new years resolutions

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and How You Can Succeed

At the start of every year, millions of Americans ring in the new year by creating a list of resolutions to accomplish in the following year. Some of the top resolutions reported again and again are losing weight, getting fit and to reducing and managing stress. What is significant about this is that these continue to be the top three goals of the majority of Americans year after year. What this points to is the idea that few Americans are actually accomplishing these goals, or they would not continue to be the top resolutions year after year.

While many are successful in their attempts to make both significant and not-so-significant changes, many still fail. So what makes the difference between those who succeed and those who fail? Here are 5 reasons why New Year’s Resolutions fail and how you can succeed.

1. Goals are not specific and measurable

While there is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, get fit or reduce and manage stress, those are not measurable goals. This means there is no way to genuinely know whether you are succeeding or failing in achieving your goals. Remember that achieving goals is a journey, with many smaller sub-goals that need to be hit on the road to accomplish your bigger, overarching goals.

How to succeed:

If you want to “get fit,” it’s important to set specific goals surrounding what that looks like to you. Do you want to be able to hike a 14-er, run in a marathon or be able to do a certain number of pull-ups, push-ups or weight lifting reps at a certain weight? Being concrete and specific about your goals will help you gauge how close or far away you are from achieving them. In addition, setting smaller goals or benchmark deadlines, will also help you better gauge how you are progressing and allow you to make adjustments along the way, which will help keep you from quitting outright.

2. Goals are not realistic

In many cases, we start the New Year determined to make drastic changes around lifelong issues or even issues that have been building for several years. People who are severely overweight suddenly want to drop 100 pounds, or people with high-stress jobs and lifestyles want to suddenly develop a zen-like calm overnight. In many cases, the best goals don’t even deal with the end result, but rather focus on the process of ultimately achieving that goal.

How to succeed:

Instead of saying “I want to lose 50 pounds” try setting goals that simply promote better health and wellness instead. Cutting out soda or getting in 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week are all realistic and achievable goals that will help point you in the right direction towards achieving larger weight loss goals. Success tends to build upon success. Once you are achieving success at smaller, more manageable goals, you can up your goals to more challenging ones. If you start with goals that are too big, however, you will most likely just procrastinate until you simply quit and give up altogether.

3. You’re doing it for someone else

No matter how badly you may want to, you will rarely succeed in accomplishing a significant goal just to please someone else. The irony is that in many cases we can want the same things the other person does, but we try and do things just to make someone else happy because they make a great scape-goat when we fail.

How to succeed:

If you have someone in your life that wants you to do something you genuinely don’t want to do, the only answer is to have a very difficult conversation with them about your personal goals. On the other hand, if you both want the same things, it’s still important for you to take ownership of your own goals and make sure you are genuinely working to achieve them for yourself and not someone else.

4. Lack of accountability

The majority of health fitness apps these days give you the option of posting your results to social media. While digitally broadcasting your runs, meals or workouts may not be your style, there is an important element here not to be overlooked. No matter how much we all may long for things to be different, the hard reality is that we all long for the approval of others. That approval even our own perception of that approval can be a powerful motivator. Regardless of whether your friends actually care whether you did your run today or not, we are simply more motivated to do things when we feel like people are watching.

How to succeed:

While posting your daily results to social media may not be your style, it’s important to simply have someone with whom to share your progress. Finding the right person, people, group and means of accountability however, may not be so simple.

Being mutually accountable to someone with the same goals as you can be good, but it can easily become a competition. While a little competition may be a good thing, if you feel yourself getting significantly behind in the competition it may cause you to quit, which will only sabotage your goals rather than enable you to meet them.

Similarly, being accountable to someone who will be very judgmental if you start to fall behind can also be self-sabotaging. It may take some time to find the right means and/ or people to be accountable to, but keep at it. It’s generally a pretty important part of the process of achieving your goals.

5. Lack of budget

Possibly one of the most overlooked aspects of achieving almost any goal is the expense involved, not just of money, but also of time. Healthier food generally costs more than junk food, so if your goal is to eat healthier, you may have to budget more money for food. If you want to work out or get in shape, you may need money for a gym membership or personal trainer. If you want to reduce or manage stress, this may involve attending yoga classes, workshops or seminars, retreats or even paying for therapy. All of these involve more than just extra money, they also require additional time.

How to succeed:

Most of us are living at the outer edges of our resources, which means if we want to do something new, we are most likely going to have to give up something old. Keep in mind, however, that sometimes making cuts in some areas can simultaneously help you meet your goals. If you reduce the number of times you eat out to once a week, that may free up some time to cook your own meals at home. If you walk to the store instead of driving, that will help you get some exercise and even help you reduce and manage stress. The important part is to be realistic not just about what you want to do, but what you are going to have to give up to be able to afford or accomplish it.