December 20, 2014

Why Most New Year’s Resolutions Fail & What We Can Do About It.


‘Tis the season for resolution setting.

As we look forward to 2015, many of us are thinking about all the wonderful things we’ll accomplish in the new year that we didn’t get around to in 2014: lose weight, get a new job, exercise more, learn a new skill, get out of debt, etc.

The idea of starting fresh is very appealing. We assume that with a clean slate we’ll be primed and ready to accomplish whatever it is we set our minds to. “This year will be different,” we tell ourselves.

“This year, I’m going to stick with it!”

But, the truth is, change is hard and unlikely to stick unless we go about goal-setting in a different way than we have in the past.

If previous attempts at New Year’s goal setting have fizzled by Valentine’s Day, this one’s for you! We’re going to look at five of the most popular resolutions and figure out why these aspirations remain aspirations that never seem to manifest into reality.

So without further ado, here’s a list of the five most common New Year’s resolutions according to TIME and USA.gov.

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Get Out of Debt and Save Money
  3. Exercise
  4. Learn Something New
  5. Spend More Time With Loved Ones

Any of those look familiar? (They do to me!)

Make no mistake, they are all noble, worthy goals to have. And we should pat ourselves on the back for goal-setting in the first place. But there’s a common trend with all of these resolutions (and most resolutions we set) that will doom them to ultimate failure.

What it is?

Lack of specificity.

We get ourselves all jazzed up with the idea of reaching these goals, but we never actually take the time to flesh out how we’re actually going to accomplish them. And without a plan, we’re doomed to fail because there are no guidelines, focus or vision.

Instead of flying by the seat of our pants, hoping that our goals will magically manifest, when we have plan, it keeps us on track even when we’re ready to give up. I think it’s time that we take responsibility for our longings and desires and do everything in our power to help them become our reality.

So, with that in mind, I’m sharing some of my tops tips for actionable goal setting that will help us to realize all resolutions in 2015 so that by the time 2016 rolls around, we’ll be able to set some new resolutions instead of falling back on the old ones!

1. Figure out the “why.”

Wanting to lose weight is all well-and-good, but you’re much more likely to stick with the program if you articulate why you want to lose weight in the first place. Is it to feel better in your clothes, to set a good example for your children, or to get off your cholesterol medication?

Write down your “why” and keep it in a place to refer to often and add to the list as new reasons come to mind.

2. Break it down.

Ok, now that we have our “why,” it’s time to start building our plan of action.

Let’s say you want to increase your bank account. A resolution like that is a little bit generic and overwhelming if you ask me. So instead, break it down.

How exactly do we do this? List the details of what we’re hoping to accomplish, and we’ll be that much more likely to follow through.

For example: “By year’s end, I want to have $5,000 in my retirement account.”

Okay. Cool. There are 52 weeks in a year,so we need to save about $100 per week to accomplish that, or about $14 a day.

Now that we know what we need to do to make that happen, we can strategize how to make that happen: (1) bring lunch to work instead of eating out, (2) enjoy a home happy hour with friends instead of hitting the bar, (3) cancel gym membership that I never use (unless another resolution is to lose weight!), (4) buy a reusable filter bottle for water, (5) carpool, walk or bike, (6) invest in coffee maker and forgo mindless daily latte indulgence, etc.

3. Automate it.

Make it easy to stick with it. Set up an automatic deposit into your retirement account so that you never have to think about it. Lay out workout clothes the night before and set the alarm to chime a half hour earlier than usual—and put it out of reach so getting out of bed is a must. Set up a standing monthly date to catch up with loved ones—the first Friday of every month is game night with friends.

4. Recruit help.

Spread the word about what you’re hoping to accomplish. Tell everyone. Just voicing our resolutions makes us more resolute!

Better yet, invite a colleague to take a new Zumba class with you. Ask your partner to get on board with your financial plans. Want to learn something new? Enroll in a night class.

Or, if it’s in the budget, recruit professional help. Hire a personal trainer, money mentor, business strategist, couples’ therapist—whoever it is who can help.

5. Celebrate your successes.

Instead of waiting (and putting happiness on hold) for the day when the goal is reached, celebrate all the little successes along the way.

Lost 10 pounds? Buy a new pair of jeans.

Want to connect with your partner? Plan a special date night out instead of the usual date night in.

On track with money goals? Purchase that new book about money and spirituality that you’ve been eyeing.

Worked out every day this week? Treat yourself to a massage.

Even though we looked at these goal-achieving strategies with some popular resolutions as examples, these principles can work for any resolution that’s on the list for 2015. Get specific, figure out your “why”, make it easy to stick with it, ask for help, and give yourself a pat on the back for sticking with it past Valentine’s Day!


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Author: Cailen Ascher 

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Elvert Barnes at Flickr 

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