One of my clients, "Adam Michaels," has, for years, fought to be more responsible: set goals, not procrastinate, see tasks through to completion. He's had years of therapy, read a libraryful of self-help books, and had a few sessions with me, a career and life coach. Nothing has worked.
So today, I asked Adam, "Moving forward, do you think it's wiser to keep trying to become more responsible or to accept that this is who you are, just as I must accept that I will never be a professional artist." He cried...and voted for self-acceptance.
If he keeps to that decision, that may ensure he'll never accomplish what he'd hope to accomplish, professionally and personally. But continuing to try to morph himself into something he's not won't likely help him accomplish more. It will mainly just torture him, just as forcing me to continually take art classes would torture me without increasing my chances of becoming a professional artist.
Remember the story of the scorpion that asked a frog to carry him across the river. The frog is afraid of being stung but the scorpion reassures him that if it stung the frog, both of them would drown. The frog then agrees. Yet in mid-river, the scorpion stings him, dooming the two of them. When asked why, the scorpion explains, "I'm a scorpion; it's my nature."
So as we enter 2010, Adam's story may be a useful reminder that New Year's resolutions are generally a waste of time. We haul out the same old vows, the triumph of hope over experience, that this time will be different: We will stay on our diet. We will find a better job. We will be nicer to our spouse. We will stop using our treadmill as a clothes rack. And by January 10, nearly all of us will slink back from our resolutions, reminded yet again of our formidable resistance to change.
Sure, if you have a new, achievable goal, something that doesn't require a personality transplant, it may help to make it a New Year's resolution. Doing so can keep that goal top-of-mind. But if you have a musty old collection of never-kept resolutions, you might, this year, keep them in the closet and instead, make just one new one: "I will accept myself, flaws and all."