Why is it so Hard to Keep New Year’s Resolutions? And Tips on How to Change That This Year

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Every year on January 1, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions that they are never going to keep. They make them with good intentions, but just can’t keep them going. As a matter of fact, the tradition of making a New Year’s resolution can be traced back to the ancient Babylonians about 4,000 years ago.

Of the almost 40% of adults in the United States who make a New Year’s resolution, according to insideoutmastery.com, 52.6% focus on one resolution and the rest choose multiple resolutions. Those between the ages of 18 and 34 are more likely to make a New Year’s resolution.

Although the list probably has varied little over the years, goskills.com listed the top ten resolutions of 2022 as being:

  1. Exercise more
  2. Lose weight
  3. Get organized
  4. Learn a new skill or hobby
  5. Live life to the fullest
  6. Manage finances better or cut back spending
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Spend more time with family and friends
  9. Travel more
  10. Read more

Other top resolutions include eating better, looking for a new job, taking care of mental health and becoming more environmentally aware.

Why do people not keep their resolutions?

There are a number of factors as to why New Year’s resolutions fail. After six months, only 46% of people are still sticking to their goal, according to discoverhealthyhabits.com. Here are some of the top reasons people fail.

They’re Not Ready to Make Changes. The first thing that is important in sticking to the program is intention. Most people are really not ready to make a change. Change is hard. In order to change, you have to look at why you are not changing. That means looking seriously at some bad habits. Making excuses for not making changes is one of those bad habits.

They’re Not Ready to Make Honest Self-Judgement. In order to make progress, there must be a plan and goals on how to make the plan work. That means that you have to sit down and create attainable, measurable results over a period of time. Losing weight is not a goal, it is an abstract idea. A goal is changing your diet and exercise patterns so you can lose a half a pound a week. This means getting up off the couch after a long day at work and walking or hitting the gym. It means eating a salad when you want to eat a piece of cake. To stick to a resolution plan, you have to ask yourself if you are really ready to eat better and quit couch surfing. And if you don’t make a goal, can you get real about why you didn’t make the goal, then do what is necessary to make it the next week?

After Making Goals, They Don’t Stick to Them. Sticking to goals means giving up things you want to do, like going out to dinner with friends or buying a new outfit or reaching for that cigarette when you are stressed. When setting goals, you need to not just look at the goal, but what the goal means you will be giving up. Be honest. If there is something you know you will never be able to give up, then you need to adapt either your resolution or the goal you are setting. While you may want to clean out a whole room and purge all of the things you no longer want in a single day, you may really need to spend part of that day doing much needed errands. Break your goals up into smaller pieces if you need to. It might mean taking more time to reach your goal, but you are still moving forward.

They Give Up After One Slip Up. Just because you missed dinner with a friend or decided to stay home and have a staycation instead of going somewhere new, it doesn’t mean you have to give up entirely on your resolution. Reschedule. Keep plugging forward. While the goal stays the same, how you attain that goal may need to change due to circumstances beyond your control or even within your control.

They Get Cocky. You’re doing so good and reaching your goal(s) until you don’t. Maybe you gave into temptation, got back into old patterns, or something just happened to break your stride. Many fall apart at this point. Don’t. Suck it up and get back on track. As the old silent movie star Mary Pickford once said, “Failure is not the falling down, but the staying down.

Keeping on Track

As 2023 comes into sharp focus, how exactly does one make sure to keep this year’s resolution or resolutions moving towards resolution?

Make Sure Goals are Realistic and Attainable. Do a little research and find out what you really have to do to reach your goal. If you want to lose weight, look into what a healthy weight-loss goal is per week, and look into proven steps to get to that healthy goal. In our hurry-up world everybody wants to attain their goal yesterday. The truth is, reaching any goal takes time and hard work. While the old saying about something being a “marathon not a sprint” may be cliché, it is true of a New Year’s resolution.

Think it Through and Plan Ahead. Write down your goals. Preferably in longhand. Research shows that writing down goals forces us to think them through. Julia Cameron in her book “Artist’s Way” asks that those following her program to find a more creative life write three pages in a notebook every day. She calls these “Morning Pages.” They bring clarity, help filter out the clutter, and help the mind focus on what is important. Writing down goals does the same thing.

Narrow Focus. Too many goals are not attainable. Writing down what you want to attain will help you sort through the “too many goals” or “too many ideas” that come forward. Sometimes you need to listen to your heart. What you think you want to do is not what you want to achieve at all, and writing down goals and action steps will help you find where you really, really want to focus your efforts. An “aha” moment might come along, sending you forward in a healthy and focused manner on your resolution quest.

Find Your True Motivation. Once we find our true motivation, even if we have been fighting it, it is a lot easier to stay on track. If you say that your goal is “Living Life to the Fullest,” what does that really mean to you? Why do you feel driven in that direction? For some it may mean traveling the world and having all kinds of adventures, while for others it might mean exploring ways to live a fuller life within the life they have. They may stay home and spend more time with those they care about, or work with an organization that allows them to find meaning in their life helping others.

Measure Progress and Celebrate Small Successes. There used to be a service leadership program for youth that offered a number of steps to help them plan and complete a community service project. The first step of the plan was to ask yourself what you wanted to get out of the project and what you could give to it. These goals became ways to measure individual and group success. And when the project was completed, everyone shared in celebrating their hard work, before moving on to the next project. The same concept can be used for New Year’s resolutions. What do you want to get out of it? What are you willing to give? If you give, you will get. And then celebrate your success. You did good!

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