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Why most New Year's resolutions fail

Jan 10, 2016

Happy New Year – I wish you all a great 2016.
I check the traffic statistics on my website regularly, and true to form, I have had an increase in visits and viewed pages since 01 January. Happens every year. And, if history is anything to go by, my website traffic levels will have returned to normal by February.
I appreciate the increased traffic, because it is a sign that people have decided to make changes to their lives and are researching the option of getting support from a coach.
Another fact is that the increased traffic on my website does not translate into a similar sized increase in enquiries or new customers. – This by the way is the experience of most coaches.
What is going on?
Well, it is a sign that the enthusiasm for carrying out New Year’s resolutions fades very quickly. But why?

  • Can you relate to any of this?Resolutions made simply because it is tradition
  • Resolutions made from peer pressure (e.g. joining the office hype to make a joint New Year’s resolution and support each other carrying it out)
  • Making a resolution for the sake of it because “everybody does” and when people ask about yours you must be able to mention at least one
  • Finding it too hard, too restrictive, too boring, or too time consuming to carry out the resolution
  • Dropping it because the results aren’t good enough or quick enough
  • Forgetting what the resolution was in the first place
  • Making the resolution whilst drunk
  • Making too many resolutions
  • Making the same resolution year after year - and failing to deliver

In reality, New Year’s resolutions can be made any day and any time of the year. Because we attach a certain meaning to the turn of the year, – new beginnings – we seem to save up our personal life change requests for the month of January.

In January we have just come off a December social high of family, friends, food, sugar, and alcohol (and maybe a few other things). The weather is cold and wet and bank and credit card balances are a scary and depressing sight now that the Christmas and New Year’s bills start to take effect.
Not only do we have go get back to work and a normal eating and drinking pattern, we then decide to stop eating and drinking, stop smoking, start exercising etc. As if it wasn’t hard enough already, we basically decide to go cold turkey on most of the things we like.
Small wonder people lose motivation and fail in their New Year’s resolution efforts.
Most New Year’s resolutions are sensible and sound, we just go about them in the wrong way.

  • Too many at the same time
  • Too negative
  • Not truly committed to the resolution for one reason or another
  • Under estimating the effort required to achieve the desired results
  • Too vague
  • No support
  • No celebration or prize for achieving your goals

If your list of New Year’s resolutions looks something like the picture above you will already feel overwhelmed.

Pick one or two that are the most important to you. You can always come back to the others later

Look at how you have phrased you resolutions. Do they contain the words like Stop, Quit, Less, Lose? Negatively loaded words like these are no issue for some people. For others they send a negative and demotivating message. Try to rephrase your resolutions to something that is more motivating. “Stop smoking” could be “Become smoke free” and “Lose weight” could be “Achieve ideal weight”
Be honest with yourself. If you are not committed to making the life style change or some other change, don’t do it. Instead, find out what’s stopping you and deal with that. There may be an underlying reason (perhaps emotional) for not being committed to a resolution. It is more important and perhaps also more difficult to deal with an underlying reason, but if you want to move on this is where you need to start. Of course, it is also possible that a New Year’s resolution is simply irrelevant to you and should be dropped.

Many people are caught out by the sheer effort required to achieve a goal and therefore give up. Take small steps. Break a goal into sub-goals and make sure that you have an end goal in the first place. If you are chasing a dream rather than a goal, you will be exhausted very quickly.
The post-it notes in the picture above are typical examples of vague resolutions you will never achieve. You have to ask “How will I do this?” “What does success look like?” “When will I have achieved this?” “How am I going to celebrate my result?” The more specific the definition of your goal, the greater the chance of achieving it.

For example: “Quit smoking” – Rephrase to “Become smoke free”. Decide by what method and in which timeframe. Decide sub-goals if you are cutting back gradually. How will you celebrate when you are smoke free? For how long must you have been smoke free to truly achieve your goal? Who will support you in the process and how? How will you deal with urges and temptations to break your promise to yourself?
Have a look at your New Year’s resolutions and follow the steps above. This will give you a much better chance of achieving your goals.
Doing this on your own is never easy, because we are very poor at challenging our own ideas and thoughts. Using a friend, partner or a family member to challenge and sense check your thinking is possible. However, friends, partners and family members being eager to help will often tell you what to do “If I were you I would…” or “You just do…” Furthermore, they know you too well and will perhaps avoid sensitive subjects.
An independent coach can guide you through the process of achieving what you want in a way that suits you. If you would like neutral and non-judgmental support in achieving your goals or New Year’s resolutions get in touch so that we can discuss how I can help you.

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"I could always rely on Peter to ask a thought provoking question that stimulated my own reasoning and thought process. Coaching has been a very positive experience and I feel I am better equipped to manage my work environment and myself." LC