Have you ever wondered why New Year resolutions fail so often? After all, as cliché as it may be, the start of a new year seems like the perfect time to turn over a new leaf, abandon harmful habits like staying up too late, eating processed foods, and smoking, and embrace healthy ones like exercising regularly, eating clean, and managing stress. Nevertheless, the statistics are grim: About 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail each year.
There are many reasons why resolutions lose their luster and never come to fruition—even when you have the best intentions—but the following may be the most prevalent.
Fortunately, they’re highly avoidable.
The 4 Most Common Reasons Why New Year Resolutions Fail
1. They’re Overwhelming
By their very nature, resolutions tend to be BIG, but the fact of the matter is that outcome goals are best when they’re bite-sized. You could make small improvements throughout the year, building upon them as the year passes and in years to come. In contrast, when you pledge to make a sweeping change, it can leave you feeling like a deer in headlights, not knowing where to start. Consequently, it’s easy to abandon it.
That’s not to say, however, that you shouldn’t set the bar high for yourself. Rather, break goals down into more manageable chunks. Even more, set behavior goals, which are things that you can do every day to get closer to the desired outcome. For instance, if you vow to lose dozens of pounds, break that up into monthly, or even weekly, goals (e.g., lose 1 pound a week, 5 pounds a month). Then, take time to set specific behavior goals. For example, you could skip dessert three or four times a week or walk 30 minutes five days per week.
After you’ve successfully adopted these new behaviors as habits, you can tackle new health, nutrition, and fitness goals, and as you do, you’ll see yourself getting closer and closer to that big resolution goal that you set.
2. They’re Imprecise
In many cases, people make inexact or vague resolutions. You might, for instance, say that you’ll be a nicer person, a better parent, eat healthier, go to bed earlier, or exercise more often. Well, what does that mean? How will you track your progress?
If your resolution is ill-defined, it’s hard to hold yourself to it. There’s a reason why speed limit signs have numbers instead of just saying, “Let’s not drive too fast.” According to Richard Wiseman, psychologist and best-selling author of 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute, it’s critical to set goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.
Therefore, be very specific with your goals. For instance, instead of saying, “I want to lose weight,” be specific about the amount of weight that you want to lose and the amount of time in which you want to lose it.
Even more importantly, give yourself measurable milestones and mini-goals that you can strive to accomplish daily or weekly. Resolve to compliment a coworker once a week, take your kids on fun bi-monthly outings, use your treadmill five times a week, add 10 seconds to your plank exercise each month until you can do two straight minutes, accumulate 10,000 steps each day, eat 1 – 2 servings of vegetables with each meal, drink 8 – 12 eight-ounce glasses of water each day, or go to bed by ‘x’ time so that you get 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night.
3. You Don’t Make Time
Keeping New Year’s resolutions is difficult if you can’t fit them into your schedule. It’s one thing to want to want to get in better shape. It’s quite another to figure out when you’ll go to the gym a few times weekly if your days are packed with work, family responsibilities, and socializing.
If you’re trying to eat cleaner, for example, you’ll need to schedule time to plan and prepare healthy meals, which involves choosing healthy recipes, going grocery shopping, preparing food, and cleaning up, among other tasks.
Just about every lifestyle change takes time, but you can do it. You just have to schedule your time appropriately. It comes down to setting priorities, focusing on what’s important—eliminating or minimizing what’s not—and then planning, preparing, and taking action accordingly.
Before committing to anything, then, play around with your calendar and see how many hours you can clear. You might have to give up an activity or spend less time on social media to make it work.
4. You Need More Accountability, Support & Incentive
Resolutions require an ongoing commitment, and losing interest is always a danger. To stoke the fires of motivation, give yourself some added incentive in the form of a reward when you reach your goal. Sure, better health is great, but the bonus of a vacation, a special purchase, an evening out, etc., can be helpful in keeping you on track.
Getting others involved is also key. Tell your family members, friends, and colleagues about what you hope to accomplish, and ask them to help support you and keep you accountable. If they regularly ask about your diet, your spending patterns, or whatever else you’re working on, you’ll be more likely to stick to your resolution. No one wants to disappoint the people around them, and having their support can make a tremendous difference.
It can help to have a New Year’s buddy. When you and a partner make the same resolution, you can share tips, support and encourage each other, and check in on one another throughout the year.
Now that you have a list of probable suspects for why New Year resolutions fail and specific ways to avoid them, you can devise a clear and manageable plan of action. You can figure out how to fit your new behaviors into your routine, and you can start recruiting other people to cheer you on. It looks like you’ve got that rarest of specimens on your hands: A successful resolution. It should pave the way for 12 exciting months of growth.
Comment below to let us know about the successes and challenges you’re experiencing with your New Year’s resolution.