The Promises We Make to Ourselves

by karen on January 3, 2012

The New Year brings opportunity for us to make resolutions.  Our impending mortality prompts us to make bucket lists.  And we’re also supposed to dream. Aren’t New Year’s resolutions, bucket lists, and dreams all the same thing?  There are distinct differences in the mindset, focus, and success levels between the three. 

New Year’s resolutions are vows to change bad habits to new and better practices.  Bucket Lists focus on the things to do before you die.  And dreams are ideas of what, if there were no restrictions, we would do in a heartbeat.

I said there were distinct differences, so let’s start with resolutions:  The US government lists some of the top New Year’s resolutions as drink less alcohol, eat healthy food, and get a better education.  While not terribly specific, these are lofty goals.  The mindset behind changing a bad habit into good probably involves some sense of “I should” or even guilt, which may promote a focus of obligation. 

Do you know what the success rate is for individuals accomplishing their New Year’s resolutions?  The Opinion Corporation of Princeton, NJ found that only 8% of people are always successful in achieving their new year’s resolutions and 3 out of 4 almost never succeed.  Not great odds if you want your resolutions to work.  In addition, Opinion Corporation also found that there was no correlation between resolution setting, successful achievement of resolutions, and happiness; people who achieve their resolutions every single year are not any happier than those who do not set resolutions or those who do not succeed in achieving their resolutions.  Guess it’s no wonder why the majority of us never bother keeping New Year’s resolutions, huh?

Bucket Lists are intended to be purposeful and challenging and include things you’ve never done before.  Typical Bucket List items might contain things like skydive, travel around the world, and write a memoir.  I was not able to gather any statistics on how successful people are in achieving their Bucket Lists.  What I do know is that many people will wait, and wait, and wait some more until they know they’re going to die to take any action toward achieving their bucket list items.  And since most of us don’t receive advance notice on the exact date and time of our impending death, bucket list items often remain unfinished business.  

Dreams, on the other hand, are our wishes for something that we want very much.  There’s an interesting thing about dreams that seems to be very different with regard to resolutions and bucket lists.  The driving force behind resolutions is to change a bad habit; the prompter behind Bucket List items is passing away.  With dreams there are completely different motivators – hope, aspiration, and happiness.  To me, that’s the best kind of inspiration, and much better footing from which to proceed with the journey of fulfilling our desires.

In The Dream Manager, Matthew Kelly suggests that readers write out a list of their top 100 dreams.  As a Certified Dream Manager, I meet up with a fair amount of skepticism about the ability to complete such a task.  Do you think that you’re too old to dream?  After all, you may have already attained the good job, spouse, house, kids, and a nice car.  What more is there?  Plenty!  

Maybe you’ve just forgotten how to dream.  Perhaps you should opt-in here on my website and receive a complimentary copy of my Dream Manager Worksheet; working with that tool will help get you started dreaming again. 

Whether it’s New Year’s resolutions, Bucket Lists or dreams, the chance of our success rests on us to:

1) State clearly and specifically what it is that we want

2) Decipher which hope takes precedence over others

3) Determine steps needed to achieve

4) Take action

5) Accountability to yourself (and perhaps others)

6) Break down barriers along the path toward accomplishment

You’re never too old to dream!  I challenge you to get started and see what you can accomplish in 2012!  Hope you have a dream-fulfilled year!

You can learn more about this topic by watching my video on

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Contingent Thinker January 6, 2012 at 6:46 pm

I have heard about this differentiation before. Its a great wisdom to give. That’s a great post, but have you also considered that there is a difference between new year resolution and promise. I learn’t it the hardway.


M. Bowen January 16, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Melanie here! I enjoyed this piece, please email me–I have a question about your blog. MelanieLBowen[at]gmail[dot]com


Daniella Grieme January 18, 2012 at 7:34 pm

You are a very bright individual!


karen January 20, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Thank you for your compliment, Daniella. Have a wonderful day.


Donn Celi January 30, 2012 at 11:48 pm

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karen January 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Thank you for your feedback, Donn. Good luck with your blogging and site-building.


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