‹ Back to Blog

The Little Known Reason Why It’s Hard To Keep New Year’s Resolutions

So many of us have dreams, hopes, and goals but we keep going in circles instead of taking productive steps toward achieving them. As time goes on, they seem to slip further and further into the distance. At some point, they seem all but lost – lost dreams, lost hopes, lost goals.

This doesn’t have to be. Deconstruct it. You will find Immediate Gratification as the nemesis.

Immediate Gratification is a self-esteem issue. People who hold their hopes and dreams as important (self-important) and themselves as capable (self-confident) are the ones who find the strength to overcome their need for Immediate Gratification and take the necessary steps to tackle their goals.

What caused your self-importance and self-confidence to erode and your goals to slip further into dreamland in the first place?

The underlying source is unresolved abandonment. Abandonment is a cumulative wound that contains all of the losses, slights, rejections, and disappointments from childhood and beyond. This primal wound is located deep within the self (where our most tender feelings reside) where it festers from within to interfere in our relationships and our lives.

The abandonment wound silently emits a dense emotional gas that stupefies our sensibilities about our own human potential and the direction in which we are taking our lives.

This is why I’m always advocating abandonment recovery. In adulthood, the only real abandonment is self-abandonment. A huge component of healing the primal abandonment wound is recognizing the ways in which Immediate Gratification has caused us to abandon our hopes and dreams. Recovery involves overcoming self-sabotage. I’m always saying it –

there are no magic bullets with this primal wound. Abandonment recovery involves action.

You mean I have to give up my beloved buttered toast every morning to stay in shape? That one’s a no brainer, Usually Immediate Gratification is a more subtle saboteur.

Take a personal example from my own life. I’d like to practice learning French (it would be good brain training) (it would make travel more enjoyable). I already know a few (very few) preliminaries of French, but my vocabulary is weak. I know something simple I could do to learn French, but I don’t seem to get to it:

What would really work (with my insane schedule) would be to create a daily regimen (first thing in the morning) in which I write one sentence in French every day, incorporating new vocabulary words (never mind the grammar). Think of how much more proficient I’d be in a year – 365 sentences later.


First thing in the morning, I’ve gotten into the habit of walking to a local coffee shop and reading the newspaper – far removed from my French dictionary and Journal.

I keep postponing the French sentence in favor of experiencing the passive pleasure of leafing through the paper. This thing has become such a habit, it’s functioning more like a ritual or an addiction than a chosen pastime.

At any rate, I’m very aware that I could write the French sentence first and then take the walk. So why haven’t I done it? Because I haven’t been able to postpone my need for Immediate Gratification. So you see, I’ve been preferring Immediate Gratification to accomplishment.

Spelling it out like this makes my own example sound extremely obvious and insignificant – but these little things add up, and before we know it, we are awash in unrealized hopes and dreams.

Believe me, this stuff is so easy to rationalize, that I rarely think about my plan to write a daily French sentence when I’m rushing out the door first thing to take my walk.

In fact, it only occurred to me this morning (at the coffee shop, having finished the paper) – that this is an example of preferring Immediate Gratification to Accomplishment. It is only this minute that I realize how little (beyond pleasure) I gain from the paper, and how much I would gain from becoming more proficient in French – and that one is interfering with the other.

So, having come out of denial, I can finally see the issues at play.

Now I have a plan to fix this.

Identifying our abandoned goals in a group is a high energy activity in my workshops. The members feed off each other—and everyone’s resolve gets stronger and stronger. The excitement hits the roof as they begin creating their own individual plans. You can just see the newfound hope and the bright futures– all of these little forsaken dreams and goals getting taken care of.

Yes, working toward your goals reverses self-abandonment and helps to heal the primal wound.

To achieve a goal, you probably have to borrow the time and energy from something you’re currently doing – some passive pleasure to which you’ve become habituated (addicted). What might that be? What do you need to postpone for a few minutes or an hour longer every day in order to work systematically toward a goal? Your habit of watching television? Napping? Sleeping late? Eating? Talking on the phone?

You can still have your pleasures. Just don’t be a slave to Immediate Gratification to the extent that you are self-indulgent instead of self-nurturing.

Make a choice.

Reposted with permission from abandonment.com.