Why do we make New Year’s resolutions?

Accomplish your New Year’s resolution with some inspiration and a plan!

I haven’t come across many people who have succeeded in carrying out their New Year’s resolutions past the first week or two. Of course, we always set out with the best of intentions. Yet, no matter how hard we try, some unexplained force in nature tempts us to deviate from what we’ve committed to do—and then the guilt sets in and things spiral downhill.

What is it that causes us to break our New Year’s resolutions? Well, it could be many things such as a lack of energy, limited time, no support system, goals that do not meet the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound), an environment that provides too much temptation, and the list goes on. As a career coach, I’ve watched countless clients meet their goals with tremendous enthusiasm and success when they fully and wholeheartedly commit to and invest in the coaching process. So, rather than talk about the reasons why we fail, let’s take a coaching approach/perspective and ask a positive, productive question. Let’s figure out how we can succeed in our goals past January 15 and way beyond this year!

What is it really about the coaching process that helps individuals to attain their objectives (read: New Year’s resolutions)?  The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Coaches commit to providing a safe space for self-reflection and open and honest dialogue while ensuring confidentiality. We use a variety of tools and methods that often includes powerful questioning, mindfulness activities, and action planning. Coaches not only serve as your cheerleader, encouraging you along the way, but are also there to challenge you, help you look at different perspectives, and hold you accountable for what you say you are going to do. We ultimately partner with you to help you identify that intrinsic motivator—that inspiration—that comes from within and makes you want to move forward and get to that result!

Let’s say that you’re in a coaching session and you tell your coach that on a scale of 1 to 10, you’re a 10 in terms of being committed to finding a new, fulfilling career that makes you want to jump out of bed every morning. The problem is, you don’t know where to begin. Your coach will likely partner with you to help you set up an action plan to get there one step at a time. The plan might include a series of short-term goals that you can take to make progress toward that ultimate objective. In addition, your coach will likely check in with you between sessions, see how you’re doing, and encourage your continued success. When you get stuck along the way, your coach will challenge you to explore why and help you set up a plan to overcome the road block.

As the year ends, and as you think about and commit to your New Year’s resolutions for 2019, I challenge you to take one additional step. I challenge you to leverage concepts from the coaching process to help you succeed. If you could benefit from additional support, the coaching staff at Goose Creek Consulting is always here to help. Let’s all be champions in achieving our New Year’s resolutions!

Lisa Krull is a Career and Leadership Coach at Goose Creek Consulting in Centreville, VA. Contact her at lisa@goosecreekconsulting.com or 703-574-6271.

(Did you know that the tradition of New Year’s resolutions on January 1 began during the reign of Caesar, way back in 49 B.C.? If you want to learn more, The Washington Post shed light on the tradition in a KidsPost article by Howard Bennett titled “Why do we make New Year’s resolutions?” originally published in 2012.)

In Life, They Taught About Us About Food and Fashion; In Death We Might Learn More About Suicide

By Jayson Blair

President Obama and Anthony Bourdain share a meal in Hanoi, Vietnam.
I woke up late in the morning. It was a little after 7 a.m. I have been sick for the past few days, so I decided to not rush into work. I made a cup of coffee in my kitchen and then walked over to the living room. Standing between the couch and my glass coffee table, I tapped each remote and turned on CNN.

The Breaking News headline, in those trademark white letters on a red background, slashed across the screen.
“CNN’s Anthony Bourdain dead at 61.”
My first thought was sad, but not surprising. I knew much of Bourdain’s story that he shared publicly and had a tangential connection to Bourdain through once working with his mother. I had liked her and it led me to follow his career as a chef, a guest on “Top Chef,” on his show “No Reservations” and, eventually, on his CNN program, “Parts Unknown,” a remarkable program that was as much about foreign correspondence as it was about food.
I walked away from the TV. Before I made it to it to the bathroom, I heard Alisyn Camerota, the CNN anchor, say the words “… in an apparent suicide.”  I turned back to the screen. I burst into tears.

Kate Spade, the fashion designer, poses with her iconic bags.
Another one lost to what Andrew Solomon, the noted author, calls “the Noonday Demon.”
“He is absolutely the last person in the world I would have ever dreamed would do something like this,” Gladys Bourdain, the former colleague from The New York Times, told the paper on the day of his death.

Only a few days before, Kate Spade, the renowned fashion designer who, like Bourdain, struggled with depression, hung herself in her Park Avenue apartment.

The night before her death, The New York Post reported that Spade, spoke with her father happily about planning a trip to California to look at colleges with her daughter.

Their deaths came in the same week that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that suicide rates, defying prevention efforts, rose 25 percent between 1999 and 2006. More people die from committing violence upon themselves in the form of suicide than homicide and war combined.

In the days that followed the deaths of Spade and Bourdain, countless people spoke of the good moods both Bourdain and Spade were in during the days and weeks before their deaths, the bold plans for the future they discussed and lack of visible signs of suicidal ideation. In retrospect, however, the signs were all over like falling cherry petals on a Spring day.

Bourdain told the world in his book “Medium Raw” that after his first marriage ended in 2005 that he was “aimless and regularly suicidal.” He wrote of a time in the Caribbean where he was drinking and using drugs, driving recklessly each day and visiting brothels each night.

The only known accurate predictor of suicide is previous attempts. But, Kay Redfield Jamison, the eminent author and psychologist who lives with bipolar disorder, notes in her book on suicide, called “Night Falls Fast,” that suicide usually requires “multiple hits” in the form of some combination of a biological predisposition, major psychiatric illness and an acute life stress.

No doubt, some people try to conceal their plans for suicide, but Jamison notes that “most who commit suicide explicitly, and, often, repeatedly, communicate their intentions to kill themselves to others.”

Both Bourdain and Spade presenting with and acknowledged having major psychiatric illness, and each were encountering acute stress. For Bourdain, it was in the form of a grueling travel schedule at the same time his girlfriend was pictured on social media holding hands and embracing another man in France. For Spade, she was going through a difficult divorce.

There are contradictory reports about whether Spade, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and Bourdain, who lived with depression, were being treated for their illnesses at the time of their deaths. Having a major psychiatric illness and stopping or never being treated, is another risk factor.

As someone who has both professionally and as a volunteer helped individuals who eventually committed suicide, who has lost friends and colleagues to suicide and who has been suicidal myself, I can say that there is little-to-no correlation between the outward appearance in the days and weeks before a suicide attempt.

One colleague at The New York Times who had depression and who committed suicide during an acute stress due to a divorce in 2002 was having positive conversations with friends the weekend before he hurled himself off the side of our building. Another colleague at The Times who committed suicide was remarkably positive with his family before jumping into the Hudson River off the George Washington Memorial Bridge.

Mental health clinicians use the term “affect” to describe how someone’s emotional state appears. This is different from their actual mood. For example, someone may smile at the same time they feel flat inside. Clinicians refer to this as “affect being incongruent with mood.”

That is why it is critical when people with major psychiatric disorders are experiencing acute stress to look beyond the surface and provide as much support as possible, even if it does not seem necessary. I have seen this more than once with my own eyes. When one client who was having job and personal life stresses committed suicide in 2015, it was on the cusp of being optimistic about a new treatment that could potentially address his acute depression and intense anxiety. While there is little that we can do to predict the randomness of life stresses, there is a lot we can do to promote our friends and family members receive medical treatment for mental health symptoms and are regularly screened when there are biological predispositions.

There are also periods, regardless of how people appear on the outside, where they are at great risk. After remission from an acute episode of bipolar disorder, for example, a person is at an especially high risk for relapse and suicide for about six months. Often, individuals who are depressed are at greater risk for suicide coming out of the bottom of their depression because they now, clinicians believe, have the energy to plan and execute on harming themselves. Sleep deprivation and suicide, for example, are also strongly correlated.

Given these nuances and the prevalence of suicide, perhaps, the best thing that all of us at risk and who want to help others can do is learn more about the factors that put people in jeopardy. Groups like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Active Minds have a wide variety of wonderful resources, including educational materials, available.

I understand why Bourdain and Spade are dead. My tears fell because I knew they did not have to.

In life Bourdain taught us about food and Spade taught us about fashion. In their deaths, my hope is that they help us learn a little bit about how to help prevent others from taking their lives.

Jayson Blair is the managing partner of Goose Creek Consulting and a board member or the International Bipolar Foundation.