Have you ever made New Year’s resolutions, only to find that you fall at the first hurdle and give up by the second week of January? You wouldn’t be alone. I don’t know exactly how many new year’s resolutions fail, but a quick Google search suggests that it is somewhere between 80 and 92%.
So how can you make sure that your resolutions succeed? This article looks at some of the most common reasons people give up on their resolutions, and what you can do to maximise your chance of success.
Problem: Too many resolutions
Sometimes making new year’s resolutions can be like a wishlist for the ‘perfect’ life – 1. Quit smoking, 2. Lose weight, 3. Save money, 4. Spend more time with family, 5. Learn something new, etc….
You can’t expect to achieve everything all at once, you need to be able to focus if you expect to make a significant change. Choose the most important thing. Once you’ve mastered that, you can move onto the next one.
Check out the Finding Balance article for help identifying where to start.
Problem: Unrealistic resolutions
Often when we make resolutions, we want big results fast. This can be unrealistic. When we don’t see the results we want, we become demotivated and give up.
Remember, resolutions are like any other goals – to ensure they are realistic, make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely). You can find out more about setting SMART goals in our Setting Goals article.
Problem: Resolutions don’t reflect your passion
You are far more likely to succeed at a goal that you have set for yourself, than at something that has been imposed upon you. This doesn’t just apply to things that are obviously expected of you (like responsibilities at work), but also to things that you feel you should do. For example, you might want to lose weight because you know that you should. But unless you can clearly align this to something that motivates you, is enjoyable and links to your values, it still seems like an external goal.
To make a goal truly yours, and to enhance your motivation, take some time to think through why this goal is important to YOU. Is it that losing weight will give you more energy to play with your kids? Or maybe you just want to fit into your old clothes.
Whatever your motivation, make sure it’s personal to you, then make some visual cues to remind you when things get tough. Check out What’s your why? for more details on the importance of your motivation for goals success.
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah Winfrey
Problem: Success is a long way off
If your resolution is a long-term goal, it can be hard to keep motivation when success is so far away. It can also seem overwhelming working towards big, audacious goals. Breaking the goal down into smaller steps, and identifying key milestones to celebrate can help to build your motivation. Breaking the goal down also helps bring focus and clarity, reducing the overwhelm.
Problem: You don’t believe in yourself
Have you ever found yourself avoiding big, life-changing goals because you’re worried you’ll fail? I have. I put off quitting smoking for about 10 years because it seemed like such an insurmountable task.
Again, breaking the task down is key. Ultimately the steps should be small enough to achieve, but big enough to stretch you. But, when you’re starting out and building confidence, it pays to make them easier in order to guarantee success. Celebrate every success. The more you succeed, the more your brain believes you are a successful person. Once you’ve built some confidence, make the steps a little more challenging to keep them engaging.
Low self esteem and self sabotage can be deeply rooted psychological beliefs or behaviours. If this is a pattern for you, a therapist or behavioural coach can help you to work through the causes of this.
Problem: Too much thinking, not enough doing
Often, when we spend so much time planning before starting something, it is a form of procrastination, which is covered in the paragraph above.
Planning is important – but put a time limit on this and then MAKE IT HAPPEN! Below are the key steps for planning to maximise your chances of success:
- Choose one goal to focus on
- Make it SMART
- Be clear why you’re doing it
- Break it down into small steps
- Schedule them in
- Find an accountability / support network
- Review review review!
- (Celebrate – not really planning, but a key part of the process!)
Problem: Not giving yourself any slack
This is covered somewhat above when setting SMART goals, but it’s easy to get carried away when you’re passionate about something. If you know you don’t have enough time for something, or that the goal is too big, it’s tempting to plan it anyway in the hope that you’ll find a way. This is where regular reviews are really important. If you’ve set yourself an unrealistic goal (or if you’ve encountered an unexpected obstacle), you can adapt and amend rather than giving up.
Problem: No social support
Your social circle is built upon shared interests, activities and behaviours. When you make a change that new year’s resolutions often bring, that may not be supported by your social group. It may be that they don’t understand, that they’re not interested in your new hobby, or they may even feel threatened by your new behaviour.
You don’t need to alienate all your friends if they’re not interested in your new passion. Continue to connect with them over shared interests, and find new friends who share your latest passion. Check out the GoalGetters community as one place to find those connections.
Do you have new year’s resolutions?
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