exact steps to reach them. Fast forward three months and almost nothing has happened. Why? The answer may surprise you: it is not about the goal, but rather the context in which you view the goal. 

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It is that time of the year.  The euphoric ambiance of the New Year has finally settled in.  The colorful fireworks across the sky ignite our enthusiasm for the day after and beyond.  With a hefty dose of Dom Perignon fueling our energy the path to a better future looks rosy and reachable. We feel ready to reign in the upcoming year by the horns as we embark on our journey to a better place in life.

It is one of the most popular activities across cultures, ascending beyond religious orientation, social status, and even geographical boundaries.  It is almost like a silent global ritual. It is the New Year’s resolution.

The optimists among us stayed awake for this moment to witness the arrival of new opportunities.  The pessimists in the crowd didn’t want to miss that moment either, wanting to ensure that the old year has left us for good.  Yet, no matter where we are along the Pessimism – Optimism spectrum, we are excited to make headway this coming year.

With sunrise on the first day of the new year, we begin wondering.  For some it may take longer than that; for others, it may have already begun.  The vivid thought of what we would like to change in our life begins to bubble.  We question ourselves, “What would make us happier over the next 364 days?”  This may be the right time to come up with a plan of action that would get us closer to reaching our dreams.

Before we dwell on the bad reputation of New Year resolutions and dive into their questionable effectiveness, it is worth taking a step back.  It would be wise to understand the “why” Before we address the “how.”

In this two-part blog series, we will briefly explore two important aspects of the New Year’s Resolution.  The first will focus on the “why” of why resolutions sometimes don’t work.  In the second blog, we will shed light on the “how” of how to develop resolutions that help you reach your goals.

Are you ready?

Regardless of who we are, human beings are always driven by the desire to progress towards more fulfilling experiences in life. For babies it may be as simple as wanting to eat; for toddlers, the need to have right now a specific toy or to spend playful time in social interaction.  As we mature, our needs are morphed into a network of interwoven (sometimes complex and articulated…) set of needs.  These needs ascend beyond the physical, social, or emotional dimensions. They expand broader to include spirituality, intellect, and occupational elements in our – already busy – life.  A glimpse of these dimensions can be visualized by Abraham Maslow’s model of the human hierarchy of needs.

Needs: we all have them, but do we limit our aspiration to fulfill our needs?  What are the other options?  Should we focus on the “can’t live without”, or the “need/must have?”  Should we go the extra mile and include some of the “want to have,” “good to have,” or the “would like to have?” Depending on our appetite, some of us may fairly be satisfied by simply concluding one goal at a time, while others may be less patient and will attempt to go for the entire menu of opportunities. There is no right or wrong here; there is, however, a way to guide us.

When we think about changes we want to make in our lives, the reasoning behind the decision will be predicated on satisfying our specific needs at a given time.  For example, we may be single – not by choice – in our late 30s, hungry for a lasting and meaningful relationship.  We are surrounded by couples who are enjoying loving relations and some of whom already live the parenthood dream.

Our paramount desire for a partner takes a center stage in pursuit of happiness.  From the dating scene to single parties, our focus on finding the perfect partner preoccupies our mind during the day (and sometimes during those lonely nights…).  However, as soon as this need is superseded by a more pressing need, the need for partnership suddenly fades into memory lane. Take, for example, a rare opportunity that presents an attractive career advancement: accepting a well-paid job overseas.  Now look how quickly our couplehood pain evaporates in light of the new, exciting – and more relevant – opportunity.

But imagine for a moment a slightly different scenario.  You are the same 30 something single who has been raised on the value of having a family. In your belief, having a family is well above the need for a rewarding career – it is a cornerstone of your value system.  At that juncture, you will pass on the opportunity to advance your career, and stay focused on finding your life partner. Why? Because it is meaningful to you and to your journey through life; it is your purpose, your call.

A meaningful life is more than simply connecting the dots of a series of accomplishments. According to the Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, the term of Meaningful life is a construct in positive psychology that defines elements that make our life meaningful.  These are the purpose, significance, fulfillment, and satisfaction of our life.  They are characterized by two specific common threads; the way we perceive the life around us and the belief that our life is meaningful.

In Man’s Search for Meaning the Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl argues that suffering – at different levels and varying from one person to another – is unavoidable.  However, it is up to us to decide how to cope with it and progress forward in our lives with a renewed purpose. He further argued that our main driver in life is the discovery and pursuit of our individual meaning in life.  Guess what Freud would have countered as a believer that our main driver in life is a pleasure?

Frankl shaded an interesting light on the discussion about New Year’s resolutions. He suggested that “meaningful life may be different from one person to another, from day to day and from hour to hour.  Therefore, what counts, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”

Aspiring to live a meaningful life is about ignoring temporary background noises, distractions, and temporary temptations, and focus on our core purpose in life.  Our ability to successfully reach goals is hinged on a simple fact; the alignment between our goals and our intrinsic values and beliefs.

For example, you decided to seek out a relationship this coming year.  A relationship requires sensitivity to the other person, as well as the ability to share and be humble.  If any of these elements are not part of our repertoire of intrinsic values, we may find it challenging to find the right partner.

The alignment between goals and values is vital but it is not enough.  We must consider another part: the pain. This is the penalty we may have to pay in case of failure to meet our goal. If the pain is bearable, or acceptable, the likelihood we will reach our goal is relativity low, depending on the alternative.  Take for example one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions in 2018 according to YouGov: Eating better and exercising more.  Most people who decided to follow a healthy diet, or visit the local gym, will have to undergo a substantial attitude adjustment in order to stay on track beyond the already high attrition rate.

In conclusion, goals are meaningless until they become meaningful.  Don’t expect to carry the same self to the following year and expect different results.  I will leave you with a thought inspired by Frankl, “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves”.  I encourage you to view your future life ambition in that context.

We hope that you have found this thought-provoking discussion interesting and relevant to you.  In the following blog – Part 2 Have You Reached Your Goals Yet?  We will uncover three practical and effective ways to convert your New Year’s resolutions from a dream and desires to a welcomed reality.

It is time to embark on our path toward a life worth living.  I wish you and your loved ones, healthy life and meaningful experiences.  A journey filled with a wealth of rewarding experiences. A path paved with loving relationships; those who mean the most to your wellbeing.

These are my thoughts and I welcome yours.

I look forward to your valuable and engaging discussion.

Dr. Doron Zilbershtein

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