It’s New Year’s Eve again, and that means many people will be making their New Years resolutions, and many people will fail at keeping those resolutions.  One reason for the failures is that people set negative goals such as:

  • I won’t smoke anymore.
  • I won’t eat so much.
  • I’ll quit drinking for good.
  • I won’t spend myself into debt anymore.
  • I’ll never  use drugs again.

It’s a fine thing to want to quit or reduce these habits, and some people will simply decide to do it like this, and succeed, but many will fail.  The reason for the failure is that there is no tangible plan involved other than to just not do the thing in question, there are no actionable steps- the goals are simple negatives – phrased with words like “I won’t”, “i’ll quit” or “never again”.  People often stop these habits for a few weeks with one of these resolutions, then stress builds up, or they start to miss whatever the habit was providing for them, and they go back to it.

One way to make these resolutions stick is to put them into a positive form by making them actionable.  For example:

This year, when I feel like drinking alcohol, I’m going to ______________instead.  (Then fill in the blank with whatever alternative activities might serve the same needs that drinking was serving for you).

So instead of just not drinking, which is the absence of an activity, you give yourself something positive to do instead.  I left my example blank because it’s up to you to really find the alternative activities that personally work for you – although I wouldn’t suggest filling in the blank with “go to an AA meeting” or “call my sponsor” – because these are activities which mainly focus once again on a negative – not doing the thing – and you should really focus on a positive – actually taking an action that gets you away from drinking and provides fun or stress relief or whatever it was that you were getting out of drinking.

Obviously, for some people, quitting these habits may require more attention than this simple restructuring of a resolution, but this is a great starting point which can help anyone who wants to change a destructive habit.  Ultimately, to focus on not drinking, not smoking, etc – is to torture yourself by staying focused on that thing, get focused on something else and you won’t care about the drinking or smoking anymore – before you even realize it!

UPDATE: A good term to describe the problem I’m addressing here just occurred to me – Anti-goal.  The constant quest to not do something is an anti-goal, and that can’t be a good thing.

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