Only about 8% of people who set New Year’s Resolutions achieve them. Strava predicts that most people give up their resolutions around the third week of January. There is even a national Quitters Day each year that’s generally the second Friday of the month.
Yet, people continue to come up with New Year’s Resolutions year after year. (“Resolutions” started 4,000 years ago with the ancient Babylonians.)
So we “resolve” to do something. Why, then, don’t New Year’s Resolutions work? Here are 5 likely reasons.
1. Your thoughts are interfering
Yikes, I had to say it, but our thoughts and self-talk is often our undoing. We have all sorts of self-deceptions, self-doubts, limiting beliefs, and other negative messages that sabotage us.
How can you overcome this? Well, you could see a therapist. But there’s a ton of self-help books you could pursue. Some of my favorites include:
- What to Say When You Talk to Your Self by Shad Helmstetter
- Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking by Jon Acuff
- Your Brain at Work by David Rock
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
Don’t like to read? Try affirmations and cool apps. Among my favorites are:
- Louise Hay’s morning affirmations and power thoughts
- The EnVision app. It’s around $59 a year. (I have no affiliation with this company.) Some of us believe the overwhelming science showing that visualization works. This app is incredible for those of us who have trouble actually doing it.
- Visualize success is a self-hypnosis app by Andrew Johnson.
2. Your feelings interfering
Some days, it just feels too hard. That’s especially true if it’s a habit goal, like taking a walk every day. Uh-oh, it’s snowing. Oops, you don’t want to do it alone, and your walking buddy is sick today. Or something else.
If you wait until you “feel” like it, that day may never happen. In his book, Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change, psychologist Timothy Pychyl explains that feelings do not precede actions. It’s the other way around.
Lukewarm or negative feelings will almost always result in some excuse for not doing whatever it is you said you’d do.
Business coach extraordinaire Jim Rohn said:
If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.
I suspect that we procrastinate and/or find excuses because we’re putting off two feelings that are closely linked to each other. Both are achievement killers, every time.
- Fear of failure
- Fear of pain
How can we overcome that? Consider Susan Jeffers’ book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.
3. Your actions don’t support your plan
In his book, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, NYT best-selling author James Clear emphasizes that motion is not the same as action.
So be honest with yourself. Are you in motion or in action?
Watch yourself for just one day. What have you done that day to accomplish your “resolution” by the end of the year?
Nothing today? Hmmmm. Okay, well, if that becomes a pattern, you what you “resolved” to happen won’t happen.
4. You don’t have a plan
People seem to think that making a statement about what they’d like to do in the new year will somehow magically happen. That won’t work. They’ve got a wish, not a goal.
Goals are attached to a plan. A carefully considered plan.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
5. You have a wish, not a goal
Sitting around and wishing for something won’t work.
Having a goal floating around in your head doesn’t work, either.
Research by Dr. Gail Matthews shows that writing a very specific goal, and revealing that goal to other people, is predictive of goal achievement. And I’m not talking about posting it on Facebook. I’m talking about a small group of supportive people.