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Last Updated on January 5, 2021

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

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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!

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    Featured photo credit: Chinh Le Duc via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Tracy Kennedy

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

    How to Deal with Setbacks And Use Them for Future Success How to Deal with Uncertainty And Have Peace of Mind 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

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    Last Updated on November 30, 2021

    Tap Into Success With These Long-Term Career Goals Tips

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    Tap Into Success With These Long-Term Career Goals Tips

    I’ve been very lucky in my career to have worked with some amazing people, people who built their careers on the back of hard work, passion, and focus. But the most successful of these people had something else. Hard work, passion, and focus were there, but to get to the very top you need more than just these things; you also need solid, long-term career goals.

    In this article, I will give you seven Long Term Career Goals Tips that you can use when goal setting to build a successful career.

    1. Know What You Want

    This one might seem obvious, but many people never take the time to think carefully about what they want to do in their career[1]. They accept jobs in industries or departments they have no interest in and soon find themselves settled into a career of misery and complaining.

    It always amazes me how people spend more time planning their annual summer holiday than they do their career.

    If you want to build success in your work, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to do and where you want to go. You need that North Star to guide you in your decisions and to keep you focused on where you are going with each stepping stone.

    Without that clarity, you will drift from one role to another, never building any momentum towards your ultimate career goal.

    2. Ask Yourself: What Skills Am I Lacking?

    When we begin our working lives, we have the academic skills but lack many practical skills.

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    When you know what you want to do with your career, you can identify the skills you will need. Soft skills such as relationship building, the ability to collaborate with others, and your productivity all form part of these skills, and you need to make sure you are developing them.

    Invest in yourself, and for those skills that do not develop naturally, find courses online or some books to study. Once you have studied these skills, make sure you put them into practice through your long-term career goals. This one tip will put you ahead of 98% of your colleagues who treat their work as just a job that pays them money to live.

    3. Know That Success Leaves a Path

    I teach this one to all of my clients. In every industry, there are examples of people who started at the bottom and worked their way up to become industry leaders. Examples include Satya Nadella at Microsoft and Jony Ive at Apple. These people were not founders or entrepreneurs; they worked their way up to the top from the bottom, and left clues along the way

    Whatever company you are in, there will be people who began at the bottom and worked their way up to become leaders. What kind of role models did they have? What books did they read? What skills did they develop?

    I remember when I worked in the hotel industry. One of my mentors began as a receptionist. She rose to become the General Manager of my home city’s top hotel through having a clear goal, diligence, and always putting the guest first. She was tough but fair.

    I learnt from her that every time you come into work, the guest was always the top priority and to always be respectful of your colleagues.

    Find that one person in your industry that rose from the bottom and work out the path they took to get to where you want to be in the future. Then, map out your own path that reflects the path already taken to the top.

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    4. Watercooler Gossip Will Not Help Your Career

    I know it is always tempting to be the popular one in your office, to be the one everyone wants to hang out with and the one to go to when there’s some gossip to share. However, if you want to achieve your long-term career goals, don’t get involved.

    Being the “office gossip” will sink your career faster than anything else. If you are serious about building a successful career, you do not have time to get involved in all this gossiping, complaining, and time wasting.

    You don’t have to ignore your colleagues, but never indulge them by listening to the gossip. Make your excuses and get back to work. This one tip will safeguard your career more than any other.

    5. Do Work When at Work

    Your workplace is not a social club. It is a place to do the work you were employed to do.

    Of course, being polite and friendly towards your colleagues is important, but never forget you are there to do work. Avoid getting yourself drawn into long conversations about that episode of Vikings or your local football team’s performance.

    There is a time and place for these conversations, but it is not on company time. When at work, do your work, or you’ll never be able to make progress on your long-term career goals.

    Here are some tips on how to focus on work: 15 Quick Ways To Focus on Work Easily

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    6. Focus on How You Can Be Better

    One of the qualities I have seen in all successful career builders is they have a “How can I do it better?” mindset. They are always asking themselves how they can do their work better, or how could they have solved that problem better.

    It is a mindset of continuous self-improvement, and it is a practice that can catapult you to the top faster than anything else.

    Look for parts of your work that are taking too much time and figure out how to streamline. Or, identify ways you could better serve your team and begin to implement them. Any of these can serve you when you’re creating long-term career goals.

    Often, new working practices are welded on to old ones, and this leads to inefficiencies and duplication, especially if you’re in a leadership position. Find those inefficiencies and develop better ways of doing that work. This habit is always appreciated by your bosses and tells them you are serious about your work.

    7. Model Successful Behaviors

    Find the person at the top and work out how they got there. This does not necessarily mean the person at the top of your company; it means the person at the top of your industry.

    If you are an architect, find out how Sir Frank Foster built his career. If you are a writer, find out how Stephen King or Maya Angelou gained experience and built their careers.

    These people have shown you how to do it, and they left clues. Read everything you can about them, learn from them, and model their work habits.

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    Modeling does not mean copying. It means taking the traits they used and adapting them to work best for you.

    My legal hero was a British lawyer, George Carmen QC. When I began my legal career, I read everything I could about George Carmen QC. I learned that the key skill that led to his success was his ability to communicate with juries. He was a brilliant communicator, and I realized the one skill I could learn that would have a huge impact on my career was the ability to communicate with people.

    While I did not ultimately follow a legal career, that skill of being good at communicating has served me well in all the industries I have worked in.

    The Bottom Line

    Whatever career path you are following, these tips will serve you well as you aim to create long-term career goals that will point you in the right direction. Creating clear short and long-term goals around the above tips will give you the advantages you need to build a wildly successful career. They are tested, they work, and all you need to do is to adapt them so they work for you.

    More Tips on Setting Career Goals

    Featured photo credit: Smart via unsplash.com

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