So the New Year is coming up and this is everyone’s favorite time to get hyphy about setting their big special goals and like, actually follow through with them this time. Despite being apart of the NYE non-achiever class (the 80%) for the past 3 years, you’ve decided that this year is really going to be different… you’re really really gonna do it this year!
Look, I believe in you… but the statistics don’t.
According to many studies, somewhere between 12% to 20% of people that set resolutions actually follow through with them until victory. It’s unlikely that it’s because all 80% simply didn’t want it enough or just didn’t try hard enough. That number is largely reflective of the people who lacked tools, techniques, and perspective from the get-go. Let’s take a look at some of the New Year’s resolutions statistics and why so many of us struggle to stay committed.
New Year’s Resolution Statistics
80% of people have given up on (and/or failed) whatever resolutions they set in place, by the 2nd week of February
55% of resolutions are health related (exercise more, healthier eating habits, etc)
50% of U.S resolutions concern appreciation of and spending time with friends/family
20% of all resolutions concern getting out of debt
*Here’s an unusually comprehensive study on New Year’s resolutions if you feel like learning more about the resolutions humans have but won’t follow through with.
The Top 5 Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Fail
1. Your Goals are Unrealistic
30 lbs in 30 days
Unless you are morbidly obese and placed on a highly restricted diet by Dr. Nowzaradan, you are not going to lose 30lbs in 30 days… and if you do, it will not be healthy, sustainable, or any type of real long term solution. Constantly setting unrealistic goals not only sets us up for failure but can have a greater impact than we think. Aside from all of the less than optimal emotions that come with failure, the problem with our well-intended unrealistic goals is that they contribute to a psychological culture of failure. You see, when we continually set unrealistic goals, failure becomes excusable, acceptable, and expected.
Why do we set unrealistic goals?
Largely because we are optimistic and uncertain. We are energized and excited about the possibilities of our goals and we are simultaneously unsure of our own capabilities, resources, and the associated obstacles. There’s something called The Planning Fallacy that explains the cognitive, motivational and social origins of our inability to set realistic goals relatively in depth, but the gist is that we get too hyphy about the possibilities, heisman stiff-arm any evidence that might indicate otherwise, and moonwalk away from critical thinking surrounding scaling and estimation.
How can I set realistic goals?
You can do this by considering your lifestyle and identifying/anticipating any obstacles and restrictions that may stand in the way of your goals. Maybe you break up your long term goal of losing 30lbs into a set of smaller short-term goals and objectives such as losing 3 lbs a month. Maybe you adjust your goal to losing 20 lbs of weight and adding 10 lbs of muscle. Then from there, you can organize a set of actionable steps that will guide you to achievement.
2. Your Approach is Unrealistic
Liquid Cleanses; I will only eat celery and cucumbers
First, you are not doing the “(fill in the blank) Cleanse” to detox your body. You are doing it because you want to lose weight quickly. Second, drinking nothing but warm lemon water for a week will not make you look like Beyonce in the Baby Boy music video. Just like drinking one Kombucha in the morning won’t erase all of the effects of the week-long drinking binge that preceded it. As much as we wish it to be true, it’s not. It’s important to be honest with yourself about what steps you are taking, why you are taking them, and if that will bring you closer to your goal. Remember, crash dieting or crash anything rarely helps you achieve long term goals because the approach is unsustainable. It doesn’t matter how much you want something, if you don’t have an effective system in place to get it – your goals will consistently evade you. This is one of the reasons why two people, who workout at the gym for the same length of time, year after year, may have vastly different results.
How do I follow a realistic approach?
Start small, make incremental changes, and be consistent. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Remember everyone is different, so create a process that works for you taking all of the variables of your unique lifestyle into account. Once you are honest with yourself about your realistic goal, then you can focus on the very first micro step of attainment. If you want to lose 3 lbs this month, start by setting up a weekly objective (which will inevitably involve some form of exercise and healthy eating) and then reassess and adjust accordingly at the end of the week. Rinse. Repeat.
3. Your Resolutions are Unspecific
To be healthy; To lose weight
How much weight? By when? What does healthy mean? When our goals lack specificity, our paths to attain those goals are just as unclear. We must clearly define what we want so we can figure out how we plan on getting it. There are so many variables to consider that rather than burdening or confusing our subconscious, it’s a much better idea to be clear and concise.
Is there some type of hackneyed acronym that I can use to help me get what I want?
There surely is! When it comes to setting goals, stick with the tried and true SMART method. Goals should be:
4. You Have Too Many Goals
To lose 30lbs; To backpack through Europe; to start my own business; to gain 10lbs of muscle, stop smoking; make new friends; to dedicate time to my romantic relationship…
Trying to accomplish too many goals at once can overwhelm, demotivate, burden us. We can’t have everything and certainly not all at once. When we have a long list of goals and hold them with equal weight in our minds, we can become scattered and unfocused. Thus, you’re going to have to make some choices.
So if I can’t have it all, how do I narrow it down?
By passion, resources, and impact. You ultimately have to choose how you prioritize your goals list, however, it can be helpful to narrow down your list by focusing on the goals that may have time constraints and/or will have the most significant impact on your life. If one of your goals is to backpack through Europe, consider how important that is to you (measured by your other life goals), what the time constraints are, how that might impact your life, and then decide from there.
5. You Can’t Trust Yourself
I know I said I was going to do it today, but I don’t feel like it, so I’ll start tomorrow.
Quite simply: Do you do what you say you are going to do? If you tell yourself you are going to get up at 5am tomorrow morning and when the alarm goes off, you hit the snooze button and go back to sleep, you can’t trust yourself. If you tell yourself you are going to go exercise twice a week starting Monday and then Monday arrives and you push it off until the week after, you can’t trust yourself. Those small but significant decisions tell us about ourselves and our respective varying levels of trust. You will either do the thing or not. And if you constantly don’t do the thing after saying you would, you can’t trust yourself.
So… how do I trust myself?
This is a behemoth of a topic but to get started you can set up small trust building exercises.
5.5 – Not being in alignment with your goal
Is it really what you truly want? Often times we set goals that we think we want.. Yet are mislead by external factors, the glamor of status, the appeal of what we think it is vs what it really is. This is another thing to consider when you are shuffling through your goals for 2019. Tune into your inner compass, use your intuition, listen to what you are telling yourself.