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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

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!

    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.

    How to Build Self-Esteem: A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power 12 Proven Ways To Increase Your Intellectual Wellness 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 May 12, 2021

    How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan for Your Goals

    How to Create a Personal Strategic Plan for Your Goals

    Creating a personal strategic plan is necessary to achieve your goals. Most companies do that, but for some reason, some talented, motivated individuals don’t. It makes no sense and yet, people broadly think about their goals but don’t create a personal strategy to achieve them.

    In this article, I’m going to address that as it is one of the most critical single tasks you can do to change the course of your life.

    Defining Your Personal Strategic Plan

    Let’s start with the perfect example of John (pseudonym). As a child, he played football, baseball, and basketball, but he wasn’t great at any of them.At the age of 15, he tried to join the basketball team and failed. He was too short and managed to get in to carry the uniform of the star player. The story continues as he continued to practice hard, waking up at 6 am each day, and after a year finally making it to the basketball team that lost the first three tournaments.

    He continued practicing even harder and eventually became perhaps the most influential basketball player of all time—Michael Jordan.

    You might argue that it is definitely a combination of raw talent and hard work for athletes. Still, no one can say that without practice and working hard for years on the same goal, this hard-working individual would have never achieved his achievements.

    This is why it is crucial to define your strategy and then pursue it. It cannot guarantee that you’ll become a world-class athlete, but it can guarantee that you’ll have the best chances of getting to your goals with your unique set of capabilities.

    We’re going to provide you with research-based proven methods of preparing your personal strategic plan.

    What Is a Personal Strategic Plan?

    According to an article in the Journal of Management Research, “effective personal strategy means being able to think in multiple time frames, clarifying what one is trying to achieve over time as well as what needs to be done in the short term to get there.”[1] In other words, it means setting a vision and a plan to execute it.

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    A growth mindset is essential when preparing a personal strategic plan. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be ambitious enough—and if you’re here thinking about your long term goals, it means that you likely already have a growth mindset.

    According to an essay in Harvard Business Review, “individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).”[2]

    The main trait that is associated with success is planning. It is sometimes more important than talent.[3]

    There are many methods for building your personal strategy, and I’m going to cover some of them. They all share an understanding of a high-level vision, a sense of your values, and practical steps on how to get there.

    Horizons of Focus

    David Allen is one of the leading time management specialists globally with his famous book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. One aspect of time management is the understanding of what you need to get done in a personal strategic plan.

    His method includes the following horizons:

    Horizon 5: Purpose and Principles

    This is where you set your vision for life. Of course, this is a big thing that requires you to think about what you would be happy with accomplishing decades from now. Sub-questions are which jobs, lines of industry, impact, and legacy are you interested in.

    An excellent method to examine that is by using the “five whys” process. In this simple method, you should ask yourself “why” to help you understand the real reasons for choosing your vision.

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    For example, if you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you can ask yourself why that is. If the “why” is to make an impact, you can ask yourself additional questions, such as whether this is the best way to do that.

    If you decide that it is, you might wonder why you want to create an impact. Perhaps it is because there is something you deeply care about.

    Your vision shouldn’t be only on professional goals; it should be on every life goal you care about. A bad example would be: “To be the most successful entrepreneur ever.” It is not unique and does not address your inner wants and needs. A good one would be specific, non-generic for you and your personal goals.

    By choosing a long-term goal specific for you, you can continue to the next step of figuring out how what the next few years will look like.

    The second part of this horizon is principles. By choosing your principles, you can re-examine your choices and see if they amount to your expectation from yourself.

    Horizon 4: Three- to Five-Year Vision

    Now that you have clearly defined your goal in life as part of your personal strategic plan, you can plan the next few years. Every ambitious goal takes time to accomplish. You should plan how to get there and understand that flexibility is vital during these times, as there are a lot of changes going on.

    This is when you decide on specific goals, such as a career path. If you aim to be a writer, and your goal is to become a columnist in the New York Times, what would get you there? If your dream is to start a successful startup, what can you do to learn the right things to qualify you as a leading entrepreneur?

    When considering the next specific moves you should take, it is always recommended to find a mentor to consult with. This is someone you look up to and picture their life as one that you would like to have. They are usually at least 10-15 years older and successful in achieving their goals.

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    What would be the next step to get you to your vision? This is not an easy question to answer, but broadly speaking, you should envision a road that can’t be 100% clear sometimes and still takes you in the right direction.

    Horizon 3: One- to Two-Year Goals and Objectives

    What objectives will the next year hold?

    Let’s say that you chose a specific career path. Now, you should focus on the main criteria and key performance indicators that would help you get there. That may seem far from your vision, but visions are, by nature, a bit far out.

    If you decided that you want to be a successful entrepreneur in five years to impact climate change positively, but you still don’t feel that you have the knowledge to do that, a first step might be working for a startup that’s doing that.

    When you take a look at the first year of working for that startup, it might be a good idea to understand your job requirements and prepare to be excellent doing them. By doing that, you’re on the right path to your dream.

    Horizon 2: Areas of Focus and Accountability

    After learning what you need in order to plan the next few years, we’re now getting to the important daily stuff. What are the primary few things that are important for your success in achieving your goal?

    This is the part when you understand your day to day responsibilities and excel at making them. Making a daily to-do list may be helpful at this stage. This is one way to hold yourself accountable when you decide on the daily steps you’ll need to take to carry out your personal strategic plan.

    This is also the horizon that will help you avoid procrastination, as you’ll have a clear idea of what to do and when. If you fall into a rut of procrastination, check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination.

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    Horizon 1: Projects

    These are the open loops of your goals that need to be achieved. One example can be editing that company movie. Another might be finishing that report. It can also be personal things, such as organizing the birthday party for your brother.

    You have tons of these, and every once in a while, it is suggested to ensure that they align with the higher-level goals you have.

    After you add everything to your calendar, the last step is to actually get it done. You can use tons of project management systems, such as Monday, Asana, Notion, and others. In Notion, they actually have a prepared template for this suggested method.

    Additional Methods

    The above method is just one out of many for developing your personal strategic plan.

    Another one is called V2MOM, invented by Salesforce’s founder[4]. The idea is to ask yourself five questions—some of them were also asked above—which would help you clarify your vision and get it.

    The five questions are:

    • Vision: What do you want to achieve?
    • Values: What’s important to you?
    • Methods: How do you get it?
    • Obstacles: What is preventing you from being successful?
    • Measures: How do you know you have it?

    Final Thoughts

    As mentioned, knowing where you want to go and preparing for it has a huge impact on your success in life. That may seem obvious, but some ambitious people don’t manage their lives in a way that helps them position themselves in the best way possible to succeed. Spend a few hours thinking and coming up with a personal strategic plan to put yourself on the right path today.

    More About Goal Planning Strategies

    Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

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