Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work
If you want to reach for more in your life, but have given up on every New Year’s resolution in the past, this is for you. In this article we outline the pitfalls of New Year’s resolutions, why you should avoid New Year’s Resolutions (why New Year’s resolutions don’t work), and how to set yourself up for success so that you can make changes, cement healthy habits in your life and achieve tremendous personal growth without setting a New Year’s resolution.
Every time January 1st rolls around, people go crazy proclaiming all of the things they are going to change in the New Year.
- I will never eat unhealthy ever again
- I will never yell at my kids again
- I will exercise every freaking day
- I will get over my issues with my mother and have a great relationship with my in-laws
- I will write that book
- I will walk my dog three times a day
- I will floss every night
A simple search on Pinterest yields HUNDREDS of ‘New Year’s Resolution Ideas for you to pick and choose from. Gym memberships skyrocket. Healthy cookbooks disappear off the shelves. Pantries are decluttered from anything resembling sugar. Habit trackers are bujo’d and journals are filled with all sorts of promises we make to ourselves and the people around us.
Then, 2 months later, 80% of people have given up on their goals.
And when you hear this you’ve got to ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Why do we start goals that we give up on a few weeks later?
- Why do we keep setting New Year’s Resolutions if they don’t work?
- How can we actually improve our lives without falling short time and time again?
In this post I want to answer those questions, debunk New Year’s resolutions as a useful strategy for goal setting, and instead provide you with a framework you can use starting TODAY to change your life successfully.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Never Work
New Year’s Resolutions are an ineffective strategy for seeing massive growth in your life because they do not line up with what we know about effective goal setting!
When we set goals the right way, we select specific actions that we have direct control over, we track our progress, we dig deep for our why, we build in accountability, we focus on it and visualize it every single day. We start small, we build momentum, we celebrate the quick wins, we line up our goal with our values, we focus on one thing at a time.
The psychology behind goal setting has clearly demonstrated with it takes to succeed in your goals.
New Year’s Resolutions are rarely set effectively. There are a number of things wrong with them. Let’s unpack that.
New Year’s Resolutions Are Too Big
When you’re chasing big dreams, you’re constantly setting up new habits to make your success inevitable. Every new habit is a major change in your life!
“Eating healthier” is not one decision: it’s a million little decisions every single day.
- It’s looking up brand new recipes.
- It’s googling what the heck certain ingredients even look like.
- It’s walking up and down entirely new aisles in the grocery store.
- It’s changing the frequency of how often you shop because produce doesn’t have a shelf life.
- It’s allocating time in your calendar to meal plan, meal prep, cook, and clean.
Eating healthier is a million decisions and new habits that you need to commit to one at a time, but instead we treat it like one little check box on our to do list.
The big problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that they are too big!
Now, I am all for dreaming big! 100% I believe you can accomplish extraordinary things and I help normal people do just that every single day. But the key to achieving BIG things is starting SMALL.
- Today I’m going to throw an extra handful of spinach into my smoothie.
- Today I’m going to leave meat out of the meal.
- Today I’m going to carry a bottle around with me.
It can be hard to wrap your head around that, especially if you’ve got an ‘all or nothing mindset’ like I do. But…
Big dreams are achieved through a million tiny little actions.
When we set New Year’s Resolutions, we list 20 things that are so big they may as well be life goals!
Stop doing that…
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New Year’s Resolutions Are Too Long
I don’t know a single person who has ever set just one new year’s resolution. That would be too easy...
Because of all the hype around New Year’s resolutions, they tend to be these long long lists of great big goals.
And that is another big reason why they fail: you can only focus on one goal at a time.
Let me repeat that.
You can only focus on one goal at a time.
Once you’ve cemented that goal as a habit that is ingrained into your being, you can move on to another goal while maintaining your results in the previous area. But you cannot overhaul your entire life in one sitting. You cannot build a brand new business up from scratch AND repair your marriage at the same time. You cannot train for a marathon AND be the best PTA mom out there. You cannot become the healthiest person you know AND change your job at the same time.
We have a finite amount of energy and focus. Your success depends entirely on your ability to leverage your energy and focus where it matters most.
Did you know that priorities wasn’t even a word until recently? Back in the day, they only had the word priority. ONE. One priority for your day, or week, or month.
New Year’s Resolutions don’t work because we set too many of them.
So stop that too…
New Year’s Resolutions Promote Procrastination
If something isn’t important enough for you to start today, what on Earth makes you think it will be important enough for you to try tomorrow?
This is the ultimate test of whether you want something badly enough to succeed at it: are you willing to commit to it TODAY? If not, you don’t stand a chance.
And that’s the biggest issue with New Year’s resolutions: they promote procrastination.
If you buy into the New Year’s resolution mindset, you are living in an ‘all or nothing’ head space.
New Year’s resolutions hold no room for error.
Reality check: we are all human and we make mistakes. If we believe that the whole year is a write off because we fumbled, then we don’t get back up and try again. And the biggest thing holding us back from achieving anything we set our minds to isn’t our actual ability to do the thing, it’s our capacity to keep trying when we fail.
So New Year’s resolutions suck because they make you believe that breaking a streak of success means there’s no point in trying.
New Year’s Resolutions Start In January
Who on God’s green Earth thought starting new habits in January was a good idea?
Seriously, I want to meet the person who said ‘yeah, you know that super frigid month of the year where temperatures are cold enough to freeze your skin, the sun appears for only a couple of hours, if at all, and the world is suffering from a lack of vitamin D so they’re the saddest they’ve ever been? Let’s use THAT month to build new habits’.
January is not the time for change!
Maybe it is for you. Maybe you are living your best life in the freezing cold and you are a ray of sunshine on the dark winter days. Or maybe you do not live in the northern hemisphere and are blessed with beach weather year round… But I’ve learned that for me, January is a month to maintain good habits, not revolutionize my life.
This is why I am so so so passionate about setting goals and ramping up my progress in the fall. There is nothing like a new school year to kick my butt in high gear. But January? Not my cup of tea.
New Year’s Resolutions fail because you’re choosing a time when you’re feeling your worst to attempt to summon the energy you need to show up as your best.
It’s just not realistic.
Does this mean you should abandon all your goals in January? Absolutely not. You can live your best life any month of the year. I choose to maintain my healthy habits that I cemented in the fall, instead of starting my hardest goals in January.
So to recap, New Year’s Resolutions are a terrible idea because
- They are too grandiose to implement easily
- There are too many of them to try to focus on
- They stop us from starting today and leave no room for error tomorrow
- They start in the coldest, most depressing month of the year
And these are the reasons that we set goals only to give up on them a few weeks later.
We get caught up in all the hype around this year being our BEST year, and we forget the basic principles that make life changes possible.
Related post: Are You Working On The Right Goals?
So why do we keep repeating this process of setting New Year’s resolutions if we know it isn’t going to work? Are we all insane?
You are a part of this community because you can feel in your heart that you are made for more.
In an attempt to reach your full potential, you do the only thing you’ve ever been taught to do: you set New Year’s resolutions.
If we don’t know another way, we will keep trying the same old thing until it works. But it’s not going to work.
You are not going to go 365 days perfectly aligned with your goal. And if you do, you certainly aren’t setting goals that are challenging enough to push you into the next level of your life.
We set New Year’s resolutions because we don’t know that there is a better way… yet.
I wrote a post on how to do a life audit which touches on the strategy I use to set goals effectively, track them easily, and see massive results.
I also write about how to achieve your goals when you’re running out of willpower.
I think finding a personal growth coach that you can relate to is the best way for you to achieve your biggest dreams. If it’s not financially feasible for you at this point in time, there are a lot of resources you can access on the internet to help you break the cycle of giving up on yourself and start crushing your biggest goals.
Some of my most powerful techniques are shared with my audience in these posts:
- 10 Tips To Be More Motivated
- 10 Tips To Stay On Top Of Your Goals
- Building A Meaningful Life
- Overcoming Fear To Achieve Success
- The Key To Making Hard Decisions
If you’re committed to seeing massive success in your life, you need a goal setting process that works for YOU. Do your research, check out the articles above, and start implementing those best practices into your life so that you don’t have to go another year having failed at your New Year’s resolution.
So what can you do instead of setting New Year’s resolutions? Let’s talk about it, because, if you’re in the spirit of reflecting on your life and making some changes, you’d better make the most of it.
What To Do Instead Of New Year’s Resolutions
Now that we know New Year’s resolutions are ineffective, let’s identify what we could replace them with in order to see better results.
Here are some of the ways that I reflect on the year that has passed and step into a better version of myself in the coming year.
Set a theme for the year
Pick one word that you want to summarize the year when it comes to an end.
Start with the end in mind and think about how you want to have lived this upcoming year. See it as if it has already happened. What one characteristic do you wish was more prominent in you? What one area of your life needs the biggest focus this year?
Setting a theme for the year gives you a vision to work toward every single day. It serves as your compass and your best tool for prioritizing your actions.
Last year, my theme for the year was living intentionally. Through that lens, I audited my time to make sure I was spending it wisely.
- I stopped scrolling mindlessly through social media.
- I started time blocking my calendar so that I could make the most of every moment.
- I practiced meditation and fully embraced mindfulness so that I could live in (and fully enjoy) the present moment.
- I changed jobs.
- I reduced my hours so I could focus on my life.
- I created a morning routine and started setting an intention for every day.
Deciding on a theme allowed me to take steps in the right direction without knowing what all of those steps were ahead of time.
This year, my theme for the year is to explode out of my comfort zone. I’ve realized the immense potential scary things have: they can catapult me toward tremendous growth. This year I am focusing on breaking out of my shell any which way I can.
I am going skydiving in the summer. I took a conference call with no pants on. I packed 10 items for a 3 day business trip. I stripped all the way down to my skinnies for my massage. I tripled my business goal for the year.
Little things and big things that made me feel nervous, I decided to take on.
Setting a theme for the year gives you one overarching mission that guides your every goal and allows you the opportunity to reflect each and every day: are you living up to your values?
It’s an easy way to prioritize the requests for your time: do they contribute to your focus for the year? If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.
Set one good goal today
Instead of waiting for New Year’s Day to come around, take an hour to reflect on what’s most important for you to focus on right now, set a goal, and take a step in that direction TODAY.
Get rid of the all or nothing mindset and start making little bits of progress toward your dreams every single day.
There will not be an easy peasy time for you to shoot for more. Chasing big dreams is always hard, never comes at a perfect time, and is always inconvenient.
You could logically procrastinate it for the rest of your life. Or you could start today, because why not.
Partner with a coach
With my entire heart I believe in the immense potential that coaching has to completely change peoples’ lives. Full disclosure, I am a little biased in this area, but I don’t care whether you choose me as your coach or not, I just need you to find SOMEONE who can help you
- identify thought patterns that are holding you back
- replace self sabotaging actions with positive behavior
- read in between the lines and pick up on what you actually value
- rewrite limiting beliefs that are keeping you from succeeding
- listen to what you want out of life without a single ounce of bias
- use the world’s most effective tools to get you on track to hit your goals today
- understand human psychology, the brain, and why you do what you do
- hack your biology to achieve more faster
You are fully capable of building the life of your dreams, but my goodness it comes so much easier and quicker when you have a coach helping you work through the obstacles and challenging you into your full potential.
Find somebody who can help you speed up your progress and get to your goal. If you don’t know where to start, how about with a free discovery session?
Over the last year in my personal growth journey, I’ve adopted 27 new habits that have helped me achieve an incredible number of my goals.
Related post: 10 Ways To Organize Your Life
None of those habits or goals came out of the New Year’s resolutions I’ve set (and I used to set many).
When you understand how to set goals effectively and have a support system to keep you on track, you can achieve whatever it is you want in this life.
But asking Pinterest ‘what should my goals be?‘ and deciding you’re going to change your life starting January 1st is nothing but a trap.
You are capable of brilliant things.
Don’t let a pile of goals you’ve given up on keep you from trying to create a better life for yourself day after day after day.
- How to Do a Life Audit & Why It’s So Powerful
- Finding Balance In Life: Achievement vs Enjoyment
- Finding Balance In Life: Achievement vs Enjoyment
What goal are you working on starting today?