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Rethinking Your New Year’s Resolutions: 3 reasons why resolutions fail and how to fix them

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We have an awkward question for you: On a scale from one to ten, how successful would you rate your success in following through with new year’s resolutions? (be honest!)

Now, if you answered 10, you are clearly dining something right and do not need to continue reading this article. In fact, you should be the one writing it!  But if you are like most of us and wish your score was higher, then stick around, we might be able to help. 

New years resolutions are starting to get a bad rep because most of them either end up falling through or become a source of guilt. Sound familiar? You are absolutely not alone.

Let’s take a look at why new years resolutions fail and how we can make ones that don’t. So that our 2022 resolutions are strong and foolproof. 

Why New Years Resolution Fail

1. Expectations are too high and rules too strict

We’ve all had these resolutions that are most likely unsustainable. Things like “I will work out every single day for two hours” or “I will stop eating _____”. 

These types of resolutions are set to fail because of how strict and unattainable they can be. Setting ourselves to such high standards and strict, inflexible rules is psychologically proven to set us up for failure. 

On top of that, inflexibility leads to poor adaptation to life’s changes. And if life has taught us anything in the last couple of years is that every day is full of unpredictability, so having the flexibility to work with the unexpected is an important key to having successful resolutions. 

How to fix it? 

Manage expectations and keep goals broad.

Instead of statements like “I will work out every day” or “I will stope eating _____” try “I will be more active”, “I’ll work out more often”, or “I’ll eat less of _____ and more foods that nourish my body”.

Changing the language from a strict extreme, to a more broad, flexible statement makes the resolution feal more like an intention than a rule. This way we will be more likely to gently get back on track when we’ll fall off the wagon (which we will), instead of feeling guilty and giving up only to do the same next year. 

This shift will also make your goals flexible and allow you to ride the unpredictable curveballs that life can throw at you. Goals and rules that are too rigid are bound to break when things don’t go as planned. 

2. Goals-Based on Guilt or Fear

Some resolutions (especially those linked to exercise, weight management, diet, or productivity) can be based on feelings of guilt, shame, and fear. Some common examples of these negative emotions include fear of gaining weight, guilt for not working enough/making enough money, or shame for not exercising enough. 

A lot of these negative “motivators” are also led by our tendency to compare ourselves to others or the concern for how others may see us. 

When we set up a goal for ourselves that is based on a negative emotion like guilt or fear or based on external motivations like what others may think, we can fall into a cycle of self-punishment and ironically end up feeling even more guilty. This will make us less likely to follow through will our resolutions successfully. Not to mention the unnecessary added anxiety that will come with it all. 

How to fix it? 

Ask yourself: Why?

Why are you choosing this resolution? Why are you trying that diet or that weight goal? Who are you doing it for? 

Be honest. There can be a lot of pressure coming from different places in some of these resolutions (social standards, family pressure, media, etc.), and sometimes we have to really take a good look at the motivations behind them. 

If your answer to these questions is unclear or you are finding external influences that are pressuring you to commit to a resolution, maybe it’s time to let that one go and find a new one. 

As long as a resolution or intention is true to you and your own personal goals, and is not driven by unconscious fear or guilt, you will be more likely to feel intrinsically motivated to work toward your goals, therefore more likely to succeed! 

3. Too much focus on fast outcomes and quick rewards

One of the reasons we get so eager about new years resolutions is the drive for quick rewards. The new year energy gets us excited to start new ventures that promise to turn our life around. Whether it is a new project, a weight goal, a trip, changing jobs, etc. 

Sometimes focusing on big outcomes instead of small daily habits can lead to a big surge of momentum at the start of the year, followed by an abandoned goal, or a loss of motivation quickly after. 

How to fix it?

Focus on long-term goals and create small habits that will have growing results over time. Instead of strict outcome goals like losing x amount of weight, running x amount of miles, or reading x amount of books, focus on habits you can do regularly to achieve the goals you really want to achieve. 

This can look like “focusing on eating healthier and staying active” or “adding some reading to my bedtime routine”. That way, even if the goal isn’t fulfilled by a certain time or may take longer than you planned, you are building a solid base of daily habits that will result in long-term, more sustainable success.

“If you pick the right small behavior and sequence it right, then you won’t have to motivate yourself to have it grow. It will just happen naturally, like a good seed planted in a good spot.”

BJ Fogg

So there you have it. Three ways to rethink your new year’s resolution so that you set yourself up for success from the start! 

Happy New Year!

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