Why Do New Year’s Resolutions Fail?

I’ve written previously about trying to make changes that last. I’ve recounted how my Mom would coax me into announcing my New Year’s resolutions every year, and no matter how privately I wanted to keep them…she would insist on recording them in her spiral notebook. My terror was that she would dredge up that notebook and query me as to how I was doing. I don’t ever remember her actually asking; for that I will forever be grateful!

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t fail at most of my resolutions, it just means I kept those failures personal. I felt fortunate to not publicly share those defeats with anybody else. They were embarrassing enough by themselves without becoming part of the public record!

Over the years, I’ve always been interested in why we fail at New Year’s resolutions. Seriously, are we all horrendous at making positive improvements in our lives?

Seriously, are we all horrendous at making positive improvements in our lives?

Apparently it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Think back to the resolutions you’ve made in the past. What were they about? Have you made similar resolutions year after year…yet by February you’re mired in the same mess you had all last year? Did you resolve to lose weight, exercise more, or take control of your finances? Those are the three biggies that people make…and I’m just as guilty as the next person as having made those resolutions. In fact, many years I’ve made all three and failed miserably…sometimes spectacularly. Then I’m getting ready for the ball to drop and I’m promising myself that this is the year that I’ll come through.

As if!

So what’s my problem? Why have I gone year after year with these failures? Why have you?

It’s a popular topic for psychologists to research. One thing that’s clear is nearly 50% of us make New Year’s resolutions each and every year. While none of the research states it this obviously, we’re really crappy at making resolutions. Colossally crappy.

I know, not news!

Probably the biggest reason we’re so bad, is we’re totally unrealistic. We say we’re resolved to do something, but then we don’t take action. We really just espouse a hope for the upcoming year and fail to give ourselves a way to measure it. And since the hope is often unrealistic, when the going gets tough we give up. Don’t beat yourself up about it anymore…that describes the vast majority of folks who make resolutions. Like 90% or more!

Two week’s ago I wrote about making changes that last. That’s what we’re really talking about here. Trying to set yourself up for success…assuming that you haven’t given up about getting better in 2017.

After reading through all sorts of recommendations, I finally came across a list that is really helpful. I’ve taken some liberties with the wording of the recommendations, if you want to read the original it’s by Ray Williams in his post at Psychology Today.

To ensure that you’ve got a shot as success:

  • Focus on one resolution or target
  • Make it a realistic, specific target
  • Don’t wait for a magical day (like New Year’s Eve), you can start today
  • Look at this as a process that will last all year
  • Make your initial target achievable in a short amount of time. If you have a big hairy goal you want to achieve, break it down into 12 smaller targets, one for each month. Then work like crazy towards the immediate target. Small steps along the way are the pathway to success!
  • Find somebody to be accountable to, someone who’s not going to accept your excuses (oops, I mean reasons LOL)
  • Celebrate your success as you reach each milestone, don’t put off the celebration until the end of the year
  • Focus on the present. What can you do today that will move you closer to that goal. If losing 3 pounds by the end of the month is the goal, do you really need those other two slices of pizza? Really?

The good news is, you’ve got time to set one target for January. You can set that target today and start working on it right now. Seriously, why wait? Figure out something that’s been driving you nuts. One of those little pains that you’ve been meaning to change but haven’t gotten around to. Make the target as specific as possible. Then go into your reminders app or your calendar and put in a note to yourself to see where you stand in a month.

If you can set one target and achieve it, won’t you be better off than all the year’s before? I know I would be!