Ah, the beginning of a new year, a fresh start, a clean slate – a time when many of us embark on the journey of setting New Year’s goals. But, let’s be honest, how often have you made a resolution and let it fade into oblivion after just a few weeks? If you’re nodding in agreement, you’re not alone. In this blog, we’re going to dive into the fascinating psychology of why we resist New Year’s resolutions and explore some strategies to overcome this resistance, especially for anxious overachievers.
8 Reasons Why We Resist New Year’s Resolutions
Change, regardless of the time of year, is hard. Human beings are creatures of habit, and our brains are wired to resist change. When we decide to set New Year’s goals, we’re essentially telling our brains, “Hey, let’s switch things up!” It’s no wonder that resistance kicks in. We’re challenging the status quo, and our inner inertia fights back. Here are some common reasons why we resist New Year’s resolutions:
Fear of Failure:
Fear of failure is a universal human experience. We are hardwired to avoid situations that might lead to disappointment or negative outcomes. When we set ambitious and high-stakes New Year’s resolutions, such as losing a significant amount of weight, launching a business, or quitting a deeply ingrained habit, the prospect of not achieving these goals can be overwhelming. We envision ourselves falling short, and that fear of disappointment can paralyze us. The anxiety and self-criticism that accompany potential failure can make us hesitant to even attempt setting resolutions, as it’s safer to remain in our current, comfortable state rather than face the possibility of not meeting our aspirations.
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological theory that explains how individuals experience discomfort when their actions don’t align with their beliefs or self-image. New Year’s goals often force us to acknowledge the discrepancy between our current state and our desired state. When we set a resolution to quit smoking, for instance, we’re confronted with the cognitive dissonance between the knowledge that smoking is detrimental to our health and our current habit of smoking. This dissonance can be deeply unsettling, as we grapple with the disparity between our ideal self and our present self. This inner conflict can lead to resistance as we find it difficult to reconcile our existing habits with the changes we desire.
The allure of a fresh start in the New Year and New Year goals can lead to overcommitment. We’re brimming with enthusiasm and optimism, eager to make dramatic changes in our lives. We set multiple resolutions, each with its own set of challenges and commitments. However, our enthusiasm can dwindle rapidly when we realize we’ve taken on more than we can realistically handle. Overcommitting can quickly overwhelm us and sabotage our own efforts. The result? We become reluctant to set resolutions in the first place, as the fear of taking on too much and failing looms large.
Perfectionism can paralyze us when it comes to setting and achieving New Year’s resolutions. We set the bar unreasonably high, aiming for a “perfect” transformation. Anything less than this unattainable perfection is perceived as failure. This all-or-nothing thinking leads us to avoid starting at all, as we’re unwilling to accept anything less than an ideal outcome. We become so fixated on getting it exactly right that we miss the value of progress and incremental change.
Lack of Accountability:
Accountability plays a vital role in goal achievement. When we keep our New Year goals to ourselves, there’s no external check on our progress or support system to lean on when we falter. The absence of accountability can make it easier to let our resolutions fall by the wayside. It’s a significant factor in our resistance to setting and achieving our goals, as there’s no one to encourage us or hold us responsible for our actions.
Our comfort zones are our refuge, where we feel safe and in control. Setting a resolution, however, requires us to step out of this comfort zone and into the uncharted territory of change. It can be disconcerting to leave behind the familiar and face the uncertainty of new habits and routines. This discomfort is a significant reason why we resist resolutions, as we often prefer the known over the unknown.
When we’ve attempted and failed at past resolutions, it can create a sense of disillusionment. We may become skeptical of the entire concept of New Year’s goal setting, thinking, “I’ve tried this before, and it didn’t work.” This negative history can breed resistance to attempting change again, as our prior failures cast a shadow of doubt over our ability to succeed.
Sometimes, external pressures can exacerbate our resistance to New Year’s resolutions. The incessant social media posts showcasing seemingly perfect resolutions and the well-intentioned advice from friends and family can lead to feelings of inadequacy and pressure to conform. This external influence can cause resistance, as we might perceive setting resolutions as an obligation rather than a personal choice. We may feel compelled to set resolutions to fit in or meet others’ expectations rather than driven by our own intrinsic motivation.
6 Ways to Overcoming Resistance for Anxious Overachievers
Now that we’ve dissected the reasons behind our resistance to New Year’s resolutions, let’s explore some strategies to help you embrace change and set more achievable goals.
Set Realistic Goals:
For anxious overachievers, the drive for perfection can lead to setting unattainable, grandiose goals. Realistic goal-setting is essential because it allows you to channel your energy and ambition more effectively. By breaking down larger resolutions into smaller, achievable steps, you can reduce the fear of failure. This approach aligns with your need for high standards but ensures that your expectations are reasonable and manageable.
Anxious overachievers tend to be hard on themselves, often viewing any setback or slip-up as a personal failure. Embracing imperfection is a powerful strategy for this group, as it helps in managing the overwhelming self-criticism that can accompany challenges. Recognize that setbacks are part of any journey, and see them as opportunities for personal growth. This mindset shift can ease the pressure you place on yourself and make your New Year goals feel more approachable.
Anxious overachievers might feel immense pressure to conform to the New Year’s resolution tradition and execute their plans flawlessly from day one. However, this self-imposed timeline can intensify anxiety. Remember that change doesn’t need to adhere to a calendar. By giving yourself the freedom to start when you’re genuinely ready and committed, you can reduce the anxiety associated with arbitrary deadlines and focus on your motivation and determination.
Accountability can be especially valuable for anxious overachievers. Sharing your New Year goals with a friend, family member, or support group can offer a sense of structure and discipline. It’s an external motivator that complements your inner drive. Consider seeking an accountability partner who shares your resolution, as this shared commitment can provide mutual support and encouragement.
Anxiety often stems from self-criticism and fear of not meeting one’s high standards. Practicing self-compassion is a powerful antidote to this. Instead of berating yourself for perceived shortcomings, forgive yourself for any missteps along the way. Self-compassion encourages a more constructive and gentle approach to personal growth, reducing anxiety while maintaining your pursuit of excellence.
Anxious overachievers may be inclined to see unexpected challenges as insurmountable roadblocks, intensifying their anxiety. Staying flexible is crucial in such situations. Life is unpredictable, and adaptability is a valuable trait. Be open to adjusting your resolutions as needed to accommodate changing circumstances. This flexibility not only reduces anxiety but also allows you to continue making progress even when faced with adversity.
Change doesn’t have to be about strict resolutions; it can be a journey of self-improvement and self-acceptance! Our NYC Therapists can help!
Change doesn’t have to start with a laundry list of resolutions. At Uncover Mental Health Counseling in NYC, we offer a different approach to personal growth and self-acceptance. Let’s explore a new way to kickstart your journey towards self-acceptance and a stronger sense of self-worth. Here’s how you can begin:
- Reach out to Uncover Mental Health Counseling and schedule a free consultation call. We’re here to provide a listening ear and help you find the support you need.
- Meet with one of our dedicated self-esteem therapists in New York City. Your first session is a judgment-free zone where you can open up about your thoughts, concerns, and aspirations.
- Kickstart your mental health journey in 2024.