Don’t let go of your dreams. If you have determination and belief in your dreams, you will succeed in spite of your desire to let go.

Catherine Pulsifer, author

Has a New Year’s resolution ever made a permanent difference in your life? Maybe you stick with it for the first week of the year. If you are like me, you have resolved to make changes in your life only to experience the frustration of sliding back to old habits.

Knowing you need to make a change, you have set your goal. On week one, all goes well. By week two, the pull of old habits is strong. On week three, you are battling uncomfortable feelings, doubt or anxiety or impatience or self-pity.

You give yourself a break from the new routine and give in to a misguided attempt to calm yourself with a new motivation, or worse. By week two, your resolution is almost forgotten. By February, your best-laid plans are all but forgotten.

Most of the time we tell ourselves one big lie. Tomorrow, the external circumstances I face will improve, I will feel better emotionally, then I’ll keep my resolution. If you are waiting for life’s circumstances to align with your resolution, forget it; stars never line up for long.

Like the weather, circumstances change. It sounds easy until you consider how many people fail in this regard. We want to be attractively thin but can’t lay off the cups of bubble teas or put the expensive gym membership to use. Think of how many people want to be rich but can’t get out of bed on time.

This is perfectly understandable. Life happens, and inspiration inevitably fades. You can’t expect yourself to stay inspired year-round. You need to rest your success on something sturdier. For example, I have to postpone my driving lesson due to constrained budget.

Fortunately, this is part of economics. It helps us to understand that human action leads to choice and every choice has a cost.

The cost is that which you forgo in the course of taking the steps necessary to achieve your goal. If you spend all day checking Facebook notifications rather than studying, the cost of your choice could be a low grade.

The price of staying out late at night is sleep, health, efficiency at business, money, and self-improvement. That is, these are the things that the man must pay, lose, and sacrifice, in order that you may stay out late at night.

Conversely, the price of sleep, health, efficiency at business, money, self-improvement, is the pleasure of staying out late at night that one gives up.”

There is a second point that involves time. Most of our goals in life are connected to something remote in time. We want to read the novels, travel around the world, obtain professional success, and finish master degree. But our goals are constantly deposed by shorter-term desires.

Getting slim, for example, is a goal months out into the future. Drinking a cup of bubble tea allows right-now satisfaction. This tells us that the action and the goal are sometimes incompatible in any point of time.

When people remind us about obtaining better control over our lives, they are absolutely right. But, there are tricks though, for example, goals formed in the midst of regret rarely last. It is easy to desire future sobriety in the midst of a hangover or too long to be slim once you’ve finished a huge meal.

It is easier to swear to change once faced with the cost of your failure to change. The trick is to make actual change right now and not regret past failings.

Another point is, resolutions should be realisable and rational, made with careful thought. Never forget that obtaining goals involves giving up easier paths and instead choosing the more difficult route. Consider the price of all your ambitions, and never make the price too high.

The price of studying is giving up a night of clubbing. The price of professional accomplishment might be to go easy on the drink or to forgo watching Netflix. These are reasonable sacrifices. The price must be payable, or else the ambition dies.

Forming new habits are unavoidable. The only question is whether you form good ones or bad. And good habits don’t happen by accident.

Habits comprise much of one’s character. And as Heraclitus said, “A man’s character is his fate.” You choose your fate by choosing your character. And you choose your character by shaping your habits.

By shaping your habits, you can radically transform just about anything about yourself. “I’m kind of lazy. I’m not good with money. I’m not a good husband.” These are not eternal facts. They are manifestations of habits, and all habits can be changed.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.