Why New Year’s resolutions fail (and what you should do instead!)

Happy New Year! Have you made any resolutions yet? Are you going to? If you’re like many of us, the thought fills you with both nervy angst and a little dread. How did we get to this?

Apparently, we’ve been making these resolutions for thousands of years. The tradition dates back to a Greek and Roman god named Janus – from which we get the month of January. Janus oversaw transitions and beginnings, and was often depicted as having two faces. One looked backwards and one looked forwards. Put those two things together and you can see how we come to be making our little statements of change around now!

The problem is, we – you and I – know these resolutions have a nasty tendency to, well, fail. We know that from personal experience, as well as the de-motivating research which appears without fail round this time of year. “Less than 10% of people successfully achieve their resolution” quotes the Statistic Brain Research Institute. Yeah, excellent. That probably explains why around 40% of us have sworn off resolutions completely.

There’s nothing wrong with the idea of looking back over a year to see how it’s gone and then looking forwards with a thought to making the next one better. And no reason it has to be New Year’s Eve we do it. But it does make sense, especially in Australia, where our school year also winds down as the calendar clicks over to a bigger number.

What’s wrong is the way we do it. Mostly without due consideration, with too many big changes at once and a do or die attitude. It sets the majority of us up to fail miserably. And whilst it may be entertaining as we party the year in, it doesn’t do our self-image much positive help to be wearing the ‘loser’ label yet again.

There’s any number of ways to increase your odds of getting resolutions right. I thought three would be enough at a time like this. These are things I’ve found helpful for my own life over the years. Are you ready?

Avoid making ‘wishes’

It’s taken me a good while to figure out that often my goals and resolutions have in reality been wishes. A wish is basically something I’d really like to happen but have no commitment to putting any resources towards. I’d much prefer a magic wand approach. Thinking 10 kg will just magically melt away whilst I eat chocolate and check Facebook’s an example of this. So’s getting out of debt when I’m not ready to give up my impulse spending and break out in a rash at the word ‘budget.’ Most of us would prefer different realities in several parts of our lives, but wishing ain’t gonna get us to them. Unfortunately.

Say it loud and clear

I’m traditionally quite poor on this one too! I do make goals (I don’t call them resolutions) once a year, and usually review them in December. On the basis of that, I then create more for the following 12 months. However, mostly these decisions live and breathe on paper only. But there’s something empowering about speaking them out loud and making them public. Doing either (or both!) of these things makes them more real, and you more accountable. And therefore far more likely to achieve!

I recently found this out when I mentioned two of the unmet goals I’d set for this year whilst in company. One tick was made within the following few weeks, and the second’s in progress – a friend’s just working on some details now. It’s surprising how many people will show goodwill and help you on your way when you put your resolutions out there. (Be aware of saboteurs, though – there are some people round who’d rather you didn’t succeed cos it’ll make them feel bad. Steer clear of those people!)

Do it with others

Working alongside people who’re also wanting to achieve something worthwhile’s another excellent way to boost your chances of achieving your goal. You get to cash in on some of their energy and excitement, and are more motivated to get to work on your own improvements. Those of us who’re more private can build off the energy of those who’re more ‘out there’ and in turn help stabilize our friends when they have little disappointments of their own. Far more is achievable in groups than in a solo attempt. Think moving a broken down car on your own vs with some help!

If you’d like to do better with your 2018 resolutions but you’re not sure you’ll have enough personal support around you, over on my training website Head Set G0! we have a simple, month long program called Round Tuit available to help you. It helps you overcome each of the challenges listed above (and a few more as well), in a fun and easy manner. You’d be more than welcome to check it out. Again, the link’s here. (And even if you’re not, there’s a free Roadmap to Success you can access if you’d prefer!)

People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions”

So said the Institute I mentioned earlier. It is worth making New Year’s resolutions – so long as you do them well. May you have better success in 2018 than you’ve ever had before!

PS If you’re curious to know how well you’ll star in the year ahead, take this quiz and find out! Be sure to share your results with others!