Peter Pearson

For some reason the calendar seems to dictate the desire to become a better person. You may feel a surge of excitement at the prospect of overcoming a bad habit or attitude. What is it about New Year's resolutions? Despite good intentions, your efforts soon evaporate like snow flakes in July. Here’s why you don’t follow through.

By definition resolutions are stretch goals. They put you outside your comfort zone and that is why a different part of your brain will object. Here are the deadly resolution killers:

  1. Effort required. It takes persistent and consistent effort for gradual success. There is a part of most of us that is simply lazy.
  2. It is emotionally risky. You are afraid to try, and try again and then fail. So you give it a pee wee effort and give up with the face saving rationalization of, “Well, I could have done it with a little more work.”
  3. Self-esteem. Down deep you really don’t believe you are worthy of this success.
  4. You fear success. Achieving your goal may bring about unintended consequences. Somebody may get jealous. It may lead you to more responsibilities or obligations. It will cost you in some way. There is no free lunch.

Curious about your specific reasons for not following through?

Think of a big goal. Really big. Then pay attention to what you feel. If you’re excited – nice! Hold on to that feeling and see if any tension or anxiety begins to emerge.

Keep reflecting on your goal and pay attention to any thoughts you have. Are all the thoughts positive? Or do you have some pessimistic thoughts emerging?

Very few people think of a really big goal that could be possible without experiencing tension, anxiety or negative thoughts. Identifying your reaction just gave you a heads up on why you will struggle with success.

What is the secret for realizing the big goal without years of therapy?

It is called motivation. Every successful person in any field of endeavor encountered multiple obstacles. The difference is DESIRE. When the desire is strong enough, the creativity of overcoming obstacles inspires further action. Failure is not an option. Obstacles, expected and unexpected, are just part of the game. High self- esteem comes from overcoming roadblocks instead of whining about their existence.

That old saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way” is exceptionally true for resolutions. So, how much “will” do you have this coming year?

If you’d like to make a more public commitment to your resolution, write it in our comments section below. Give it some muscle by anticipating what negative forces might arise and then suggesting how you might overcome them.


Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples

Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Ellyn Bader.

Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple.

Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” "Good Morning America,” and "CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”

A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.

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Preeva Tramiel
9 years ago

I want to communicate the thoughts that trigger my emotions without getting angry first.

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