The Biggest New Year's Resolution Fails (and How to Learn from Them)

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Each January, people all over the world pledge to eat healthier, get fit, lose weight and become better people in general. Full of hope and ambition, they think: This is the year! Nothing will stop me from reaching my goals this time! But despite that initial resolve to change, we all know what eventually happens—the enthusiasm dies down, life takes over and all of those good intentions eventually get tossed out with the final remains of the New Year's confetti. According to the University of Scranton, just 8% of people who make New Year's resolutions actually succeed at keeping them.

But don't let those odds make you throw up your hands and resolve to not make any changes this year! It's all about the approach, not the resolution itself. Many people simply bite off more than they can chew, setting themselves up for failure from the get-go. However, if you make the right resolutions, you truly can be successful at keeping them—and you could even do more than what you'd initially intended. Here are some lessons real people like you have learned from their past failed resolutions. Take notes—these tips are going to help you become one of the 8% this year! 

My failed resolution: "To give up sugar"
What I learned from it: I didn't last a month, but learned to compromise. Now, I only eat cookies, ice cream, etc. once a week. All things in moderation, even sugar! (Emily F.)

My failed resolution: "To work out every day no matter what"
What I learned from it: I tried to take on too much-and it made me burn out! It taught me a great lesson in learning to listen to my body and not pushing myself beyond my healthy threshold. (Dina L.)

My failed resolution: "To eat healthier and exercise more"
What I learned from it: To NOT make New Year’s resolutions! I learned to stop setting dates to "start" and focused instead on building a healthy lifestyle every day. No "restarts," either--I ride the ups and downs no matter what the date. That way, there's no excuse for binges or being irresponsible with my health. (MIMAELIZABETH)

So, what have we learned from these resolution fails? Here are the major take-aways:

1. Start with small, manageable goals
It's good to think big, but setting the bar too high at first is a recipe for failure! Even if it sounds silly, make your goals as small as you can to start off with. Then, you can build from there. Sometimes, completing smaller goals can lead you to making better choices overall (we call that The Meta Effect!). Some examples of good initial goals include:
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator at every available opportunity
  • Eating a Meta Health BarTM instead of a candy bar for a snack
  • Drinking one more glass of water per day than you usually do
  • Pledging to exercise for at least 10 minutes a day
  • Sneaking in an extra serving of veggies into your daily diet
  • Trying a new-to-you fitness class once per month
2. Make your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) 
If you want to stick to your goals, you can't make generic statements about what you want to do. The more specific you are about what you want to achieve, the more likely you are to achieve it. For maximum success, all of your goals should answer the following questions:
  • WHO: Who will be involved in helping you reach your goal (including yourself)?
  • WHAT: What exact goal do you want to accomplish? Be very specific. Rather than "lose weight" or "get fit," define those terms: "I will lose 25 pounds," or "I will be able to run a 5K."
  • WHEN: When will you start and when will you reach your goal?
  • HOW: How will you make this happen? These are the action steps to get you toward your goal. If you want to lose 25 pounds in 6 months, your "how's" might look something like: I will eat between 1,500 and 1,800 calories each day; I will exercise for 30 minutes 5 days per week; I will track my food and calories burned each day; and I will pack my lunch at least 3 days of the week.
To learn more about creating SMART goals, click here.

3. You have to work for it, not just want it!
This might seem obvious, but sometimes you really just need to hear it to put it into practice: No matter how badly you want something, nothing is ever going to happen until you actually take steps toward your goal. The steps don't even have to be big—as long as you're consistently moving forward, you'll get there. Cut your goals into measurable chunks to make them more manageable along your journey (again, those SMART goals will help with this).

4. Don't give yourself ultimatums or drastic, absolute goals ("I won't ever eat sugar again!")
People often approach New Year's resolutions by jumping head-first into new habits (or by quitting old habits cold turkey), setting rigid rules along the way. However, this approach is almost guaranteed to overwhelm you very quickly, causing you to burn out on your goals and end up right back where you started. Take a step back and look at your goals realistically. Will you really never eat sugar again in your entire life? If the answer is no, it might be time to tweak your expectations. For example, instead of setting a goal to "never eat sugar again," you might instead set a goal to "cut down sweets to three times per week."

5. Stop waiting for January 1st to start working toward your goals! If you do happen to slip up along the way, don't give up and wait until next year to get back on the right track. Every second is another chance to turn your life and your health around. Why start tomorrow when you could start improving today?

Are you ready to become one of the 8% this year? Let's make some goals we can all stick to! Right now, write down 1-3 goals you would like to achieve this year using the SMART model above. Need a boost to help you get started? Join the 30-Day Small Changes Challenge or check out the Thrive 365 Center to jump-start your healthy habits.

Our sponsor Meta knows we all face challenges keeping resolutions. Check out this fun video they made and head over to their Facebook page to share your #brokenresolution.

Good luck, and have a Happy New Year! 

This blog is brought to you by Meta, a SparkPeople sponsor.