Just less than a quarter of the way in to the year, according to a frequently quoted statistic, 90% of people will already have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, most don’t even last to the end of January.
What started off as a great intention to do something amazing this year, for example lose weight/get healthy/write a book/get a new job has already fallen by the wayside, perhaps already leaving you despondent, or maybe resigned to the fact that it’s not going to happen.
It sounded so encouraging to think of your resolution back in December and maybe even start it back in January, but the fact is come the end of the year many people will actually have slid further back than they were the previous December.
If this sounds like you, let’s face it, this sounds like most people, don’t give up hope. You can still achieve everything you want to in 2018, you just need to take a different approach.
First of all, you need to understand why new years resolutions are doomed from the outset and why it’s not your fault if you haven’t been able to stick to them so far and then I’ll give you some tips on what to do instead.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work
1. They’re unrealistic.
All too often when we set New Year’s resolutions we are way too ambitious about what we’re going to do. For example, I’m going to do an hour’s workout 4 times a week. It may sound impressive to state ambitious resolutions but in all honesty if they sound monumental they could just end up being too demanding.
The problem with setting something too demanding is you just won’t stick to it. You may be able to follow it for the first week or two, but once it begins to feel too much like hard work you will give up on it.
2. Starting on the 1st of January is all wrong.
I understand why people make resolutions to commence on the 1st of January – new year, new start and all that, but in fact there couldn’t be a worse day to start.
For a start many of us will have just got over the holiday period. You’re already out of the normal daily routine, which already means it’s going to be a bit of a challenge to get back on track with your normal routine. Adding new things in when you’re already on an uphill struggle to get through everything makes it even more of a challenge, therefore making the likelihood of sticking to it even less.
More significantly though if you’ve been thinking to yourself for the last couple of weeks, or even months “next year I’m going to….” you’ve already been putting off getting on with doing something you could already have started.
Putting things off affects our ability to actually deliver on anything because subconsciously you’ve already decided it’s not a priority. If something is genuinely important to you there really is no time like the present to do something to start working towards it.
If you’ve already been telling yourself you’ll do it in a few weeks, the chances are when life throws other challenges at you, or you’re busy you’ll give up on it and tell yourself again that you’ll do it when you’re less busy.
The fact is, we all know that life is busy and there’s never the perfect time to do anything so if you want to do something. It’s important to find some small way to start today.
3. A year is way too long.
Another reason New Years resolutions really don’t work, is that to commit to something for a whole year is way too long.
How can you possibly know at the start of January that you will be able to stick to something for the next 365 days? It already feels like a mountain to climb.
If you’re finding it hard going after a couple of weeks, there’s just no way you will be able to convince yourself to do it for the whole of the year.
Instead focus on achieving shorter term goals, perhaps for a month, or even a week.
Pick your own timescale according to what you want to achieve, but always keep it within 3 months as beyond this it becomes too long a timescale to hold yourself accountable every day.
If your goal is something that is a long term life change, such as giving up smoking, as crazy as it sounds make a goal to give up for just one week.
After 5 or 6 days if you are feeling that you want to give in, it’s easier to motivate yourself if you think that you only have to keep it up for one or two days.
At the end of the week, knowing that you have achieved what you set out to do will give you the confidence and motivation to know that you can do it for another week and so on.
4. New Year’s Resolutions often don’t come with a proper plan.
All too often it seems that New Years Resolutions are something that we make, expecting to just start miraculously on the 1st of January, without really giving any thought to beforehand about how we’re going to achieve them.
It’s just not realistic to expect to wake on the 1st January starting with the resolution that you will just get in to the swing of things straight away.
Resolutions are no different to anything you want to achieve in life, you have to make a plan, whether that be planning and shopping in advance for a new healthy eating diet to having a plan of getting ready to launch your business in the next month.
You need to plan before you start. Without a plan you’ll end up aimlessly trying to do things, that may or may not be helping you along the way. It will be difficult to make any real progress.
5. Not doing something you really want to.
Believe it or not this is more common than you think. For some reason we have a tendency to make the resolutions we feel we should make, rather than the ones we really want to.
Sometimes because we get caught up in other people’s ideas. The trouble with this is motivating yourself to do anything that you don’t really want to do is tough.
Unless your heart is set on achieving something for yourself you’re unlikely to actually want to do it. this applies to both the end result that you want to achieve and how you want to get there.
For example, let’s say you make a resolution to get fit this year, simply because you heard so many other people making that resolution that you felt you should too, so you joined the gym, just because that’s what you feel you ought to do to get fit, and that’s what everyone else is doing. (Do you know how many people join gyms in January and then don’t bother going for the rest of the year?).
By doing this your trying to firstly do something you’re not inspired to do anyway (getting fit) through a means that you don’t even enjoy (the gym). Double bad. If you’re not going to enjoy the process and you’re not especially bothered about the outcome you’re going to have a hard time getting there.
If you do want to get fit, but don’t really enjoy the gym try and explore the other options that are open to you, maybe karate, trampolining or dancing would be more up your street.
If you enjoy what you’re doing you’ll be more enthusiastic, you’ll try harder, so you’ll get better results quicker and that spurs you on to do a bit more.
6. Not wholeheartedly believing you can do it
Another reason things frequently fall apart before too long is that is that somehow we don’t believe in ourselves to achieve the thing we want to achieve.
Let’s use the example of getting fit as this is a common new year’s resolution. In the run up to new year we often convince ourselves that somehow next year we can wake up another person and behave in an entirely different way. The trouble is, if we have behaved in a different way for so long previously the memories of that can be difficult to shake and somehow we get in to being someone different.
Before starting on any change of regime, whether you want to write a book, start a business, lose weight, stop smoking, you have to believe that you can do it. This may be simple but it is not always easy. It requires you to make a conscious decision to believe in yourself and what you’re about to do and to consciously stop the voice of self sabotage when it strikes.
As you can tell, I’m really not a fan of new years resolutions. Not only do very few people actually manage to stick to them for the duration of the year, but worse than this, despondence over not achieving them can lead to not wanting to set other goals later in the year and this, as far as I’m concerned is the very worst thing about new years resolutions.
You can still make 2018 a fantastic year, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to, you just need to approach it differently. If you follow this plan you’ll not only achieve what you set out to do, but you’ll find it easier and you’re more likely to build positive achievements in your life.
What to do instead.
Set just one goal
Setting just one goal instead of thinking of lots of different things that you want to achieve, which can be tempting I know, but distracting. Find one thing that you want to achieve above everything else.
This enables you to focus properly on achieving this one goal and to come up with many different creative ways to achieve it. When you think about just one goal you’ll find you think about it more and more and you’ll be amazed how many different ways you spot opportunities to work towards that one thing when you’re focusing all your attention on it.
Make that goal specific and measurable.
All too often the reasons goals don’t work are because they are far too general. Instead you need to focus on working towards a specific measurable goal.
So often you will hear people talk about a resolution such as ‘lose weight’. Well losing weight could be losing a pound, but is that what you really mean?
If you want to lose a stone, set that as a goal. It may seem far off initially but at least you know what you are working towards. Having a point to reach is definitely more effective than just generally moving forwards in that direction.
Creating a ridiculously ambitious resolution will often set you up for failure before you even get started. If you’re not currently exercising at all are you honestly going to suddenly start doing hour long workouts four times a week?
Much better to set something small that you can achieve to start forming a habit. For example, doing some form of exercise for 5 minutes every day will get you started.
Make your goal short term.
Now, as we touched on earlier, you will have a much better chance of success if you set a short term goal. It’s way too long and too general to give yourself a whole year to achieve a goal.
It’s unrealistic to be able to stick to something for that long. It’s both overwhelming and impossible to be able to predict what you will be doing every day for the next 12 months. To make the most progress it’s important to work in shorter bursts.
Choose your own timescale depending on what is appropriate for you, but absolutely no longer than 3 months. 3 months is a long enough timescale to make a significant change, but it’s also short enough to be able to hold yourself accountable every single day to make sure you hit it.
Now it may be that your goal is something that may not be achievable in 3 months, if that’s the case think realistically what you could achieve in that timescale. For example, if you want to lose 3 stone, focus on losing 1 stone in 3 months to start with.
Create an action orientated plan.
Resolutions often fall flat because it’s simply a statement of I’m going to achieve a particular thing this year without giving any consideration to how.
As with anything you want to achieve, you always need a proper plan. Put a plan in place of the specific actions you’re going to take over the next few weeks up until the time you want to achieve your goal. You need to know exactly how you’re going to do it.
Keep yourself on track with your plan by setting milestones. For example if you’re trying to achieve a goal over a period of 3 months where should you be after one month and two months? Break it down even further if you can with a goal to achieve each week.
Having mini milestones in place really helps to keep the momentum going. It makes sure you keep moving forward each week in some small way all the time.
Having a mini milestone a week is not going to be anything huge and if you just focus on achieving these things every week, although they are not overwhelming to aim for you can see how they add up to your short term goal.
Attach your new actions to an existing habit.
By far the easiest way to achieve your goals is to make the actions that you need to follow habit.
There has been so much research in to habits, which all essentially backs up the same point. People who are most successful in no matter what field, be that sport, business, writing, anything, don’t put success down to talent, but to habit. The little things that you do every day.
We all have habits, some helpful, some not so helpful. You can read more about habit formation when you click here).
Whatever your existing habits are, you can use them to your advantage to act as a cue for adding in new behaviours to support your new goal. For example after you brush your teeth you’ll do a press up or after you check your emails you’ll write a paragraph.
Make the new action that you want to do something very small and simple, the key is not so much how much you do, but rather trying to instill this new behaviour as a habit.
It will take a good month or so to get your behaviour installed as a habit. Only once your behaviour has become a habit should you try adding more to it.
You don’t want to overwhelm yourself, better to make small incremental changes that can stick.
Rewrite your self story.
All too often people don’t stick to their goals because sadly they just don’t believe they can do it.
For example they want to lose weight but they see themselves as fat, or they want to become an author, but they just don’t just see themselves as a writer. These thoughts are common, they’re also unhelpful.
Overcoming these thoughts is easier than you might think. It’s simply a case of reframing these thoughts.
Rather than looking at the results you have at the moment, you need to focus on actions. You need to look at the actions you need to put in place to achieve your desired result.
For example, you want to become fit, a fit person would exercise regularly, you want to be an author, an author would write every day. If you are then doing something in some small way every day, even if it’s just one press up or writing one paragraph you are in some small way doing what you need to do to get your end result.
Just as your thoughts can influence your actions, your actions can also influence your thoughts. If you are doing something in some small way each day to work towards your goal you will start to think differently and to see yourself as a different person. Someone who can achieve the goal.
What’s the one thing you can do right now.
Get in the habit of asking yourself what’s the one thing you can do right now to start working towards this goal?
It’s not the huge things that make a difference, it’s the small things that you repeatedly do that make a difference. Find little things to do in every situation that support you in getting towards your goal.
It’s amazing how many choices you make throughout the day without even realising it. Try to consciously make choices that will support you in getting to the outcome you want.
Don’t put off starting.
If you have something that you want to accomplish that’s important to you why should you wait for a particular date to start it?
If you put off starting something you’re already telling yourself that it’s not a priority because you’ve been putting it off. If you really want to achieve something, to make positive lifestyle changes that will stick don’t put it off.
In some small way start today.
Don’t put pressure on yourself.
Pressure will only cause you stress, which in turn is more likely to lead to unhealthy behaviours that will not support you in achieving your outcomes.
Aim for your goal and follow your plan to achieve it, but if you do find that you’ve slipped don’t beat yourself up over it. You haven’t failed. You’ve been human.
Just make a conscious effort to carry on with your plan as soon as you realise you’ve slipped off it. You can start again at any time.
So if your resolutions that you embarked on on the 1st of January have already fallen by the wayside, you are certainly not alone. But don’t get disheartened.
You can achieve so much more this year already by making a conscious effort to start again today with a new goal and a new plan.
You can do it.