It’s a universal condition that we make New Year’s resolutions that inevitably lead to failure. When they do, we find ourselves sometimes swinging back even further in the opposite direction. It’s a painful and disappointing experience, which is only made worse by the fact that we break a promise to ourselves. So why does it happen and what can we do about it? These are some practices and viewpoints from the COR perspective on how to win this year with your New Year’s resolution.

Resolutions fail when we set them from the Survivor Self.

At COR, we think of the human experience as three different selves: the Healthy Self, the Wounded Self and the Survivor Self. It’s the interplay between the Healthy Self and the Survivor Self that is key to keeping or breaking resolutions. When we make resolutions from the Survivor Self, it usually ends in failure. So the question you want to ask yourself is, what part of me is making this resolution? 

How to know if you’re making resolutions from the Survivor Self. 

  1. They’re made out of a reaction to something. The Survivor Self is the part of us that makes a resolution out of a reaction to something. This isn’t to say we can’t learn from our experiences and adjust accordingly. But when we are driven by reaction our resolutions will not stick. 
  2. They have a demanding sense of urgency for no real reason. Some of the hallmarks you may notice when making a resolution from the Survivor Self is that it often has a gripping quality, a sense of urgency and desperation that it must be achieved at all costs and that it must happen right now
  3. They move away from something uncomfortable, rather than towards something desirable. Survivor Self resolutions have a negative objective. They focus on moving away from something we deem bad, rather towards something we want that’s good. For example, making a resolution to stop drinking or stop eating sugar etc. 
  4. They usually contain a should. Survivor Self resolutions are often powered by an “I should do this,” without there being much embodied reasoning beyond this.  
  5. They are unrealistic or unclear. Stating that you’ll never be mad again is great, but it’s not connected to the reality of what life may actually bring and it’s not connected to how the resolution is going to live in the day-to-day. 
  6. They tend towards perfectionism. The final hallmark to recognise a Survivor Self leading the way is that we make a resolution that it’s perfection-oriented instead of excellence-orientated. Perfection is the illusion that a one time event will solve all our problems. When our resolutions are geared towards perfectionism instead of excellence we are destined for failure. 

What part of you is driving the bus?

Gripping to urgency, a negative objective, and a should perspective are not terrible things, but they are the beginning of an inquiry in and of themselves.  When we take reactive postures and build a resolution on from it, we’ve turned that inquiry into a resolution. That’s the Survivor Self functioning. 

It is not so much questioning the resolution, but rather what part of you is driving the bus –  the Survivor Self or the Healthy Self. 

When we fail, we fortify the Survivor Self. 

Every time we make a resolution that’s driven by our Survivor Self it is destined to fail because our Survivor Self doesn’t know how to make a good healthy resolution. When the resolution fails, the Survivor Self feels the blame, shame, pain and waves of doubt begin to flood in. Whatever the spirit of that resolution was, whether that be more giving, more loving, or more healthy, we move further away from it. When we have a resolution that we break, it has a way of doubling down on us. We feed into it so that the habit or pain point of the unskillful quality grows. 

How to make resolutions from your Healthy Self. 

The golden secret is in how we approach failure.

We want resolutions to come from the Healthy Self. So how can we figure out where we are making this decision from? 

  1. They strive for excellence. Excellence involves cultivating something over a long period of time, whether that be weeks, months or the whole year. Cultivating excellence leaves room for failure whereas perfection is the illusion of a one time life changing event.  Excellence is something you build, succeed, fail, build a little more, maybe fail again but eventually pick it back up, learn and grow from each failure. The golden secret to excellence is in our approach to failure. Failure is approached very differently from the Survivor Self than the Healthy Self. When we fail, the Survivor Self uses the failure as further evidence as to why we’re not good enough. Here’s a phrase to take with you this year, when I bring compassionate curiosity to my misstep I’m bringing the Healthy Self online
  2. They’re based on conscious choice. When you make a resolution based on “I should do this,” try to bring compassionate curiosity and ask why. This is not to suggest that these types of “should” resolutions cannot be achieved, but rather to explore why you think you need them. It’s a Healthy self quality when we get closer to our values and understand why we’re doing something. 
  3. They’re realistic, not fantastical. Every resolution needs to be realistic and outside a fantastical way of thinking. Make a plan you know you can stick to and is realistic to achieve. It takes patience and discernment but that’s also a quality of the Healthy self. 
  4. They remind you of your goodness. When we make resolutions that remind us of our goodness, value, or belovedness they are much easier to achieve because they feel good to do. This is important as it is an action that comes from knowing you are worthy of love. 

From now on, try setting your resolutions from your Healthy Self. Uncover what it feels like and how it functions so you can choose things that foster it further. If you think you may require some assistance with uncovering your Healthy Self, I invite you to look into one of our Men’s Immersion Weekend or Women’s Immersion Weekend this year. 

These are the weekends set aside to cultivate the Healthy Self in a space where you will be reminded of your goodness, your belovedness and how valuable you are. You’ll have a chance to courageously look at the Survivor Self part of you that may be sabotaging or pulling you off course. We invite you this year to let this be the year that you step into the best version of yourself and choose one of these weekends that will support you in doing that. We wish you all the best as you head into a prosperous and exciting and beautiful new year.