Why New Year’s resolutions fail

7 ways to turn resolutions into lasting change this year

When the ball drops at midnight, the New Year’s resolutions begin. Some people resolve to focus more on their health, while others vow to make strides in their career. Although we go into the new year with the best of intentions to make good on these goals, it doesn’t take long for many people to give up on their New Year’s resolution or to forget about it entirely.

Why does it feel so difficult to stay focused? Why do people make New Year’s resolutions if they don’t last? What’s the best New Year’s resolution? The answer might surprise you: Setting no New Year’s resolutions is actually the most reliable way to achieve your goals for the upcoming year. 

The reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail come down to one thing: your goal-setting strategy. How you make and follow through on the outcomes you want is a long-term process, not a short-term, once-a-year resolution. When you shift your mindset from making New Year’s resolutions to creating lasting change throughout your entire life, you’ll accomplish more than you ever thought possible.

Why do people make New Year’s resolutions?

New Year’s Eve has become more than just a holiday for many of us. We look at New Year’s Eve as not only a celebration of the year, but a chance for a fresh start – that’s why we create resolutions. We all have parts of our lives we want to change, and our resolutions are sincere. Yet we often make resolutions in the spirit of celebration, with no real thought into what it will take to achieve them.

Resolutions can be useful to identify what we’re unhappy with, but we often don’t think more deeply about the real reasons we’re feeling unhappy or unfulfilled. That’s why, a few weeks or months into the new year, we give up, asking ourselves, “What is the point of New Year’s resolutions anyway?” Then we feel terrible about our lack of progress, and might turn to even worse behavior.

Why New Year’s resolutions fail

How many times have you made a New Year’s resolution, and which of your resolutions have you actually achieved? Many New Year’s resolutions fail because we’re merely looking for a new experience, and we haven’t truly committed to real change.

It’s easy to say you’d like to have a better love life with your partner, but what are you really committed to doing in order to make that resolution a reality? Do you actually just want to go on more date nights, or do you truly want to create a deeper, more meaningful bond?

The truth is that most resolutions aren’t just a matter of doing something once or twice. Transforming your life requires deep self-reflection, overcoming your limiting beliefs and building new habits. The best New Year’s resolutions are about setting goals and making a dedicated plan to achieve them.  

How to set goals

New Year’s resolutions vs. goals

So, what are the best New Year’s resolutions? Before you answer that, realize the difference between a resolution and a goal. A resolution is a decision to (not) do a specific behavior, like eating ice cream before bed. A goal is a series of calculated steps designed to help you achieve the resolution, like starting a mindfulness meditation practice at bedtime. By this definition, it may be more straightforward to think of goals as the planned-out process of achieving your resolution. In other words, your resolution is your desired outcome, while your goals are the steps you must take to accomplish it.

Goals, not resolutions, are the key to long-term growth and success. And the secret to  setting compelling goals is knowing why it is you want what you want – finding purpose and meaning in your goals. Creating compelling goals will help you stay inspired, even when times get tough. What resolutions are you considering? Whether it’s professional development or personal growth, the best New Year’s resolutions have purpose, passion and vision behind them.

How to make New Year’s resolutions stick

No New Year’s resolutions are possible without a strategy for achieving them. Resolutions, like goals, become more attainable when you streamline your goal-setting process. When you’re having trouble reaching your resolutions, you need a way to achieve your goals no matter what. Instead of hardened resolve, you need a plan. Here’s how to replace resolutions with objectives that work. 

1. Decide and commit to making a change

Change doesn’t come easily. It can take months to build a new habit, yet we give up on resolutions in just a few weeks. That’s because we aren’t really willing to change our lifestyles – and all the trendy resolutions in the world won’t work for you unless you’re in the mindset of creating a true change. Make the decision now that you’re going to change some aspect of your life, and then commit to making it happen.

2. Document what you want

Should you make New Year’s resolutions? Instead of merely resolving to change a behavior, write down your goal! Not on a computer, but on paper or in a journal. Writing something down in a physical notebook can help you remember it better later on. Getting crystal clear on what you want and having it documented is the best way to get in the right state to achieve your goals. You’ll be able to truly hone in on your goal once you see it in front of you.

How to have more joy in your life

3. Get clear on the WHY

Your New Year’s resolution might be to get a promotion at work, but why? Do you want to learn more about your field? Do you ultimately want to make more money so you can better provide for your family, or save more so that you can achieve financial freedom?

Understand not just the short-term outcome you want, but the true purpose of your goal.  When you understand why you want your goal, you will find a way to achieve it – even when things get challenging. With no New Year’s resolutions to create performance anxiety, you’re free to make incremental changes that cumulate in achieving your goal. 

4. Find absolute certainty and take action

It’s okay to have no idea how you are going to accomplish your goal when you’re first starting out. But regardless of how far along you are in your plan to achieve your goal, you must operate from a mindset of absolute belief and faith in yourself. That’s the key to success: even when you set goals strategically, no New Year’s resolutions are achievable without dedication.

In your mind, if you have no choice but to succeed – if achieving your goal becomes an absolute must – then nothing else matters. You’ll do whatever it takes to get there. Sacrifices won’t even be a question, and all excuses will go out the window.

5. Measure your progress

The main reason why New Year’s resolutions fail is that they are not specific enough. While it’s always good to dream big, you need to break those dreams down into SMART goals. Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and anchored within a Time frame allow you to track your progress and are key to success.

If your New Year’s resolution is to be healthier, how will you measure it? Is it making a certain number of meals at home each week instead of eating out? Is it walking three miles every day? Set a reasonable timeline for your goals and measure your progress along the way.

6. Keep going

As you move forward on your journey, know that there will be challenging times. What is the point of New Year’s resolutions if they don’t help you develop perseverance? When faced with a setback, or if you feel that you’ve failed completely, don’t give up. Move forward and ask yourself, “What will it cost me if I don’t accomplish this goal?” Am I missing out on an incredible career opportunity, will I disappoint my children or miss out on living the life that I want? You’ll turn your obstacles into opportunities in no time.

7. Celebrate your success

By turning even the best New Year’s resolutions into goals, you’re operating out of a can-do mindset instead of brow-beating yourself for your shortcomings. So don’t forget to celebrate every success along the way, even the small ones. Small steps become enjoyable, since you’re not burdened with a perfectionistic outcome far on the horizon. You can then build on those achievements to create a cycle of success.

There are many tips for keeping New Year’s resolutions, but the main one is this: Don’t merely tie goals to the new year because everyone else is doing it. Real change comes when you know your outcome and commit to making your goals a reality. Learning to set and achieve goals is a great habit that few master in their lifetimes. Get everything you want this year, and every year, by deciding to set and achieve goals that matter to you.

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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