Motivation Articles

Top 10 Signs You'll Fail to Reach Your Resolutions

(And How to Rock Your Resolutions This Year)

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Do you start off the year with hopeful thoughts about what you want in months ahead? January brings feelings of a clean slate, knowing we get to start again. We are determined to make the upcoming year the best one yet.
 
According to several research surveys, approximately 50% of Americans make resolutions every year. Losing weight, getting organized, sticking to a budget, exercising more and quitting smoking are some of the most common resolutions reported. Sadly, these same surveys estimate that by the end of January, most people are inconsistent at sticking to their resolutions, and by mid-February as many as 85% will fail or give up completely.
 
Why is it that our best thoughts, ideas and intentions are so quickly abandoned? More important, is there anything we can do differently to change the outcome?
 
Here are 10 reasons New Year's resolutions fail the people who set them, plus tips to turn them around to achieve success once and for all this year.

10 Signs You Won't Reach Your Resolutions This Year
 
1. You make the same resolutions year after year. Albert Einstein said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Telling yourself every January that you are going to make a specific change, and then not doing it, is not only insane by Einstein's definition, but it's also frustrating and demoralizing. With this approach, you accomplish little more than feeling bad about yourself.
 
Turn it around for success: When looking at most resolutions, what people usually write down is a list of outcomes. But to reach these outcomes, behavior needs to change first. Make sure the resolutions you make are actual behaviors (actions) you are willing and able to change. You might want to lose weight, but are you willing to change the way you eat and start exercising regularly in order to do so? Be brutally honest with yourself. If the answer is "no," save the resolution for a time when you can honestly say "yes."
 
2. You have three or more resolutions on your list. When we try to make major changes in many different areas of our lives at the same time, we often end up overwhelmed. Change takes effort, energy and work, and we all have limited amounts of time, willpower and resources.
 
Turn it around for success: Pick only one resolution to focus on at a time. When thinking about the many improvement goals on your list, which one ignites your desire the most? Which one, if successful, would have the biggest positive impact on your life? Which one do you feel the most optimistic about being successful? Start there and remember that success increases confidence. Once you've reached your goal, no matter what month, you can begin working on the next one.
 
3. Your have no real motivation to change. If you struggle to stay motivated once the initial excitement around your resolution fades, there's a good chance your "why" isn't strong enough. When desire and commitment aren't rock solid, you end up giving up too quickly and reverting back to life as you know it.
 
Turn it around for success: Connect your resolution to heartfelt, deep motivators. If you are unclear about how achieving your goals will impact your life, your chances for success are slim to none. Spend some quiet time asking the very important questions: Why do I really want this? What benefit would achieving this resolution bring me? If you can't come up with at least 15 motivators for change, rethink whether this resolution is meaningful enough at this time in your life. Ask yourself, "Is this something I think I should do or is it something I desperately want to do?"
 
4. Your resolution isn't attached to a plan. Having a wish list of things you want, without a roadmap to get them, will lead you nowhere. It's asking you to depend on luck and willpower, which won't get you very far.
 
Turn it around for success: To achieve your resolution, what specific steps will you need to take and practice on a regular basis? You need to create action-oriented goals that state what you are going to do and what you need to execute those goals. Periodically review and revise them until you reach your desired outcome. Anticipate the obstacles you might encounter along the way, and strategize how you'll overcome them before they arise. Learn the principles of goal setting and watch your goals turn into habits that bring you the outcome (or resolution) you want.
 
5. Your resolution is vague. Any abstract goal you have, that is not tied to a specific behavior, is nearly impossible for your brain to focus on. If it's not specific, it's not possible to measure progress and success.
 
Turn it around for success: A specific goal will answer what, where, when and how much. What does it really mean when you say "lose weight," "exercise more," "eat better" or "get organized"? If you rarely exercise, how often is more? How much weight would you want to lose to feel successful? How many pieces of fruit and servings of vegetables will you eat each day? A goal such as, "I will lose 10 pounds by July 1 by going to the gym three times each week, and brown bagging healthy lunches to work four days a week," is something you can visualize and track.
 
6. Your resolution is unrealistic. Take a look at where you are currently in regards to your big goal. If the gap between where you are and where you want to be feels enormous, you might need to dial it down a bit.
 
Turn it around for success: Break your resolution down into manageable parts. If you've never run a mile in your life, and your most frequent pastime is watching TV, running a marathon this year might just be too big of a leap. However, running a 5K by spring could be very doable, as long as your "why" is strong enough, and you create a step-by-step plan to get there. Perhaps next year the goal will be a marathon!
 
7. You don't have any support. Not only will "going it alone" slow down your progress, it will make it lonely! There is no shame in reaching out for help. Ask anyone who has achieved great success in any area of their life how they accomplished it, and they will tell you they had a mentor, teacher or significant relationship with someone who supported and guided them along the way.
 
Turn it around for success: Surround yourself with support. If possible, buddy-up with a friend who is attempting to make similar changes. Join a support group here at SparkPeople or in person. If your budget allows, consider hiring a coach or trainer who specializes in the area in which you need help. Working with others who truly care about your success makes the process more engaging and fun. Often, an outside set of eyes will help you see creative solutions to areas where you sometimes feel stuck. Ask for the help you need: from friends, co-workers, family members and others who might have influence over your behaviors or success.
 
8. You don't have a tracking system. If you don't have a means to measure progress along the way, how will you know if you're following the right path? A tracking system is like a great GPS: If you're not getting the right results, it will tell you to recalculate.
 
Turn it around for success: Handwrite your resolutions and keep them in a "working" notebook. Unless you get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, there is a very good chance they will be lost in the business of everyday life. Brain research supports the notion that the physical act of writing down your resolutions—putting ink to paper—helps to solidify your commitment and keep it in your working memory. However, it's not enough to write down goals and put them in some drawer where you will soon forget about them. Write down your plan, and keep notes on your progress, thoughts and experiences. Revise and update often. Use SparkPeople's Goal Board feature to read and remember your goals each day.
 
9. You really don't believe you will succeed. If your inner critic is telling you there is no way you'll succeed, you won't. Ben Franklin wisely said, "Whether you believe you can or you can't, you are right."
 
Turn it around for success: Eliminate your inner critic. Treat yourself like you would a cherished friend or adored child. Don't be mean to yourself; slip-ups are inevitable. Rather than, "I knew I would fail," tell yourself, "Of course you'll succeed. You just had a bad day yesterday. Today you get to start again!" If your inner voice is particularly harsh too often, you might like reading Richard Carlson's Taming Your Inner Gremlin.
 
10. You think you can only change at the beginning of the year. If mid-February rolls around, and you have not made progress towards your resolutions, don't tell yourself all is lost. You can start over again any day of the year. We are blessed to be able to get up every morning and make the decision that today is the day we will begin to do things differently.
 
Turn it around for success: Do quarterly check-ups. Every three months, go back to the first entry in your notebook. Reread your resolution, update it and note your progress. If your resolution is now a habit, create a new resolution and start the process again. If you haven't gotten as far as you would have liked, redesign your plan and try a different approach. Resolve to begin again.
 
I want to leave you with one more tip to assure your success: Celebrate and reward every success no matter how small! Notice and savor every little bit of progress. Focus on getting up one step at a time, rather than the entire staircase. Although heartfelt and deeply personal motivators (increased self-esteem, feeling sexy and comfortable in your body, etc.) are the best drivers for change, extrinsic motivators, that are external and more concrete, can be fun and exciting milestones to celebrate. For example, reward yourself with a massage for every five pounds you lose, or buy new music for your playlist after 10 visits to the gym.
 
Making resolutions really means you are resolving to change. It's hard work but doesn't have to be drudgery. Although reaching the destination is the best reward, enjoying the journey along the way will keep you energized and excited. I am quite sure, if you follow this system, you will not need to make the same resolutions year after year. Each new year will truly be a chance for new beginnings.
 
Sources
Statistic Brain, "New Year Resolution Statistics," www.statisticbrain.com, accessed on December 17, 2013.
 
AppNewser, "New Year's Resolutions 2013," www.mediabistro.com, accessed on December 17, 2013.         
 
Carson, Rick. 2003. Taming Your Inner Gremlin. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
 
Larsen, Kate. 2007. Progress Not Perfection. MN: Expert Publishing, Inc.
            

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Member Comments

  • I like NY resolutions and I keep them simple. First resolution - not so easy really is to be kind. There are some people who really bring out the Irish in me so to speak. Yeah, the Notre Dame "fighting Irish" type.People say the dumbest things. You however do not have to respond. Second is to be set realistic expectations - which like goals can be achieved. I will NEVER run another marathon. In fact I will never run again. I will do as much as my body will let me do at any one time and not feel like I failed. Also easier said than done.

    As for health and fitness. I am in great shape - for the shape I'm in. 10# over college graduation weight (50 years ago not so bad). Most of the gain recent. My BP is low 90/50 and my RHR is 32. My skin isn't wrinkled. and at 67 my hair is still mostly dark confirming that I don't get gray hair I give it. Am I healthy? No I have many chronic conditions to manage - but I'm managing and I'm vertical. Fitness? I do what I can. I was solid muscle at one time and 3" taller. Today I'm softer than I've ever been and working on not getting worse. Best I can do - my personal best.

    And so to all a Happy and I hope peaceful NY where you never abandon dreams but are willing to change direction when you have to do it.

    Peace - or Pieces - your choice.
  • I don't agree with making resolutions for New Year's. I think you are setting yourself up for failure, in the thought that by making a resolution, you probably feel that your will power is insufficient to deal with the subject of the resolution. Address the subject, especially if it is a problem, with a solution.
  • Great article. I find it best to make a list of "goals" for the year - not resolutions . . . . I make detailed steps to get to my goals. The only one I have been unable to achieve is the weight loss and 2016 is going to be the year that I actually stick to it!
  • SUNYALISA
    I liked being reminded to reward successes, every little step. Good for me to remember, to be specific about goals. I usually start a few weeks a head of having a goal, by practicing, to see if I can do it. It gives me a running start. I welcome have a goal or a plan, it is a feeling of renewal and hope for me. I've certainly had my share of failures. For me the article helps me to build a better plan.
  • Think of it this way: 2016 is a leap year, so you get an extra day to meet your goals. :3
  • I posted on your spark page, miniaturist
  • I quit making resolutions, instead I live to be healthy everyday.
  • Miniaturist, I'm thinking you focused on the failure part of the article and not the success part. The most important part is how to "turn it around." I suggest you copy and paste those parts of the article into a Word doc and reread it. It may then contain the message you need at the moment. I quite making resolutions years ago for these very same reasons, and the "turn it around" messages are really quite helpful. Blessing to you, and have a happy new year!
  • MINIATURIST
    Just starting out on this journey and the first thing I see seems to be negativity telling me why I'll fail. Surely there is a way to make first impressions less disheartening.
  • I don't make resolutions. They only set you up for failure. I have enough of that in my life already.
  • What a wonderful article--thank you for posting! Just another reason why I love SparkPeople so much. :-D
  • I don't do resolutions, I have no support system and I've stopped caring. I'm done before I even get started. What a wonderful article.
  • I just try to do the best I can because you never keep that promise.
  • Remember this quote on goal setting by Gandhi:

    Glory lies in the attempt to reach one's goal and not in reaching it.

    You may want to check out http://www.Go
    alsOnTrack.com/, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals, habits, and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It's clear, focused, easy to navigate, and most of all, really works!
  • I have only made two resolutions this year. To get more organized----whic
    h I have already started to do, and to lose 50 lbs by summer. To accomplish the second I have joined the YMCA, doing water aerobics, deep water exercises, aqua stretch and then working out on the machines and with free weights. I love my Tai Chi class---so relaxing. The one part about this article that I disagree with is the tracking device---I have NEVER been able to figure out the tracking devices on this site. They never have the exercises I do. Tried filling them in under the "add your own exercises" but that didn't work either. So I keep track of everything at home and so does my personal trainer.

About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen founded EllenG Coaching, LLC to help individuals struggling with health issues that can be impacted by positive lifestyle change, such as weight loss, stress management, exercise, and life/work balance. As a certified professional wellness coach and certified personal trainer, Ellen holds a BS and Masters in Physical Education and is certified by ACSM, AFAA, and Wellcoaches Corporation. Visit her at http://www.ellengcoaching.com/. Get her complimentary report, 52 Tips, Tools & Tricks to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet, at www.endtheweightlossbattle.com.

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