I’m sure by now that many of those reading this who have made New Year’s resolutions have already given up on them. That’s not a criticism of the reader or those who make New Year’s resolutions but rather a statement of widely held belief. Every year, people across the globe decide to make the present January 1st, the month, day, and year they will follow through on their most difficult challenges and succeed at them only to a few short weeks later abandon the idea altogether. The question then arises, why do people continue to make New Year’s resolutions despite continuing to fail at them?

I personally have never made a New Year’s resolution, though I have toyed with the idea an occasion or two. Over time, I slowly came to the understanding of why that was the case.

I have achieved many accomplishments. I’ve been fortunate enough to run a marathon, skydive, climb mountains, travel the world, earn five degrees, pursue numerous other endeavors, live half of my life in Hawaii, and more recently write an epic fantasy novel.

Despite my seemingly intriguing resume, my life is far from perfect and how things look on paper seldom tells the whole story. While I have followed through on many of my dreams and goals, I suffer from the original sin of being human. Namely, I often defer to self-gratification, laziness, and procrastination as opposed to pursuing nobler pursuits and making more efficacious use of my time. Despite that shared liability, I was afforded the opportunity of having access to a strong support system with people who believed in me. That has given me a slight edge by instilling in me optimism and determination; traits that are often in short supply.

Growing up, I was raised in a broken home. I went from living in a rundown trailer park in Kentucky to an urban ghetto in North Carolina. I’ve been threatened at gunpoint, beaten up, and spent many days avoiding the frequent gunfire that littered my neighborhood. Each day, I would not only have to worry about whether I was in the line of fire of competing drug dealers but also when I was going to eat my next meal, as pictures of my younger malnourished self can attest to.

Living in an environment populated with pervasive crime, drug use, and with people who have given up on all hope was challenging to say the least. The general area where I grew up was not kind to many passers by, as demonstrated by the murder of Michael Jordan’s father. When even the local Domino’s Pizza wouldn’t deliver to your neighborhood because of their drivers continuously getting robbed, you knew you were living in a bad neighborhood.   

Fortunately, I did have people that I could turn to for advice. I did have examples of success and role models that I could strive to emulate. I had dreams and goals that many did not. When I was having a difficult time, my escape was reading The Chronicles of Narnia, watching episodes of the original Doctor Who, Quantum Leap, and every single episode of Star Trek The Next Generation.

Yes, I was that skinny; nerdy kid that many people chided and laughed at. I did my best to take it in stride. Instead of turning to crack cocaine that was being sold in the stairwell where I walked through every day on my way to school or to the 40’s and Boone’s Farm that were consumed in massive quantities on my street corner,
 I opted to look inward and imagine the possible as well as the seemingly impossible .

When attempting to tackle fears and challenges or pursue dreams and goals, many people often have the wrong approach.

In the end, it’s not about whether you win or lose. It’s not even about how you play the game. What it’s really about is whether or not you choose to play the game at all. Making a New Year’s resolution implicitly tells your subconscious mind that you have failed at it before and will likely fail again. Going through the motions of making the resolution provides a sense of accomplishment that will soon be replaced with a sense of failure once you realize the reason you put off doing it in the first place was because it seemed too daunting and had an unrealistic likelihood of being achieved. This only serves to reinforce the already existing subconscious belief held before once it fails.

Instead of making a resolution, a better approach is to make a list of goals and dreams, or a single goal or dream, accompanied with small steps that can be taken to eventually realize those outcomes. I recommend making that list today, or any day except New Years. More importantly, one must insure that a short-term failure or departure from those steps does not mean the goal is not achievable. Sometimes timelines are missed, sometimes steps are skipped, but the critical thing to remember is that one must get in the regular habit of making small actions towards a specific goal. In addition, one must persuade oneself that the goal is achievable in spite of the opinions of others or even one’s own previously held belief. While it’s certainly true that not every goal or dream will be achieved, it’s also true that none of them will be achieved if every February you wait until next January to make your next resolution that your subconscious mind believes is already destined to fail.

Roy Huff, MS, MAEd

 


Comments

02/17/2013 10:09am

Nice post, Ed. Like the color and lay-out as well. I make resolutions every year. Some last longer than others. This year I am still working on one of them even as we speak (or write, as the case may be.) Good work.

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02/24/2013 11:58pm

Brilliant post Roy. I too have never made a resolution. I too grew up in the roughest neighbour hood in town, okay no guns and no drugs, but gangs of bullies preyed on me all the time for being so small. I took up martial arts to protect myself and was then preyed on by bullying schoolteachers instead. My goals are quite simple - get published (done that) - get screenplay on celluloid (nearly there) - be able to move to a better climate for my health. Thanks for letting me read your post.

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02/17/2013 10:12am

Good points Roy!

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02/17/2013 10:22am

We are the sum of our experiences, even the negative. The first step toward rising above them is to step out of the box mentally and realize that the possibilities are endless. It looks to me as if you have done so!

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02/17/2013 2:41pm

I greatly appreciate that Connie.

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02/17/2013 11:38am

Great stuff, Roy - you're making the world a better place with your efforts - Glen

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02/17/2013 2:40pm

Thanks Glen. Your words are very kind.

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02/17/2013 12:17pm

Words to live by! I wrote a post (yes, on Jan 1. LOL!) about goals vs. resolutions, in favor of the small goals. It definitely works. :-)

http://catherinechant.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/writing-goals-for-the-new-year/

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Rita
02/17/2013 3:51pm

Very well said. So sorry to hear about the hardships you had to go through. The most important thing is that you did not give up on yourself. I too have have made that list of Dreams & Goals and keep adding to it everyday :)

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02/17/2013 6:43pm

I hope you are able to achieve every single one of those dreams!

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Charlotte Huff
02/17/2013 5:36pm

You are a wise man, and a very talented writer you should be proud.

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02/17/2013 6:42pm

I appreciate your compliments. Thanks so much.

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02/18/2013 3:26am

Excellent article. True, clear, and wise. We humans tend to like big, strong words such as "resolutions". They raise us above our intrinsic smallness in the universe. Your realistic view of what we can and cannot achieve is definitely food for thought. Thank you for sharing!

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Dorothy Downs
02/18/2013 7:36am

I believe that challenges are a part of life that are there to help make us grow. Some may need the structure and public acknowledgement of once a year resolutions to help them move forward; others just internally strive to move forward and grow. You have a wonderful outlook and a great way with expressing yourself.

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02/18/2013 11:24am

Goals and small steps to achieve them are the way to go. I consistently used that strategy with my clients in mental health work and I do it for myself too. Last year it was publishing my book, this year, it's to sell copies of it, buy my own house (finally, in the middle age of my life) and make a long awaited overseas trip to Europe. The finishing line is nigh for the house and the trip - but I want to keep taking those 'baby steps' needed to get my book more well known.

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02/18/2013 12:11pm

Thank you for your inspiring story, Roy. It will help, as I stay with the challenges I've taken on in my writing and my personal life. Meanwhile, don't forget the moment, each precious living moment. May you be fully aware.

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02/18/2013 7:58pm

I have kept every single New Years resolution I have ever made, without fail or compromise. I do this by making my resolutions on the final day of the year. That is, for 2012 I made my resolutions on December 31, sometime in the evening. I only include those things which I have accomplished. For example, one of my New Years resolutions for 2013 will probably be to make nonsensical and paradoxical comments on other people's blog sites. Of course, I will wait until New Years Eve ten months from now to finalize it. But I think I'm off to a good start, this will probably be among my choices. Another might be to get people to read all of the way to the end of such comments. Are you still with me? If you are, please text me and let me know, even though you realize by now this has been a complete waste of your time. Look at the bright side. You could have been in a coma. Now THAT would be a real waste of time.

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02/18/2013 9:02pm

Breadth of experience in life is what makes us whole. I agree with a lot you say, but it would be disingenuous not to concede that my failures cause me as much pleasure as my successes. The facility to look back and laugh is one I would never deny myself. I don't personally want to measure my life in terms of success or failure. Do that and you will always fail.

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02/19/2013 5:18am

Can you believe there's actually a holiday on January 17th that's called "Ditch Your Resolution Day"? Not much faith in humankind, huh? I agree setting goals any day of the year and following through step-by-step is important. Great article. Very inspirational!

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Michael Phoenix
02/20/2013 7:37am

I agree with you. Every day is a chance to make a resolution. Every moment, a chance to change your life. Thank you for sharing your experiences and part of your life. Hopefully, it will make a difference in another person's life as well.

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02/20/2013 11:28am

It sounds as though you have had an interesting life, Roy. I live in what I had assumed was not a great neighborhood but not bad. Well, I laughed out loud at the part where Dominos won't deliver due to being robbed. I live in Las Vegas, and the local Dominos won't deliver here after dark. The other day coming home from the grocery store, my roommate and I couldn't go into the circle or the alley where we live. There were cops blocking the way saying that they were serving a warrant and we would have to wait about 10 minutes. After they let us around back to our alley, where we unload the car, there was a whole convoy of cops in trucks and vans dressed in flack jackets. It looked very military. Later, we found out that they busted a meth operation a few apartments over from us..so I guess you could say I'm in a bad area too, although I've never run into any problems. Best of luck to you in your endeavors! Have you considered writing a memoir next? I think it would be fascinating! :)

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02/20/2013 5:04pm

This post was very insightful and very helpful for anyone who seeks to achieve a goal Breaking a large goal into many small accomplishments makes the large goal less daunting and more achievable. Good post Very worthwhile.

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Lynda Dickson
02/20/2013 6:24pm

Great post, Roy. What an interesting life you've had.

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02/20/2013 7:15pm

I thought it was well written, and my husband would agree with you He says practically the same thing. I,on the other hand, make a list of list of goals that I treat as resolutions. Did you know reso (root of resolve/resolution) means to partner with the Holy Spirit? Since I've learned that, I really think about what I really want to achieve, knowing I don't have to do it alone. Thanks for sharing your story!
Blessings

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02/21/2013 7:57pm

When I think about it, every resolution comes with a morsel of that mortal sin that keeps us from achieving them, but I'd like to think that we can achieve small resolutions and build upon them. . . who knows, maybe some of us will get lucky in accomplishing the bigger ones before next January :) Happy blogging !!

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Vonda Norwood
02/24/2013 11:02pm

Very nice post and good way to open the mind to self-examination.
:-D

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02/25/2013 4:53am

Your life experiences, whether you liked them, hated them or feared them certainly have made you unique. And I look forward to reading your novel (which I just purchased). It's probably a great thing that you developed your desire to read early on in life - for it, more than any other single thing, allowed you to see beyond. I look forward to great stuff from you!

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02/25/2013 6:16am

Roy, great post. Your point is akin to what I call the Groundhog Day effect, working and practicing and taking small steps each and every day, even though reaching the goal seems impossible or sometimes even pointless. And then one day you realize all you've accomplished, and it pays off (get the girl, save a life, publish a book).

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02/25/2013 8:54am

I try to make a new years resolution based on something logical, something that needs addressed that possesses a challenge, but at the same time something that is realistic. I believe that many people set unrealistic goals and fail because in retrospect, they have set themselves up for that failure upon a subconscious level. When you take the time to examine your life and your current difficulties or areas that need work, it makes sense to start with the lesser of the two evils and then once you have accomplished those particular goals, you can move along to more pressing issues. Many people strive for perfection and when they do not achieve that objective, they get frustrated and eventually sabatash those goals. When you set more realistic objectives, they are easier to correct and will work themselves out. People need to know that perfection doesn't exist and when you set more realistic goals one at a time, you will be better at achieving the outcome you desire. Loved the article and I look forward to reading more. Best wishes in all that you do.

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02/28/2013 11:34am

Roy, Thanks for the inspirational blog. My writing partner, Val Richards and I took some time from our work session to read it together. We follow you on goodreads and tweeter. We're both looking forward to reading your book. J.L. Bond

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03/24/2013 4:57pm

I greatly appreciate that! Thank-you.

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03/05/2013 11:05am

I can relate. I steer clear of New Year resolutions and find myself making lists and goals on a regular basis.

When I decided to write I had a lot of people say to me in one form or another, "uuh ok, well good luck". To them it seemed like a goal that was too difficult to accomplish or they thought I just couldn't do it. Yet I was determined and still am.

Congratulations on your perseverance and success!

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Ramy Tadros
06/08/2013 5:07am

Thank you for your story, Roy, and your practical advice.

I'm always inspired to read about people who succeed at living well, even when life has dealt them a horrible starting hand.

I also enjoyed your advice on how to complete a personal challenge or New Year's resolution. Coming from you—someone who has first-hand experience and credentials and accomplishments—I shall take your advice over an article written by an academic without any real experience.

Thank you and keep up the great writing!

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Donna Martin
07/16/2013 1:30am

Life is always full of ups and downs.going through tough times is a natural and good thing. To be successful takes time and an incredible amount of patience. We must have confidence and perseverance in order to succeed.

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07/21/2013 5:46pm

As someone who used to make new year's resolutions, let me thank you. I always thought there was something wrong with me when I decided to stop and focus on things like setting real goals. But you're absolutely right: setting goals and setting the steps you need to accomplish them are so much more important than vague resolutions like "I want to lose weight" or "I want my blog to become more popular."

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christian galang
08/07/2013 2:57pm

nice post roy!!! I personally admire your inspiring story 😃. well as they say "in every action, there will be a reaction" so never give up on your dreams

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Kimberly Mayberry
08/21/2013 8:10pm

I do not make New Year's Resolutions. One should be working towards goals and improvement all year long, not make hasty, and most likely, empty promises to improve themselves, help others, or obtain success, just because it is a start of a new year. I agree one should have goals, but they should be obtainable and ones that you are actually going to follow through on all year long.

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Anna A.
09/03/2013 6:25pm

I guess people tend to look outside themselves for ways to manage/control their lives.

Thanks for sharing your inspiring life.

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Dawn
09/15/2013 3:36pm

Thanks for this insight into who you are and what led you become so. I am not ambitious in the least yet I took away some helpful thoughts that I hope to refer to in the future when it all seems overwhelming. What goal/dream is next on your list? Good luck to achieving it!

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Ms Gretchen Ann Luper
09/15/2013 11:52pm

Thanks for the inspiration Roy. I suffer through many hardships being handicapped with an incurable (but treatable) disease that has me wheelchair bound. You give me hope and inspiration and I appreciate your excellent work.

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Trisha B.
09/16/2013 2:45pm

I myself have never made a New Year's Resolution. I just never really understood why people need one to begin with. Thank you for sharing this, I really enjoyed reading it.

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09/18/2013 8:18pm

Awesome post >^.^<

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Adrian Advincula
07/13/2015 9:05am

I think that people need to understand that you have to work harder to achieve your goals in life.... and this is a inspiring story

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Joseph Timonio
07/13/2015 9:07am

Hello Roy huff this is adrian friend..... your this story is amazing and it can help others to achieve their goals on life

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