James S. Gordon
Psychiatrist

James S. Gordon

Founder and Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in D.C.; author of "Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression," and an expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, anxiety and psychological trauma.

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Don't force it

Q: Why do most people abandon their New Year's resolutions so quickly? How much of a role does goal-setting play in achieving success? What are the most effective resolutions you have made?

Resolutions that are made out of guilt or simply by force of will or because we are supposed to on the first of the year, are unlikely to last.

We need to recognize and honor the turning points in our lives whenever they come. If the New Year is truly significant for you, you can create a ritual that embodies the change you are hoping to make - mourning the habit that gave you pleasure, throwing the whole pack of cigarettes into the fireplace, sharing your commitment with those who are close to you or are similarly afflicted.

But such a ritual usually requires preparation and time. If you don't feel this connection to the turning of the year, don't force it. It will just lead to another dispiriting disappointment.

If you're not ready now, wait until you are. Sometimes we have to persist in habits and behaviors that serve us poorly until we are utterly disgusted with them and ourselves. In Alcoholics Anonymous, they talk about "hitting bottom;" William Blake observed that "if the fool would persist in his folly/He would grow wise."

When, however, a change has been growing in us for the year, occupying our heart and mind and every fiber of our body, when it is truly ready to be born, then it turns out to be not so hard. Countless people have stopped smoking or lost weight a dozen times -- without permanent results.

Then a time comes, on the first of the year, or any time, when they are ready and the impossible happens. It has happened to me. "The ripeness," as Shakespeare noted, "is all."

By James S. Gordon  |  January 1, 2010; 11:20 AM ET  | Category:  resolutions Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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