February 15, 2020

You’re at a New Year’s Eve party, and your friend is telling you about how she’s going to run a marathon next year as one of her new year's resolutions. She’s already signed up for the race and will shop for a new pair of running shoes first thing in the morning. As she tells you about her plans, you start to feel self-conscious.

You’ve eaten too much at this party, and you think about how you’d like to lose a few pounds. Her idea seems like a reasonable one. Why couldn’t you start running tomorrow and complete a marathon in a few months?

Next thing you know, you’ve raised your glass in the air and declared that the next year will be the year you do something amazing—like completing a marathon. The next morning, you get a text from your friend. She wants to know when you’ll meet her at Sport’s Authority.

You trot off to meet her and spend $125 on a brand new pair of running shoes. The problem? Odds are you’ll only use these shoes a handful of times, because after a few runs, you quickly realize that you don’t even like to run. And if you’re honest with yourself, you realize there’s no way you’ll ever run a marathon.

Now, this is just one example of what normally happens when “The Ball” drops on New Year’s Eve. Sure, you might not agree to do a marathon, but you probably make the promise that “next year will be different.”

That’s because it’s easy to get caught in the trap of making a lofty New Year’s resolution without having a plan for how you’ll achieve it. Why does this happen? The answer is simple, and it stems from how most people come up with their New Year’s resolutions.

The Truth About New Year’s Resolutions

There are three reasons why most people fail with their New Year’s resolutions

*1. People make New Year's Resolutions on impulse, without thinking about the hard work it takes to reach these goals.

*2. New Year's Resolutions are often made because of a weak motivator, such as guilt or a feeling of obligation to others.

*3. New Year's Resolutions are usually made in a haze of alcohol and are not always connected to what your life is typically like.

People often make resolutions with good intentions. However, good intentions won’t get you very far if you don’t have the capability or the willingness to take action on the goal.

Why New Year's Resolutions Fail

Not Overcoming Obstacles

No matter how much willpower you possess, you will make mistakes and encounter obstacles. Eventually you’ll skip a day of writing or cave in to that piece of chocolate cake. That’s why the “secret” to success with a resolution is to have a plan for what you’ll do after making a mistake.

The people who realize that one “oops” doesn’t equate to failure are most likely to succeed in the long term. They forgive themselves and then get right back into the saddle. What they don’t do is continue to make the same mistake over and over.

Doing It Alone

Most of us treat a habit change like a secret project. It’s humbling to admit you have a problem. You want to keep your weaknesses to yourself. Sure, you might want to change, but you’re afraid to tell the whole world about it.

Creating Unrealistic Goals

If you can’t walk a half-mile without becoming oxygen deprived, then making a resolution to running a marathon in the next few months is unrealistic. However, establishing a walking habit or a goal of running a 5k is a realistic and doable goal. You will need to set a realistic goal that you can actually achieve. And if you want to do something grander, work your way up to the larger goal by setting smaller goals that will build upon each other, leading up to this major milestone.

Not Considering the Entire Year

You know what happens to most people who make NYRs? They change for a week or a month, and then their good efforts die off by the end of January. This happens because they didn’t make a plan for the long run. Instead, they just thought about the immediate future.

Creating New Year's Resolutions that Stick

Now that you have an understanding of why resolutions fail, let’s go over a proven formula for creating a dynamic change in your life. In this section, we’ll cover a seven-step process for sticking to any New Year’s resolution:

Step #1: Change One Habit Every Month

Let’s say your goal is to lose 50 pounds this year. Instead of tackling this huge goal, you need to break it down into 12 habit changes that will help you meet that goal. Then you will focus on one habit change per month, practicing that new healthy habit until you’ve got it down pat. Since it takes 30 days to form a habit, you will be ready to add a new habit change into the plan at the beginning of each month.

Step #2: Identify Potential Failure Points

Remember that “hot-cold empathy gap” concept I mentioned earlier? Most of us underestimate the lure of a powerful temptation, so we don’t adequately protect ourselves. We also tend to downplay triggers that cause us to ditch new healthy habits and revert back to unhealthy routines. The key to developing a positive habit is to identify your triggers and know what temptations often pop up. Once that’s done, make a plan for what you’ll do when the lure of a bad habit occurs.

Step #3: Identify a Major Yearly Goal

This may require some brainstorming, especially if you have a lot of changes you’d like to make. Think through the many changes you’d like to make in your life and list them out. Then settle on a top priority goal. Set this goal as the focus of your upcoming year.

Step #4: Make a Plan for Each Habit Change

What are the important habits to develop? That’s a question you should ask for every major goal in your life. The truth is, you won’t accomplish a thing if you can’t identify what needs to be done on a daily basis to reach a specific outcome. In other words, it’s one thing to say you want to write a screenplay, but it’s another thing to get up every day and force yourself to write for an hour.

Step #5 Be Honest With Yourself

We often set goals because we think that’s what we’re supposed to do. Many people don’t make their own resolutions out of what’s most meaningful and desirable for them. They set it out of what other people told them they need to do out of fear or guilt. This often causes the motivation not to come from within but from the outside. Be honest with yourself and figure out what is important and valuable to you so you can set a goal that come from within. This will ultimately lead you to success and achieving your goals.

Step #6 Have Accountability

Take steps to make yourself accountable for your goals to help stay motivated. For example, if you aim to run a 10K, sign up for one and pay for it in advance. Although this strategy may not work for everyone, announcing your goals on social media can also help some people stay motivated. Alternatively, simply sharing your resolutions with family members and close friends and discussing your progress with them can help keep you on track. Accountability is the key to success with any goal you set.

Step #7 Reward your success

People on the whole tend to be harder on themselves than they are with other people. They tend to beat themselves up. So when you have a day when you fall down on the diet, instead of telling yourself that you’re weak or bad, tell yourself that you had a bad day and that tomorrow’s a new day to start over. It’s important to be compassionate with yourself, acknowledge your slips, and move on.

Similarly, celebrating successes — however small — is important to success. To read more about goal setting and achieving, check out our article "Top Tips for Successful Goal Setting". 

Are you ready to achieve your goals this year? Let us know know in the comments what you will do differently this year to hit your fitness goals. 



1. Ray Williams, Wired for Success, Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail - Psychology Today, 12/27/10 - https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201012/why-new-years-resolutions-fail
2. Carolyn Gregoire, Harvard Psychologist Explains The Major Reason New Year’s Resolutions Fail - The Huffington Post, 12/31/2014 - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/31/new-years-resolutions_n_6396324.html
3. Daniel Wallen, 10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail – LifeHacks.com - http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/10-reasons-why-new-years-resolutions-fail.html
4. Alina Dizik – Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Often Fail – BBC.Com , 12/26/16 - http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20161220-why-your-new-years-resolutions-often-fail

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