New Year’s Resolutions are a hot topic as we end one year and start the next. As we hopefully wish and make a promise to do something better for ourselves, the majority of the time, we fizzle out within weeks of starting. Why do new year’s resolutions fail? We will dive into those reasons and the history, examples, and how to keep New Year’s resolutions. Let’s start by learning what they are.
What are New Year’s Resolutions?
New Year’s Resolutions are something we hear about at the end and beginning of each year, but what are they exactly? According to the Cambridge Dictionary,
a New Year’s Resolution is a promise that you make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year.Cambridge Dictionary
Typically, these are things that will improve your life.
According to The History Channel, the origins of New Year’s Resolutions are about 4,000 years ago when ancient Babylonians would celebrate the new year and promise to the Gods to pay their debts and return any objects they have borrowed. If they kept their word, their Gods would bestow favor on them the coming year. If not, they would fall out of god’s favor.
In Rome, a similar practice occurred with Janus, the two-faced god who January is named after. Janus, with his two faces, was able to look forward and backward. This allowed him to look back to the past and forward to the future. Romans believed that Janus symbolically looked back into the previous year and ahead into the future. To received forgiveness from Janus from their previous year’s wrongdoings and bless them in the year ahead, Romans would give gifts and make promises of good behavior.
Now, in the modern-day world, resolutions are tied with the New Year. It’s a topic brought up at parties, around dinner tables, yet few of us succeed. We will dig into common New Year’s resolutions, why do these resolutions fail and what you can do to be successful.
Examples of New Year’s Resolutions
Every year, millions of people start the new year with resolutions. Examples include losing weight, saving money, eat healthier, or anything surrounding improving ones’ life. According to a survey conducted in December 2019, nearly 30% of Americans planned to set resolutions for 2020. The most common are around the below categories.
Examples of Common New Year’s Resolutions
- Exercise more – 50%
- Save money – 49%
- Eat Healthier – 43%
- Lose weight – 37%
- Reduce Stress – 34%
- Get More Sleep – 30%
- Stick to a budget – 30%
- Focus on spiritual growth – 28%
- Travel more – 25%
- Learn a new skill – 24%
Some other examples of New Year’s resolutions include learning a new language, read more books, make new friends, and improve your relationships. Anything can be a new year’s resolution, but the theme is around self-improvement.
Why Do New Year’s Resolutions fail?
Studies have shown that less than 25% of people stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them. Let’s go over why New Year Resolution’s fail.
1. Not Specific Enough
The first reason why New Year’s resolutions fail is that they are not specific enough. For example, lose weight or exercise more. When your resolutions are vague, it’s hard to visualize what the result will be. Without this clarity, it’s easy to keep putting it off because you have no idea how to take the first step. You also lack ways to mark progress and are unlikely to stay motivated throughout the year.
2. Too Big of a Time Frame
The second reason New Year’s resolutions fail is that it’s too big of a time frame. One year is a long time. It’s super easy to put things off for a later month and to keep pushing it back until you never actually complete it.
3. Try to Make Massive Life Changes too Quickly
The third reason New year’s resolutions fail is because you are trying to make massive life changes quickly. You cannot remodel your whole life overnight and not expect your bad habits to creep in. Change takes time!
Another reason why New year’s resolutions fail is that they are overwhelming. When you are staring humongous resolution in the face, you might not know where to start. By not being able to break it down, you get overwhelmed and never begin.
5. Don’t Believe in Themselves
If you don’t believe your New Year’s resolution is possible, you will fail. When you have doubts in your head, you are essentially telling yourself that it will never happen.
6. It’s Negative
When people frame their resolutions in negative language, it also makes it easy to fail. For example, if you resolve to stop wasting money, you are creating a negative environment. It’s similar to when someone tells you not to look. What do you do? Immediately look at whatever they are referencing.
7. Not Aligned with You
Another reason why New Year’s resolutions fail is that they are not aligned with you. This is a common mistake people make when they believe they should be doing something. For example, you set a goal to make $100k/ year, but why? Is that something you need? Or is it something that society or your family deems successful when you move over the 6 figure mark. It’s hard to go after a goal when you don’t know why or if you don’t even really care about it deep down.
How to keep New Year’s Resolutions
Now that we know what New Year’s resolutions are and why people fail, let’s learn what we can do to succeed.
1. Break Your New Years Resolution into Bite-Sized Chunks
The first thing you can do to achieve your new year’s resolutions is to break your goal into bite-sized pieces. When you break it down, you know where to start and how many steps to take along the way. For example, your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. Great! But how are you going to do that? Make losing weight your overarching goal and set mini-goals underneath. You set mini-goals so you can focus on achieving that versus worrying about your massive overarching goal. A mini-goal might be for you to get into a regular workout habit. That could include going to the gym three times a week, walking on your lunch break, or practicing yoga. Whatever it is, break the big overarching goal into things you can do to move you towards achieving it. If you need help with this, I have a free guide called my Prioritized to-do list which helps you break down your big goal into actionable, bite-sized chunks. Download it for free here.
2. Make Your New Years Resolution Specific
The second thing you can do to achieve your New Year’s Resolution is to make a goal-specific. When a goal is detailed and specific, it’s easier for your mind to visualize it, making it harder to walk away from it. An excellent tool to use here is the SMART goal method. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. An example of a smart goal for your New Year’s resolution of lose weight could be You will run a 5k by May 1st. Then, you break that goal down into tasks you can do to help you achieve it (I go over this in the Prioritize to-do list). When your resolution is vague, like lose weight, you cannot visualize it. You can, however, visualize running 30 minutes a day, five times a day. To learn more about smart goals, I have an entire blog post and podcast episode over this.
3. Track Your Progress
Another way you can achieve your new year’s resolution is to track your progress. I love using goal tracking sheets. There is the old saying what gets measured gets managed. When you aren’t measuring something, you aren’t paying attention to it. You can create your goal tracking sheets or use an app. I use the ones I created for my course, Goal Achiever Academy because it has trackers for monthly, weekly and daily tasks. I use a water tracking app on my phone since I am not always near my paper trackers when I drink water. Figure out what type of goal trackers work for you and use them.
When you rely solely on your willpower and motivation to achieve your resolution, you will fail. Motivation will only take you so far. After a couple of days when the real work starts to set in, your motivation will start to fail. If you don’t have proper systems in place, you will be one of the 75% of people who fail during the first 30 days. Goal tracking is one way to set up a system, as we discussed above. Another is habit stacking. Habit stacking is when you stack habits around an already established habit you do daily. Let’s say you want to start taking better care of your skin. At night, you already have a routine to brush your teeth, so add on the habit of washing your face. Once that gets established, you add on putting a serum on your face after washing. Once that feels second nature, you add on the habit of applying moisturizer. It’s easier to add habits to already established ones, but make sure you start slow. If you try to add on too many any once, you will not be successful.
4. Get an Accountability Partner
A great way to achieve your New Year’s resolution is to get an accountability partner. Accountability partners are individuals who are actively vested in our progress on goals, and they are also someone you meet with regularly to discuss your progress. In these discussions, you might celebrate your wins, evaluate your struggles, and create solutions, report your progress, or even confess the lack of progress. They will uncover your blind spots, be a sounding board for new ideas, and, most importantly, call you out on your BS. The American Society of Training and Development did a study on accountability and found that you have a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit to someone. If you have a specific accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed to, you will increase your chance of success by up to 95%. I created a podcast episode all about accountability partners, so give it a listen to learn more.
5. Be Patient
An overlooked reason why New Year’s resolutions fail is a lack of patience. It is hard to change. But it is super easy to get frustrated, especially if things aren’t happening as quickly as you wanted them to go. Be gentle with yourself. You are transforming! Focus on the baby improvements you have made each day, each week and each month versus looking at the massive resolution.
6. Celebrate Your Progress and Milestones
The last thing you need to do to be successful with your resolutions is to celebrate your milestones.
Celebrating is one thing that has always been a struggle for me. I love checking something off my list then hit the ground running towards the next milestone without congratulating myself on a job well done. Since then, I have done a lot of work to integrate reflection and celebration into my normal life. For example, when I got my first paid coaching client, typical me would say awesome! Let’s get a second one. But wiser me dances around my office then goes out to dinner with my husband. Then the next day, I focus on getting paid client #2. Celebrating your wins makes the whole goal-setting process enjoyable plus, it’s fun!
Now that you know how to failure-proof your New Year’s Resolution, it is time to take action! Download my free guide, The Prioritized To-Do List by filling out the form below.