It’s two weeks into January and twenty-five percent of us have already abandoned our New Year’s resolutions.
We start out January with great intentions. We resolve to lose weight, eat healthy, exercise more, gain control over our finances or to generally have a more positive outlook. Some of us have no problem keeping their resolutions.
According to researcher John Norcross, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, about 50 percent of people will make a resolution every New Year.
But for many of us, shortly after the New Year, a week or two or even a month in, we begin to slide back into our old ways, eventually completely forgetting about our resolutions.
Why do so many people have problems succeeding in following through?
Researchers have studied this behavior to try to find the reason. Is it simply because people are weak-willed? Or just lazy?
Resolutions are a way of motivating yourself to change a habit. But if you aren’t ready to actually change your habit, especially a bad habit, the failure rate will be high. Another reason can be that we set unrealistic expectations and goals when we make our resolution.
Psychology professor Peter Herman calls it “the ‘false hope syndrome’, which means their resolution is significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves.” In other words, if you don’t really believe you can achieve your goal, then the positive affirmations won’t work.
Another aspect of failed resolutions comes from how you think it will change your entire life. You might think that losing weight or reducing your debts will change your life and when it doesn’t you become discouraged and go back to your old behaviors.
A resolution is basically a goal to change something. And in order to change you have to work at it and change your way of thinking about it.
In this guide you will find out why you fail at your resolutions, and ways to get back on track. You’ll also discover ways to incorporate healthy eating and exercise into your daily lifestyle.
Let’s get started.
Why People Fail at Following Through with Their Resolutions
About 40% of the adults in the United States make a New Year’s Resolution every year. Out of those, only about 25% will have broken one or more of them within two weeks. And by the end of January, the failure rate increases to 50%, according to John Norcross, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton and author of Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing your Goals and Resolutions.
According to Norcross, the top five resolutions made each year are:
- Weight loss
- Improve finances
- Get a new job
- Healthier eating
Out of these five, weight loss, exercise and eating healthy are easiest.
What’s the average length of time someone stays with their resolution?
Resolution maintained through first week—–75% of people
Past two weeks — 71% of people
Past one month — 64% of people
Past six months — 46% of people
These statistics show an alarming number of people failing to follow through with their resolutions.
In fact, it’s estimated that 75 percent of all New Year’s resolutions will end in failure.
So, if we’re so determined to change at the beginning of a new year, why do so many fail at following through?
Why We Fail
By the six month point after maker New Year resolutions, over half have already totally given up on at least one of them. Why?
Here are some ideas:
- Timing. January is a tough month to begin anything new. We’ve already packed on pounds starting during Halloween all the way through Super Bowl Sunday. Not to mention, it’s cold and dark out (at least in the U.S.) making us less active and even less motivated to change. Money is often tighter in January, after splurging during the holidays. Stress is higher, as well.
- High motivation with no real plan. Those New Year’s Resolutions don’t come with instructions. We can easily say, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds this year”, but that’s only the first step. To stay motivated, you need a detailed plan and often expert advice to be more likely to succeed.
- Setting unrealistic goals. Often we set unrealistic goals, such as going cold turkey from smoking or losing 50 pounds in 6 months. We sometimes set multiple resolutions that have nothing in common (like losing weight and getting out of debt) expecting to accomplish them all simultaneously. We set our expectations too high.
- Being too tough on ourselves. We have big expectations for ourselves, and then end up having an even bigger disappointment when our progress is slower than we expected or we have an occasional setback. This can cause you to give up.
- Lack of support or accountability. Trying to stay motivated on your own is tough. We’re social beings. We do better trying to reach a goal when we have support and are being held accountable for what we do. If no one knows you’re on a diet and fast food isn’t on your approved menu, the only thing keeping you away from the fast food lane is your own self-control.
Now you know what causes you to fail at your New Year’s resolutions. To make resolutions work, it involves changing your behavior, setting realistic goals, having a system for reaching the goal, and having others hold you accountable.
How to Approach Your Journey to Health Instead
Now that you know why your fail at achieving your New Year’s health resolutions, let’s dig into how to approach the journey to better health instead. It begins with having a plan.
- Rev up your can-do. Start with five minute changes. Instead of making a big unclear resolution, pinpoint one small, meaningful step you can take towards change that you can do in five minutes. For example, maybe your resolution is to eat healthier. Take five minutes to make a grocery list that includes more fruits and vegetables. Or make small tweaks in what you eat every day by eliminating one sugary drink a day. Small changes keep you moving toward your goal and help you get unstuck when you begin to fall off track.
- Stay motivated. One way to do this is to get an accountability partner or mentor. Another way is to create a vision board of what healthy looks like to you. Include images of you succeeding and living the life you want.
- Go for 10. Use the rule of 10, which simply means do something for 10 minutes instead of 30, or change 10% instead of 100%. So if you want to get healthier by getting fit, make your goal to do 10 minutes of exercise every day. You can work up to longer periods, but getting started is the hard part. With only doing 10 minutes of something you are more likely to do it. The same can be said for healthy eating. Instead of completely changing the way you eat all at once, add more fruit or vegetables or cut out 10% of sugar intake a day (like 1 donut), gradually decreasing until you’ve eliminated sugar from your diet.
- Make pre-commitments. Piggy-back what you want to change onto something you’re already doing. One way to do this is to add one more vegetable to your plate each day.
- Try the proximity trick. This works well if you are trying to add exercise to your daily routine. The trick here is to place your sneakers and workout clothes next to your bed each night. That way, when you wake up they’re the first things you see.
- Create a list. Make a list and cross off a task as you do it. This boosts your motivation. According to Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog!—21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, the dopamine or the motivation chemical is released whenever you “do something life-enhancing, such as completing a task.”
You want to approach the journey to a healthy life like you would any other important goal. Create lists, work on small steps at a time, and find ways to stay motivated along the way.
How to Incorporate Healthy Eating into Your Daily Lifestyle
You made a resolution to eat healthy this year. You were doing great for about two weeks or so. Then wham. Life happened. You were hit with temptations for sweets at work, for eating fast food for lunch or simply craved potato chips. It happens.
But you can get back on the right track.
Here are 4 ways to incorporate healthy eating into your daily lifestyle:
- Don’t sacrifice a nutritious breakfast. You’ve probably heard the old adage “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, and it’s true. But not just anything will do. Skip the sweet Danish for a more nutritious breakfast. Keep plenty of healthy breakfast foods on hand.
- Enjoy easy, healthy snacks. Healthy snacks keep you from getting too hungry and overeating at your next meal. Keep foods such as yogurt, nuts, fruit and veggies such as washed apples, carrot sticks, and grape tomatoes, cottage cheese or sliced turkey on hand for a quick snack.
- Cook more than you can eat. This tip saves you time and money while allowing you to eat healthier. Cook extra to refrigerate or freeze for your next day’s lunch or dinner. When you know you already have a nutritious meal waiting for you, you’re less likely to grab the high-calorie, high-fat junk food at the drive-through on your way home. Some good options include chicken, veggies, soups, and grains, including quinoa and brown rice.
- Eat as many colors as you can every day. Opt for a range of nutritious vegetables and fruits every day. Keep a variety of colors on hand and make it a point to see how many different colors you can eat a day. Eat red peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes and blackberries one day and the next eat green peppers, yellow squash, blueberries and bananas.
It takes time to make these changes, but if you keep trying every day, you’ll eventually begin to see it’s become a habit to eat healthier.
How to Incorporate Exercise into Your Daily Lifestyle
You set a New Year’s resolution to exercise every day. If you are new to exercising or you haven’t done it for a while, the best way to begin incorporating it into your life is to begin with small steps.
- Set your mind to the idea of moving more. Remind your body to get more movement every day by standing more or taking the stairs more often. Other ways to get more movement in are to do stretches in your chair, squat to pick something up from the floor or park farther away from the door.
- Commit to regular activity by setting a specific time each day. Schedule it in your appointment calendar and treat it like a commitment. Set a time to take a leisurely walk if exercise is new to you. Or set a time to take a fitness class, swim a few laps or join in a dance class.
- Move more. Find ways to move more in your regular daily activity.
- Find your favorite exercise. You’ll be more likely to stick to it if you enjoy it. To find one you’ll enjoy, think about what you played as a kid. Did you enjoy team sports? You might be more of a group or class person, so try a spin class or sign up for an adult sports league. Did you enjoy playing alone? Try running, tennis or a marathon. Rent an exercise video to experiment with different types of exercise.
- Vary your routine and activities if you get bored easily. Try cardio three days a week and strength training twice a week and yoga twice a week. Try working out in the morning part of the time and in the evening part of the time.
- Exercise at the right time of day for you. The best time to exercise is whatever works for your schedule. Mornings might be ideal if you’re a busy professional. Fit in a gym session on your lunch hour or after work if that works best for you.
Incorporating exercise into your daily lifestyle can be as simple as waking up thirty minutes earlier for a quick walk or doing stretches at your desk. No matter what type of exercise you do, look for simple ways to add more movement to your day.
How to Live with Positivity and Limited Stress Every Day
Worry and negative thoughts lead to stress. One way to have less stress is to live with positivity. Learning how to live with a positive attitude can be challenging but with practice every day it will become a habit.
Here are ten ways to stay positive every day:
- When you catch yourself saying what-if or imagining the worst case scenario, take control by turning those thoughts into positive ones. Instead of worrying, think of the best possible outcome.
- Use breathing techniques to keep you centered. When you’re really stressed, take at least three deep breaths to calm yourself before you take action or start overanalyzing the situation.
- Don’t compare what’s happening now with what happened before. It’s difficult to not compare changes, especially negative ones, with what happened in the past. Don’t wish things would go back to the way they were if you’re facing negative problems. Instead find a positive solution and consider why you’re facing difficulty.
- Focus on solutions rather than the problems. There is less stress when you are working toward solving a problem.
- Learn how to treat others well. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Be kind. Smile.
- Focus on self-improvement. It’s easy to blame others for our problems. But positive people know that won’t get them anywhere. Instead, find ways you can improve yourself and build your skills and mindset into a person who can overcome the obstacles, instead of blaming external factors for your lack of success or problems.
- Laugh at yourself. Everyone makes mistakes and messes up sometimes. Learn a lesson from the mistake and laugh it off. Take yourself lightly.
- Work on whatever you are capable of achieving. It’s never too late to accomplish what you want in life. Quit obsessing over what you should have done sooner. Take steps every day toward what you want to accomplish.
- Reach out to others. Form new connections and reach out to old connections. Whenever possible, network with others in a positive way.
- Start each day with a happy thought. Remind yourself of your strengths, your goals, and the things that make you happy. Feel gratitude for the things you do have. Focus on the positive experiences you have every day. It might be as simple as a cuddle from your puppy to getting a new client. Use daily affirmations.
Living with positivity on a daily basis leaves less room for stress in your life. Positive people are calmer, work towards what they want and achieve their goals better than those who continually worry, and find the negative in any situation.
What to Do If You Feel You’re Slipping or Get off Track
Sometimes we have the best intentions but still slip and get off track. Is it a mindset problem? Or was the goal too big? Did you not have enough support? No matter what the reason, don’t give up! You can return to working on your resolution.
Decide if the goal really means something to you, and if it does, you’ll want to follow this simple process to get back on track.
- Review your plan. Did you set your goal a little too high? For example losing 50 pounds in 3 months? Aim a bit lower. Set your target goal to a more attainable one. So for this example, losing 10 or 15 pounds in 3 months or changing what you eat and scheduling exercises would be a better resolution.
- Break down your goal if your original goal is too large to accomplish easily. If your goal is to lose 50 pounds this year, then break it down into smaller tasks. In this example, 50 pounds a year is less than a pound a week. Then set up an eating and exercise plan to lose a pound a week.
- Focus on one resolution at a time. Choose the most pressing one – losing weight, eating healthy, changing your mindset—and concentrate on it until you achieve it. Trying to change more than one habit at a time can be overwhelming.
- Get an accountability partner. Enlist the help of a friend or professional to keep you accountable who can advise you on what you need to be doing.
- Be flexible and willing to change how you approach your resolution. Lengthen your timeline if necessary.
- Work on smaller goals at a time that lead to your ultimate goal.
- Create new milestones if you feel like you’re just too far off track. Modify your original goal for a new more attainable one that fits in the remaining time. That way, at least you’re making some progress towards your original goal.
- Get more specific if you created a very broad and grand resolution. Maybe your goal was to get healthy. That’s great, but it is without an action plan and specific definition of what healthy means to you. Does it mean eating clean foods? Or exercising three times a week?
Just because you’ve started slipping away from your New Year’s resolution doesn’t mean you have to totally forget about it. Use the above tips to get back on track and get your momentum going again.
What Your Next Step Is
We almost all do it. We make New Year’s resolutions to get healthy, to exercise more and to live a more happy and positive life. Then, as they say, life happens. We fall off the ball and eventually we’re right back where we started a year ago.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of losing our motivation to continue. Reaching the goal might be taking longer than we hoped or harder than we anticipated. But there are things we can do to boost our motivation along the way.
Tell other people about your goal or invite them to join you.
Work on taking small steps every day that leads you towards your goal.
Celebrate your success at preset milestones.
Work on changing your thought patterns as you work on the new behavior. If you don’t change how you think about eating healthy, you will likely have trouble maintaining it.
Have fun and laugh at yourself when you slip. But get back on track as soon as you can.
The statistics are scary. If only eight percent of people setting New Year’s resolutions are able to achieve them, then why do so many attempt them year after year and fail? It’s not because they are lazy. Often it’s simply because we set too high a goal or try to achieve too many resolutions at once.
Setting a New Year’s resolution is a lot like taking a long trip. You wouldn’t set out without a plan on how you were going to get there, where you’d be staying or even what you planned to take with you.
So when you do make your resolutions this year, and you find yourself slipping, take the time to reassess and revamp the plan on how you are going to reach that health goal. Hit the gym, turn down that piece of cake and eat less processed foods. Give yourself a reward, and then get out and do it all over again tomorrow. It’ll be worth it when you finally achieve it.