Why New Year’s resolutions don’t work
By now if you had set New Year’s resolutions, you most likely will have fallen by the way side in terms of success, unless you are one of the lucky few who have managed to keep on track. As a coaching and someone who helps people achieve person success I often hear the same comments from people “Ah sure next year will be my year”, “It was too hard anyway, what was I thinking” or “Things just got in the way”
In this article I want to provide insight into why you may not have been successful and provide some motivation to get back on track with those elusive life goals of yours. Hopefully, you will find this helpful to create whatever meaningful change you want to see in your life.
If you think of the word itself resolution or resolve where if derives from. The word itself gives a clue to how we can think differently on how we approach new resolutions. Essentially we are attempting to solve a way to reach certain challenges for the coming year.
Why we fail
In a nutshell, why we fail are for two reasons – strategy and habit. The first reason is linked to Einstein’s famous quote “The definition of insanity is to try the same things over and over again and expect different results". Every year people attempt to do the same things and attempt to create the same resolutions. “This is the year” you tell yourself in a determined manner, and yet a few weeks in we are frustrated by our lacklustre results. This is the first lesson, change your strategy. If you it didn`t work last year….it won`t work this year. To create a strategy involves planning and a well thought out set of actions. This can be hard unless we have the headspace to think about what could get in our way and what could prevent me from achieving my goal. As the saying goes, fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Changing habits are hard
Change is hard; it can mean discipline, sacrifice, mental energy, determination and focus. Change can also be motivating and start a success spiral for you. When you start a new year’s resolution you are very motivated at the start. You are clear on the reasons and you desire change. What people experience regarding motivation is twofold; firstly they lose sight of the reason they wanted to change and take the easy path, whatever that may be. Secondly, motivation is likely hygiene…it only works if you do it daily.
To remain motivated, it is really important to keep visible and remember the drivers for change. Many times people will doubt themselves and say “Why am I doing this anyway?”. For example if you were trying to lose weight, a typical way to remind yourself is to have a visible reminder for example like a picture board. This picture board could have your target weight and a picture of you overweight and another picture of you looking your best. Seeing this regularly with encouraging words or quotes will keep the daily motivation going.
Speaking of encouraging words, your self-talk and mind-set is hugely influential on how you perceive life. A positive mind-set is sometimes the difference between success and failure. Some people are immune to change and the reason being that the current habits serve a purpose. The way you deal with stress for example can influence your habits. For some people they seek food for comfort and for others it could be reaching for cigarettes. Again, this is your strategy for coping with stress and may not be serving you well. These habits may be subconscious and are no longer relevant. The example I like to use when speaking to people about losing weight. Do you always have to finish what`s on your plate? Some people will answer yes and when we dig deeper we realise that if we don`t finish the plate, we feel guilty due to what our parents told us as children “eat your dinner and all the starving children in the world”. We need to challenge our inner thoughts and behaviours to become truly successful.
Another pitfall that leads to failure is the awareness of triggers. Hopefully you are blessed with all five senses. In that case each one of these senses causes a sensation or feeling. A smell of a cigarette can lead someone to go for a smoke, watching a television commercial can lead you with the urge for a biscuit. Ever wonder why you have cravings for sweets in the evening…it’s the ad breaks! Once we become aware of the triggers we can gain control and change our behaviour. What is interesting to note especially when it comes to triggers is that we are unaware of the effects of triggers especially when stress plays a part. When stressed we are caught off guard and revert to old habits.
Some tips to keep you on track:
- Plan well and anticipate obstacles – fail to prepare, prepare to fail
- Be aware of your triggers and get support from friends and family
- Do one thing different each day to improve, after 100 days you will be 100% improved
- Realise that you will slip, just take a learning stance and get back on the wagon
- Remember the Chinese proverb: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”