New year's resolutions have become a bad joke. In recent years, people have got a kind of perverse pleasure out of telling me that they have no resolutions. They don't want to go there anymore.
For years, they swore that they'd spend less and save more. They'd be more patient, more giving. They'd focus their energy on work/life balance, exercise more, eat less and be "better people".
But then they slipped back into old Red Platform self-defeating behaviours. They can't help it. Old habits, beliefs and routines die hard. Change seems so difficult, so why even bother?
But winners on the Green Platform know that the secret of quickly and effectively changing any Red Platform pattern or ritual, any routine or habit that is holding them back, is immediately replacing it with a better and more effective habit. Now you can, too. Actually, there is no "secret", but only the time-honoured truth that systems are better than goals. Change is easy when you know how.
So, that brings us to the age-old question: who's right? The optimist on the Green Platform or the pessimist on the Red Platform?
Of course, they're both right. The Red Platform pessimists will find enough evidence out there to say that their pessimistic view is right. The optimists on the Green Platform will find enough evidence to say that their view is right.
Years ago, Martin Seligman wrote a book, Learned Helplessness. He said that people often became discouraged and even depressed through years of watching the news and failing to live up to their ideals. Then, years later, he wrote a companion book, Learned Optimism, which documented our ability to profoundly take control and transform our attitudes and expectations in life.
Most of us could easily name half a dozen logical reasons for Red Platform pessimism or despair. Every day, the news reports a variety of traumas, threats, warnings and disaster. But if we step on to the Green Platform, we get another perspective. Instead of disasters, we start seeing opportunities.
Whether you live on the positive Green Platform or the negative Red Platform depends on what Seligman calls your "explanatory style". This is a form of self-talk that occurs after an experience.
People on the Red Platform with a pessimistic explanatory style who give up easily and become helpless, even in situations where they actually can do something, explain bad events as permanent, pervasive and personal. They say: "I am a failure." They make it permanent and pervasive. "I always was a failure. Always will be. What's the point in trying? No new year resolutions for me."
People on the Green Platform with an optimistic explanatory style see rejection or failure as temporary. Specific rather than universal. And external not personal. "I failed. Now, what can I learn from this. How can I grow from it? How can I serve people with this new lesson I've learned?" They don't see themselves as "failures", but rather see "growth opportunities".
So, if you set your new year fitness and exercise goals and slip up for a few days, cut yourself a bit of slack and bounce back on to the Green Platform.
Make 2014 your best, happiest year ever with your new year mantra: "Fit and fabulous in 2014!"
Declan Coyle is a director of Andec Communications. His motivational techniques have been used by several All-Ireland winning teams. firstname.lastname@example.org