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Last Updated on January 5, 2021

Why New Year Resolutions Fail And How to Set Yourself up for Success

Why New Year Resolutions Fail And How to Set Yourself up for Success
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Every year, millions of people take the opportunity to use January 1 as a fresh start. After a challenging, strange, and difficult 2020, many are eagerly anticipating 2021 and with it, the hope of change and new possibilities.

But change and opportunity don’t come by chance or by luck. They come by being clear and intentional about what is most important to you, what you want the year to look like, and what you are going to do to make it happen.

That’s why the process of setting New Year’s resolutions is so essential – it provides a chance to stop and reflect on our goals and intentions for the new year – to bring consciousness and intention to our lives. It’s no wonder people have been setting New Year’s resolutions for almost 4,000 years! [1]

Every year, my husband and I set our goals and intentions for the year ahead. When the kids became old enough to participate, they started joining us for this important ritual.

If you haven’t yet taken the time to pause and reflect and set your goals and intentions for this New Year, this is your first step.

Then, it’s time to make them happen. However, we all know that the execution of our resolutions is often easier said than done.

In fact, check out these statistics:

  • One widely quoted statistic notes that 92% of people don’t follow through on their resolutions.
  • Another showed 80% of people give up on their resolutions by the second week in February.[2]
  • A third study identified that 88% of those who set New Year’s Resolutions fail, even though 52% were confident of success at the beginning.[3]
  • One identified that 25% of people ditch their goals in the first week![4]

Regardless of which of these studies is right, we can all agree that the overwhelming conclusion is this: MOST people don’t follow through.

7 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

Here are 7 reasons why so many New Year’s Resolutions fail and more importantly, how to set yourself up for success:

1. Your Goals Aren’t Specific Enough

“I want to get healthier”

is a great mission, but not a great goal. The universe responds to specificity and so does your brain.

When things aren’t specific enough, or you don’t have a clear enough vision of what you want, your mind doesn’t know what success looks like, and it’s easier to get distracted, demotivated and lose energy.

Set Yourself up for Success:

Get specific. Make sure you have a clear vision of what you want and what success looks like.

You want to get healthier? What does that mean? Do you want to exercise three times a week? Eat better? What does that look like? No more sugar, meatless Monday, eight fruits and vegetables a day?

You want to lose weight. How much? By when? Get specific on your goals so you know exactly what it would mean to achieve them.

Make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

2. No Accountability

How much more likely are you to follow through on something when you’ve committed to someone else – your boss, spouse, friends?

The founder at AllTopStartups, Thomas Oppong wrote is well in his article on Medium:[5]

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“When you are accountable to someone or a group of people for doing what you said you would do, you can easily get stuff done because you engage the power of social expectations.”

Set Yourself up for Success:

Find an accountability partner. Hire a coach to keep you on track and honest. Make a commitment to someone else.

I have a good friend that joined a “Race for a Cure” team so she was accountable to both the team, the cause and the result.

3. You Lose Focus

Did someone say ‘squirrel!?’ Committing to having a new adventure each month is a great resolution (one of my good friends had this one last year).

In January, you go skydiving,…Awesome! February, you head out on a kayak…Great work! But then things get busy, life gets away from you, and suddenly that exciting resolution finds its way to the back burner of your mind.

I read one statistic that said 23% of people forgot about their resolutions. Forgot!

Set Yourself up for Success:

Write down your resolutions.

Studies have proven that those who write down their goals accomplish significantly more than those who do not. In fact, you are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. Writing your goals down not only forces you to get clear on what is that you want to accomplish but doing so plays a part in motivating you to complete the tasks necessary for your success. [6]

Then, place them somewhere you can see them and review them regularly. Place your goal somewhere you see it: your bathroom mirror, your calendar, a reminder on your phone.

My husband and I have date nights throughout the year to check in on our goals and see how we’re progressing. You can also use other ‘milestone events’ such as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays as a time to review your resolutions.

Create a daily ritual around your resolution. My good friend, and owner of HeySoul, Jessie Gardner, talks about making small, consistent, simple, doable actions.

“Moments make up your days, days make up your year.” Jessie Gardner, Founder, HeySoul

Build these into your normal life and make them something you look forward to doing. Your cup of tea in the morning, a comfy meditation pillow, your favorite app. This creates a positive experience and begins to rewire the brain to seek that experience again and again.

4. Your Environment Is Not Conducive to Your Goals

In my work as a health coach, this shows up more than any other type of coaching work I do. One of the biggest challenges my clients face is trying to make a change in an environment that is not in sync with the changes they’re trying to make.

For example, you want to stop eating sugar, but your partner stocks the house full of yummy sweet treats. Or, you want to meditate daily, but every time you go to do so, your family laughs at how woo-woo you’ve become. Maybe you’re trying to take less on and learn to say no more often and your partner keeps committing you to every invitation you get. Perhaps you want to walk three times a week, but it’s the winter in England and it’s pouring rain every day.

I had one client who wanted to stop snacking in the evenings. However, every night when she went to watch TV with her partner, her partner grabbed a big bag of potato chips or pint of ice cream. Sure, she had willpower, but understandably this was a real struggle and made it much harder to stay disciplined.

Set Yourself up for Success:

Short of ditching your partner, abandoning your family and moving to the South of France, what can you do when your environment is not conducive to your goals?

First, aim to get your partner or family on board, even with small changes.

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Not a chance? Set up systems that allow you to get what you need. Meditate when they’re not home, stock your cupboard full of your favorite teas for when you watch TV. Join the local gym, get an exercise app, purchase a second-hand treadmill.

It’s NOT easy, but there ARE always ways to make it work.

5. You Don’t Really Want It, or You Don’t Know Why It’s Important

We often make resolutions based on what others think we should do or perhaps what we think we should do. But if you don’t really want to do it, the likelihood of success becomes very low. YOU must want to lose weight, quit smoking, save money. Someone else can’t want it for you. In fact, as humans, we have a need for autonomy and freedom, which means if someone tells you should, the likelihood of you doing it becomes even less!

Performance expert and coach, Jay Henderson says this,

“If you set goals based on things that aren’t a priority for you, they’re just not going to happen. But here’s the deal. If you set your goals based on what IS important to you, you probably won’t even need to write them down. You’re going to think about them all the time and they’re just going to happen”

Set Yourself up for Success:

Identify what YOU want and WHY it’s important to you.

Learn your why so you will always stay motivated! This article can help you:

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

6. You Underestimate What It’s Going to Take

Most people underestimate what it’s going to take to make their goals a reality. They get excited about an idea, but the more they see the reality of what it’s really going to take to get there, the more they lose steam.

What happens to your mind when it thinks something is too hard or believes it’s going to take too long? Exactly.

Set Yourself up for Success:

Identify what you need to do to achieve your goal. Goals without actions are just ideas.

Create a plan of action. Better yet, get someone else who has done exactly what you’re trying to do help you.

If you want to lose 10 lbs., how do you plan on losing it? How long might that take? What’s the step-by-step approach? Put pen to paper and figure it out.

Another tip: Keep it simple.

Identify the one thing that will have the most significant impact or make the biggest difference for your life. You don’t need to make eight resolutions. Make one. The one. And commit. Put your energy and focus into making it happen. Small changes eventually add up to huge results.

Take my client Robin. Due to her fibromyalgia, she had such terrible pain in her feet that she couldn’t tolerate anything on her feet other than fuzzy socks. But she had a goal to wear this pair of moccasin slippers out into the world. She started physical therapy, did desensitization work and slowly extended the amount of time in her slippers.

And then one day I got the best email from her:

“…this week is the first time I’ve worn the brown slippers out into the world! I literally started by just keeping my feet in them for 15 seconds, and building from there on days when I thought I could.”

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See? Small changes = big results.

7. The Resolution Is out of Sync with Who You Are

Our identity – who we believe ourselves to be – is very powerful. A former colleague of mine tells the story about a client, “Big Dan,” who came to him wanting to lose weight.

Big Dan had a goal to lose 10 kilos, but “Big Dan” was a large man who ran Big Dan’s Meat Shop. His entire identity revolved around his size. Of course, every time he tried to lose weight he didn’t. He saw himself as Big Dan, as did others. In order to lose the weight, he needed to shift his entire identity.

Set Yourself up for Success:

Connect with your identity

– who you are – and how you see yourself.

If you see yourself as athletic and strong, the likelihood of you doing that triathlon are high. But if you have always seen yourself as nonathletic and clumsy, guess how that’s going to play out? This is not an easy shift, to change your identity. It requires awareness, understanding, and some deep work. Often this is work that needs to be done with the support of a good therapist or coach.

But once you switch your perception of yourself, it’s amazing how easily (and quickly) things will happen from there.

Additional Tips to Set Yourself Up for Success

Serious about achieving your goals this year? Read on for a few more ways to help you follow-through on your New Year’s resolutions and make this your best year yet.

Practice Self-Reflection

It’s important to spend time reflecting before you jump into setting your goals and resolutions. Self-reflection is about taking a step back and reflecting on your life, behavior and beliefs. It’s a valuable and powerful practice. You may have heard the saying,

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again but expecting different results.”

Yet, that is what so many of us do. This year, before your set your resolutions, take a step back and reflect on what’s working and what’s not. Identify what to keep and what needs to change. Seek to understand yourself at a deeper level and identify what might get in the way. Take some time to reflect on the last year.

To read more about self-reflection, get access to a step-by-step process; and valuable strategies to make your self-reflection time most productive, check out this guide:

How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life

Remember, There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Everyone will tell you the best way, or the right way for how to do something. There’s tons of different articles, pieces of advice and strategies about how to set your resolutions. Here’s the one thing that is absolutely and always true:

You must find a process that works for you.

While we have similar human needs (love, connection, significance), we also have different innate wiring, which means what works for someone else may not work for you.

Think about what you know about yourself as you think about strategies.

What works for you to keep your goals? Think about a goal, resolution or commitment you made that you DID keep.

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Why did you keep it? What were the factors at play?

This will give you some great insights into which one of these might work for you.

Your Mindset and Beliefs Override Everything.

It doesn’t’ matter how SMART your goals are, if you write them down and who you’re accountable to if you haven’t looked from the inside out.

Most of our problems are internal, and so are the solutions. Following through on your resolutions is more about your mindset, beliefs and identity than anything else.

If you don’t wholeheartedly believe you can achieve something, it won’t happen.

    Our minds are very powerful.

    In fact, there’s an amazing story of an orthopedic surgeon in England who performed surgery on patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. In one study, he took a group of patients and did NOT do surgery at all. He put them under, made the incision, spent the same amount of time in the operating room, and then sewed them back up. They thought they had the surgery. And guess what, all his patients reported improvements and reduction in pain. (You can find out more about the story here.) Our minds are powerful, hence the placebo effect.

    That means with your resolutions, you must start with the belief that it’s possible.

    Look at your belief system.

    What belief is getting in the way of your success? That goal you’ve been trying to achieve: do you believe you can? What do you believe (or not believe) about yourself that might be getting in the way?

    Be Nice to Yourself

    Life is full of setbacks, obstacles, and failures. There’s no reason why your New Year’s Resolutions should be any different.

    So, you wanted to eat healthier and you just messed up and had a donut with your kid. So what? Try again.

    Don’t use it as an excuse to completely abandon the goal you had set for yourself. Failure is all part of learning and when you’re trying to implement any new habit, you’re going to slip back at times.

    Be nice to yourself. You’re doing the best you can. Focus on moving forward. Acknowledge your wins and successes. And don’t lose sight of that goal.

    You Have the Power to Make it Happen

    Who knows what this year will bring. But whatever it brings, and regardless of external circumstances, you have the power to make this year great. You have the power to create change and new possibilities. You have the power to achieve your goals.

    Start with a healthy mindset, proven strategies, and a genuine belief that what you want is possible. Expect great things. Then, go after them with commitment, passion, and resilience. It’s going to be hard work, but everything worth accomplishing always is.

    You got this. Here’s to an incredible New Year!

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    Featured photo credit: Chinh Le Duc via unsplash.com

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    Tracy Kennedy

    Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

    12 Proven Ways To Increase Your Intellectual Wellness How to Build Self-Esteem: A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life 10 Powerful Ways to Be More Confident 10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When Feeling Stuck

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    Last Updated on August 4, 2021

    How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

    How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life
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    Why is it important to be goal-oriented? If you make goals without asking yourself what your true strengths and values are first, you could put yourself on the fast track to disappointment. On the other hand, if you don’t set any intentions at all, you could bounce through life like a pinball doing what others want without accomplishing what’s really important to you.

    Fear not. Here are 8 powerful ways to be goal-oriented using the ENVISION method (Endgame – Nesting – Value – Inspiration – Superpowers – Intimates – Openness – Nourishment) that will help you create a successful, meaningful life:

    1. Start With the End in Mind

    To ensure that you make goals that matter, stand back and examine your life from a broader perspective. Think about the happy ending you would like to achieve, the “E” in ENVISION, and work backwards to determine how you’ll get there.

    For example, if you’d like to generate goals for yourself over the next five years, write down where you’d like to be professionally and personally five years from now.

    Where do you see yourself in relation to work? What’s your family life like? What type of friends and social support group do you have? What are your hobbies? 

    Next, ask yourself where you would like to be one year from now relative to what you’d like to accomplish in five years. Write the answer out in enough detail so that it seems real to you. Then, ask yourself where you’d like to be three months from now. Be specific.

    What about one month or one week? What one small action could you take this week to come closer to achieving your master plan?

    This exercise is a fun and eye-opening way to line up your goals with the bigger picture of your life so that you won’t waste your precious time on passing fancies and other people’s agendas.

    2. Create Nested Goals

    The most efficient way to achieve your goals is to nest action items inside them, the first “N” in ENVISION. Goal-oriented people get specific about when, where, and how they’ll reach their objectives by breaking them down into sub-goals.

    Make your aspirations challenging but not too hard. Each one should be measurable. Instead of writing “I’d like to write a book,” try setting an intention such as “I’d like to write two hours a day, four times a week” and mark space on your calendar for it.

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    Make your aims positive and keep track of your progress. Instead of business goals like “I’d like to quit my stinking job,” think about what a desirable career would look like. Try “I’d like to develop educational toys with like-minded people in a virtual office,” and then send out your résumé to companies with matching job openings.

    Come up with alternative pathways to your goals so that if one doesn’t work, you’ll already have plan B in place. It’s normal to fail and experience setbacks. This goal-oriented strategy will help you move forward on the pathway to your dreams no matter what happens.

    You can learn more on creating effectively goals here:

    3. Get Clear on Your Values

    Before you start setting goals, it’s important to ask yourself what you really value, the “V” in ENVISION.

    The number one regret of people on their deathbed is that they did not live their dreams. Don’t let that be you. To avoid living a life full of “shoulds” and obligations, make a wish list. Jot down what you really want, and put all the reasons you think you can’t have it aside.

    These aspirations can range from the material (such as a new car) to the psychological (high self-worth), to the spiritual (inner peace), to pretty much anything you can think of. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy.

    Giving yourself permission to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to getting it. Be sure your goals speak to your soul.

    4. Make Time for Inspiration

    As you put your goals together, think about how you can find downtime to become goal-driven and receive inspiration in your life, the first “I” in ENVISION.

    Americans put in the longest work hours and get the shortest paid vacation time in the developed world. Those of us “lucky” enough to have jobs have added another day to our work week because we now check work emails and calls from home. It’s easy to see why it’s hard to stay motivated toward specific goals in the long-term. 

    However, the second regret of the dying is that they wished they didn’t work so hard. Research shows that people who engage in creative hobbies and side projects are happier and flourish more in life because they can generate new ideas and express themselves uniquely.[1] Feeling energized and playful, they get more done in less time, become better problem solvers, and receive better evaluations at work.[2]

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    5. Form Goals Around Your Superpowers

    Research shows that people are more likely to succeed when they develop their natural strengths, the “S” in ENVISION, than work on their weaknesses.

    You can find your superpowers by answering these questions.

    Each of us has a unique purpose in life. Most of us don’t realize it, though, because we’ve been pressured to conform to someone else’s idea of who we should be. Fear of change and staying in our comfort zones stunts our growth. Stretch yourself and take a risk if you want to find out what makes your heart sing.

    Make an action plan to create a life in which you express your superpowers on a regular basis, whether it be through your vocation, a meaningful side project, a worthy cause, mindful parenting, volunteer work, or whatever else sparks your interest. This goal-oriented strategy guarantees you’ll thrive at work and at home.

    6. Make Time for Intimates

    When setting your goals, be sure to carve out time for your intimates, the second “I” in ENVISION. Intimates refers to close friends or people you have close relationships with.

    The fourth regret of the dying is that they were too busy to see their friends much.[3] Make it a point to connect with real friends, people you can turn to for sympathy when you need it, confide in about most things, and be your true self around.

    A new Cigna study shows that nearly half of Americans feel alone or left out.[4] According to Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young University, the detrimental effects of loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.[5] She warns that:

    “Loneliness and social isolation are linked to around a 30 percent increased risk of having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease.”[6]

    Become goal-driven to avoid loneliness

      Being with your friends is not only good for your soul, but it is also essential for your health and well-being[7]. Put it in your goals.

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      7. Open up Emotionally

      When crafting your goal-oriented life, be sure to include ways you can open up about your feelings, the “O” in ENVISION. The third regret of the dying is that they wish they’d had the courage to express their true feelings instead of stuffing their emotions down to keep peace with others.

      To lead a fulfilling life, it’s important to prioritize talking and behaving honestly with others instead of hiding your true feelings. According to Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps[8]:

      “Start with identifying your emotions (e.g. angry, hurt) and understanding what triggered you to feel this way.”

      She recommends you try to understand your feelings and practice self-compassion for having them. When you’re calmer, try to understand the person who upset you. This will help you respect and care about yourself and the other person.

      If there is someone you need to talk to or a situation you’d like to resolve, honor your feelings. Whether it be writing a letter, making a phone call, or visiting someone you haven’t seen in years, put it on your goal list.

      Be sure to meet in a safe environment if you’re confronting someone who has abused or harmed you. Tell the truth as you see it, and try to be kind.

      Sharing your genuine feelings may bring you closer together, and it may not. It doesn’t really matter how the other person responds. What matters is that you expressed your true self. Make emotional honesty a habit by adding it to your goals.

      8. Nurture Happiness

      To be more goal-oriented and succeed in life, nurture the people and activities that bring you joy, the final “N” in ENVISION.

      The fifth regret of people on their deathbed is that they wished they’d let themselves be happier. Instead, they stayed stuck in old patterns and pretended to be content when they weren’t.

      If you don’t like your job, make it a goal to look for a new position that aligns your paycheck with your purpose. If you are entrepreneurially-minded, think about turning your passion project into a business you love. If you have multiple passions, consider pursuing a slash career (e.g., copywriter/coder/career coach).

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      According to Forbes Magazine, many companies are beginning to see the value in hiring employees who have side gigs that differ from their main vocations. You’ll bring in multiple streams of income and experience more meaning and fulfillment in your life.[9]

      If you are unhappy with your marriage or romantic relationship, set a goal to do something about it. Do you need to go to counseling? Do you need to move on?

      If you’re on the fence about whether to keep a friend in your life, be goal-oriented about getting closure on the issue. Take care of yourself in the process by completing positive daily tasks, like taking yoga classes or getting a much-needed massage.

      Whatever you do, make it a goal to show compassion as often as you can because it will boost your happiness.[10] By helping others in need, you not only can decrease their suffering, but you can also make yourself happier than you could by directly pursuing activities to make you happy.

      Final Thoughts

      In summary, the ENVISION method shows you how to blend lessons from the five regrets of the dying with effective goal-setting techniques that center around your strengths to become goal-driven.

      It may seem like a lot of work at first glance, but, in truth, it should only take you about an hour to piece together a list of goals following these guidelines. Why not trade an hour of watching television or engaging in social media to do this instead? You can always get online and watch TV later to reward yourself for becoming more goal-oriented.

      You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by exploring what would make your heart sing. It’s worth investing in yourself this way. You have the power to create a life that totally rocks by setting the intention to do so. As the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote,

      “What you seek is seeking you.”

      More Tips on Achieving Goals

      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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