Why most New Year's Resolutions Fail
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
We all have good intentions come January 1, but why do many of us succumb to "February Failure"?
A whopping 80% of Americans lose sight of their New Years Resolutions by February, with nearly 46% of them determined to lose weight. According to Forbes, 92% of us fail to meet our New Year's Resolutions by year's end.
A natural question arises here. "Why bother with New Year's Resolutions?" The real question should be, "Why are so many of us failing?" As a former high school educator, when 80% of my students failed a quiz, I would automatically think, "did they have the right tools to succeed?" As a former Personal Trainer, who offered nutritional guidance and accountability to clients, I asked myself, "what more psychological assistance do my clients need to meet their goals?"
When it comes to weight loss or sticking to any New Year's Resolution, millions of us fail because of the following Failure Traps:
1. We make too many changes at once.
Saying you're going to stop eating out, give up alcohol, eat an entirely plant-based diet, and workout 5 days a week in January, without ANY prior experience with these changes, is setting up for failure. The same goes for being late, waking up earlier, and cleaning the house more often. These are a lot of BIG changes to put on yourself at once, especially if you're breaking habits you've done for years. Can we really be hard on ourselves and expect to pick up new habits so quickly, when it took us years to create our old habits? Here's a better solution: in my experience, focusing on one or two really difficult changes at a time is much better than half-assing five or more.
2. Strive for unrealistic goals too quickly.
To lose 10 pounds in a month and keep it off long-term may happen for some people, but not many. To stop procrastinating sounds amazing, but what are the reasons behind the procrastination? Fear? Anxiety? Lack of focus? Getting an A in Organic Chemistry is a veritable goal, but are you doing everything it truly takes to achieve that A when we actually hate science? It's unrealistic to think we can accomplish our goals without a solid game plan that targets our real pitfalls and offers solutions.
3. Focus on the long-term goal without creating short-term goals.
Losing weight, ending procrastination, and earning A's are all long-term goals. We tend to overemphasize these goals and commit ourselves to all sorts of extremes to accomplish them. Cutting out carbs, quitting social media, and studying all hours or the night are what I call extremes-- these are quick fixes that usually leave people feeling deprived, exhausted, and ultimately unhappy. When we are unhappy, we are discouraged, and discouraged people oftentimes lose motivation (see more about this below) and end up failing.
Short-term goals target HOW we achieve the long-term goal. Short-term goals change as we get closer to our long-term goal. For example, if I want to lose 10 pounds, and I know I eat too much peanut butter (this is me, ya'll), I will start by limiting myself to eating peanut butter 1-2 times a week, instead of 4-5 days. Or, I'll limit my daily portion. I won't cut it out completely because then I will dream about it every night and binge on it within a couple of weeks. If I want to get an A in Organic Chemistry, I'll start by attending office hours once a week. If I am not seeing improvement, Ill change the goal to twice per week. Once that goal sticks, I may add a study group to my schedule. But I will not commit to a study group AND office hours until I can master one of these goals. Otherwise, we fall into Failure Trap #1 (see above).
4. Focus on the negative
Once January 1 hits, we tell ourselves all the things we CAN'T do. This is negative self-talk and immediately creates a restrictive mindset that is unsustainable. When we focus on things we can't eat or do, we start to obsess over them or wonder the next time we can enjoy them. Instead, try focusing on what you CAN do and what else you CAN enjoy. For example, I may give up my heaping spoonfuls of peanut butter, but I can still enjoy 1-2 tbsp. Or, if I really want heaping spoonfuls, I will opt for PB2 mixed with water or Greek yogurt. Instead of thinking that I can't eat pizza as much as I'd like, think about what I love about pizza. Is it the cheese? The toppings? How else can I enjoy those? Changing the mindset is key to succeeding and creating goals that we can stick to.
5. Listen to everyone else's opinion or experience, but don't create our own.
Just because your friend did the Whole 30 and was successful, doesn't mean you'll have the same results. It's like saying you and your friend will do the same diet, eat exactly the same meals, and end up the same weight and pant size. It's not realistic because you have different starting points, experiences, and genetics. The same goes for workouts. Following a trainer or Instagram star's workout plan does not mean you'll look like that person. Taking a SoulCycle class does not mean you'll look like the instructor, but you can surely steal the mantras:)
Instead, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, it's best to find a plan that works best for you. You can try a few different things WITHOUT expectations, or see a professional to save yourself the hassle, money, and time on hopefully finding what works for you.
6. Have too much information and make things complicated.
We've never had more free information available at our fingertips, yet we still have millions of people struggling to lose weight and keep it off. We have social media, free e-books, YouTube, and websites dedicated to helping us lose weight, find balance in our life, improve our academics, and increase our awareness about a plethora of topics. Many say the issue is finding credible sources, but I beg to differ. There are plenty of credible sources, albeit some more credible than others, but still not the issue. It's the FOCUS. Today's #1 commodity is ATTENTION. Some information resonates more with us than others, and so we go with it until it no longer serves us. Then it's on to the next best thing. Here's a new perspective-- instead of focusing on what's best, how about we try what works to start? We can always aspire for the best, but focusing on what's important to get there is key.
7. Lose motivation.
If you've read Failure Traps #1-6, no wonder we lose motivation! I get clients who simply say "I don't have motivation," but what I hear is, "I don't have the right plan." As a proponent of Motivational Interviewing (MI), founded by William Miller and Stephen Rollick, I know that motivation is evoked, not created. Oftentimes our motivation is trampled by stress, confusion, frustration, and hopelessness. We are most motivated to do things we like and are good at without much effort. Losing weight, ending procrastination, and getting straight A's in challenging courses require a ton of effort and several sacrifices. The key to keeping our motivation is to make the effort and sacrifices seem less painful and to ease into our new habits seamlessly.
8. Accept failure.
Accepting failure means allowing Failure Traps #1-7 take over our lives. It's just like saying we don't have time to do things we know we should do.
Note: we ALWAYS make time to do things that we like and are really important to us, even if they happen less often than we'd like.
How do I recoup my New Year's Resolutions?!
Just because we have have fallen off the wagon, doesn't mean we can't get back on. And when we do get back on, we should have a better action plan.
Start by trying some of my tips above. Focus on positive, short-term goals that are realistic and sustainable. Call them your February Resolutions, and set goals that you can complete in one month. Then, try a new goal for March. Slow and steady wins the race--- no need to mention where this comes from:)
If you need further assistance, specifically for weight loss and health, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I help people create their plans for success. Specifically, I help people successfully lose weight, increase energy, improve health, and find balance in their lives.
I help you create a plan based on YOUR life, YOUR opinions, and YOUR needs. Not what a diet's guidelines, an Instagram star, or celebrity claims is best for you.
If you're determined to keep that New Year's Resolution and/or lose weight for good, let's talk about your experience and come up with a plan that works for you.
Let's reverse the curse of February Failure!
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