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.
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.