Why Our New Year's Resolutions Typically Fail (And How to Prevent It)

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Why Our New Year's Resolutions Typically Fail (And How to Prevent It)

Did you set resolutions for this year? What are they? Do you think you’ll actually reach them?

There are some crazy statistics out there about how the vast majority of us don’t reach our goals, or even stick with them past February.

So why is that, and how do we overcome it?

We Pick the Same Resolutions Year After Year

We think this year will be the year that we finally lose those ten extra pounds, finally pay off our debt, or finally start getting up at 5am to exercise.

Those were our goals last year— and the year before that and the year before that.

We keep trying to make the same improvements, but they have yet to stick.

So when New Year’s rolls around yet again, we’re determined to make this next year the year our resolutions actually succeed.

Only to be disappointed come December when we’ve once again failed to reach them.

Maybe it’s time to pick new resolutions, or to at least reframe our old ones with renewed motivation, making sure they actually align with our values.

We Copy Others’ Resolutions

The problem with picking the same resolutions year after year is that we’re often picking resolutions that everyone else is choosing, too. And that’s great if those goals actually align with our values, but so often they don’t.

We go for the low-hanging fruit: losing weight, eating healthier, getting more sleep, making it to the gym more often, spending less time at work.

But if we choose those goals simply because they’re common and easy, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

The best kinds of goals are personal. We have a much better chance of succeeding in our goals if we’re personally and individually motivated to reach them.

So instead of trying to lose weight because that’s what we think we should do, we could choose to exercise to increase our energy levels and feel more comfortable in our skin.

Instead of wanting to pay off our debt because we think we ought to, we could focus on paying it off so that we can instead invest more in saving up for vacations with our families.

Rather than trying to stick to a specific diet plan to fit in with the crowd, we can adopt a healthier lifestyle by focusing on adding more vegetables and water instead of thinking so much about what we’re depriving ourselves of, motivated by experiencing fewer health problems.

Or maybe our goals are far less common and even more personal, like repairing a broken relationship to experience greater peace or clearing out the clutter in our homes to get them ready to sell or rearranging our work schedule to fit in more travel to visit old friends.

Whatever our goals are, they ought to be personal and connected to our priorities, not simply a mirror image of what others are choosing or what society tells us we should aim for. We’ll give up much faster if we’re simply copying what others are doing, but we’ll push through the difficulty when we’re properly motivated to keep going toward our goals.

We Don’t Have a Plan

“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” right? (Thanks, Ben Franklin.)

But honestly, when we don’t have a plan in place to make progress toward our goals, we get stuck.

We need to know what the steps are to reach our resolutions and goals or we’ll never get there.

So here’s our assignment, both yours and mine: to create a plan we can stick to.

Notice I didn’t just say “create a plan.” It’s important that we create plans we can realistically stick to.

Why? Because if we’re too ambitious in creating these plans, we’ll end up doing one or more of the following:

  • feeling paralyzed by the sheer number and size of the steps, unable to begin because they’re simply too daunting

  • get stuck after just a couple steps because we have too far to go, convinced we’ll never get to the finish line

  • taking one step forward and two steps back the whole way because we’ve made the steps too big or the process too complicated

So we need realistic, attainable goals and plans to reach them.

That means reverse-engineering our plans based on our goals and our timeline.

If we’re setting goals for the year, then we can break them down into monthly and even weekly goals.

If we’re setting 90-day goals (which I love), then we can break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

This makes it infinitely easier to actually make progress on our goals because the steps are smaller and more manageable, and they’re more closely tied to our calendar so we know what we need to be doing to stay on track the whole way.

And if you do happen to fall behind, having your goals broken down helps you see where you’ve gotten stuck and gives you steps to get back on track since you have each step of the process laid out.

It’s like laying little stepping stones every foot of the way between the starting line and the finish line instead of just having mile markers every other mile.

Have you ever run a race and completely lost track of where you are in the path? You don’t remember what mile marker you last passed, and you swear the next one should have come up already. You’re losing steam because you feel like the finish line is too far away, and you can’t even see the next landmark.

But then you see it, the next mile marker that tells you just how far you’ve come! It also helps you figure out how far you have left to go as you do the math, and that allows you to push forward, convinced that you have what it takes to make it exactly that much farther.

Without the mile marker, you would have given up because the race just seemed too long. You would have gotten lost in the middle because you didn’t know how much farther you had to go, but it felt too far to keep going.

Setting mini goals is like that, only more so. The further you break down your goals, the more you help yourself avoid that feeling of loss and burnout, the more you provide directions and checkpoints and motivation to keep going.

So to recap how you can prevent yourself from completely failing to reach your resolutions this year, set goals that are fresh (or freshly aligned with your priorities), pick your own goals (not just copying someone else’s), and reverse-engineer a step-by-step plan to reach them!

What are your resolutions or goals for this year? Let me know in the comments so I can cheer you on!

Later, lovely!Jessie (2).png