New Year's resolutions are not a magic bullet -- if anything, they cause you to focus on failures. Rather than dwell on the negative, celebrate smaller achievements this year.
by Michael Laskoff
I was once at a conference at which a television producer discussed the basic premise of the sitcom. Simply put, likeable characters experience struggles in amusing ways and fail to learn from them. Different as one show’s premise may be from another, the characters all share one trait -- predictability. They are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again.
If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), then all of this already sounds familiar. We, like the aforementioned comedians, tend to screw up in highly predictable ways. While we are capable of learning from our mistakes, we often tend to understand the pattern long before we do anything useful with our knowledge. Instead, we bring new self-awareness to the same old mistakes.
To state the obvious, no one wants to live this way. Perhaps that’s why people with ADD/ADHD are so in love with the idea of the magic bullet -- the one-stop-shopping means of overcoming all of the disabling aspects of the condition. The only problem is that what sounds too good to be true is actually just that. All too often, the magic bullet ends up going down like a bitter pill.
Even something that makes an enormous difference is unlikely to address the entirety of the problem. For example, I take a prescription amphetamine called Vyvanse each day, and it has changed my life remarkably. With it, I am more focused and likely to complete the sort of sequential tasks that are critical to succeed in business. But as much as the medication helps, it would be far less meaningful without the benefit of appropriate behavioral therapy and tens or even hundreds of other life adaptations I've made. Had I vested all of my hope in pharmaceuticals but not done the rest of the work, I would have been disappointed and disillusioned. Worse, I would have likely abandoned medication altogether and lost the real benefits it brings me.
As is clear, I’m not a fan of the idea of the magic bullet, but one bothers me more than almost all of the others -- the New Year’s resolution. What makes it so evil is the combination of retrospection -- usually focused on what went wrong -- mixed with an unsupportable promise not to make the same mistake again. Simply stated, a New Year’s resolution is a self-inflicted invitation to pain, frustration, and feelings of failure.
So this New Year's Eve, don’t make resolutions. Focus on the little things instead. Added up, they can make for the sort of 2011 that you deserve.