Why people fail to achieve New Year Resolutions

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On average, 50 percent of populations around the world make New Year resolutions at the beginning or the end of the year.

Among these, the top ranking resolutions are exercise, weight loss, proper management of money, and debt reduction.

The initial two weeks after making a resolution go smoothly. But by February people start or are already backsliding in their resolutions.

By December people have usually gone a full circle. All without having managed to achieve or stick to any resolution.

So they set the same resolution for the next year.

Source: Research by John Norcross published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology

So, why can’t people stick to their resolutions? Are they just lazy or lack the willpower to achieve goals?

Cultural Procrastination

Carleton’s University professor of psychology Mr. Timothy Pychyl considers new year resolutions as a  form of procrastination by individuals in a bid to reinvent themselves.

He says resolutions are forms of self-motivation since, in reality, people are not ready to change any of their habits.

These habits, particularly the bad ones, are what account for the high failure rates in the attainment of New Year resolutions.

The high failure rate is also attributed to the setting of unrealistic New Year goals and expectations.


False Hope Syndrome

Peter Herman, another psychology professor, attributed the failures to false hope syndrome.

This means that people set resolutions that are not just significantly unrealistic, but also not aligned with how they view themselves internally.

The result is that people make a lot of positive affirmations about themselves that they do not believe in.

Not only do these positive affirmations not work, but they also damage an individuals’ self-worth when they fail to attain these goals.

An excellent example of this is when people think that by losing weight, exercising more or getting rid of debt will dramatically change their lives.

When it doesn’t happen, these people get discouraged and revert to their old selves.

 

The Real Solution: Rewiring Your Brain

Achieving resolutions is only possible when we change our mentality. This begins with changing your way of thinking.

In their research using MRI, two psychotherapists discovered that habits are created through thinking patterns.

These patterns then develop pathways and memories that are neutral.

This is what forms the basis of an individual’s behavior whenever they have a choice or decision to make.

Thus, to obtain our set resolutions, we have to ‘rewire’ their brain and change the default neural setting.

But this can only be achieved by creating another neural pathway through new thinking.

 

Create an area of focus

Peter Bregman argues that we should create a focus area in our resolutions rather than setting goals.

He discourages people from sticking or setting so-called SMART goals (specific, measurable, time-bound).

SMART goals encourage behavior that has a narrow focus, leading to myopia and cutting corners in order to achieve them. It promotes the reaching of goals at whatever cost.

On the other hand, creating an area of focus will tap into an individual’s intrinsic motivation.

It does so without necessarily offering a stimulus. This reduces the temptation to cheat since it leaves open possibilities and opportunities and also encourages collaboration.

This ensures an individual move forward towards their goals while minimizing corrosive competition.

Some of the reasons for the failure of individuals to attain their goals include:

 

1. Not being honest with yourself

Individuals mostly set goals because they think that those are what they are supposed to do.

Most individuals do not make their resolutions based on what they deem meaningful or desirable to them.

They make resolutions based on what others have told or said to them they should do.

This is done out of fear or guilt. Thus the motivation to achieve the set resolutions will be external, leading to failure since the individual has no self-motivation.

When setting New Year resolutions, one should be honest with themselves and decide on what resolution is important or valuable to them.

Let the motivation to achieve the goal be intrinsic.

 

2. Not sticking to one thing.

Attempting to achieve multiple goals simultaneously becomes overwhelming and eventually leads to failure. Handle one thing at a time then move to the next.

To help decide which goal is essential, we should focus on those behaviors that encourage/ enhance the effective running of the mind or body.

This can be exercise, eating healthier, and getting rid of bad habits that damage your health like smoking.

That being said, we should start with the resolutions they are most passionate about achieving.

From there we can move to those resolutions whose attainment will bring significant benefits.

 

3. Not setting SMART goals.

SMART goals enable individuals to identify and take concrete and specific actions.

Lack of SMART goals results in setting unattainable goals leading to frustration and demoralizing the individual.

 

4. Lack of proper environment for success

Certain aspects of the environment in which an individual is might hinder their success of achieving any New Year resolutions.

A setting like that must be changed.  An example is one wanting to quit taking junk food while their fridge is still full of junk food.

This can be changed by taking out the junk food and replacing them with healthier food, e.g., fruits and vegetables.

 

5. Failing to chart your progress.

Once you have set your New Year resolutions, a plan should be set on how you are to achieve it. This is where most people fail.

They state goals without outlining how they are going to achieve them. One should have a way of keeping tabs on their progress in the attainment of the goal.

This will enable the individual to know if they are getting it right or not, and it also helps in ensuring consistency.


6. Lack of accountability

In order to maintain levels of motivation, one should be accountable to their goals. Get an accountability partner who ensures you stick to your goals.

They can be family members, friends, spouses or even workmates. Consistently discuss your progress with them to help you be on track.


Tips for achieving New Year resolutions

Celebrate successes: Celebrate whatever small success you have managed to achieve towards the realization of your goal. This helps in boosting your morale, do not wait until the end of the year to celebrate the attainment of the big goal.

Focus: one should concentrate on attaining one resolution before moving to the next. One should set goals that are realistic and specific. Losing weight cannot be a particular goal but losing 30kgs in 130 days is.

Resolution setting should be a year-long process that should not be done only in New Year.

One is also encouraged to start small instead of struggling to attain a goal that is big and requires a lot of effort to achieve.

Having an accountability partner also goes a long way in helping realize the set goals.

Try to focus the behavior and thought the process in order to create neural pathways that enable you to change habits.

Attaining new years’ resolution

Attainment of New Year resolutions depends on a lot of things. The achievements or failures of a person in attaining their resolutions depends with their approach towards it/them.

One has to find a way of creating new habits that are aligned towards the set resolutions. They can do this by having their neural pathways.

Reasons, why people fail to attain their resolutions, include; not being honest with themselves, not setting SMART goals and not sticking to one thing.


Additional reasons for failure

Other reasons for failure include lack of accountability, and not charting ones progress towards attainment of the set resolutions.

Things that one can put into consideration when setting New Year resolutions are; focusing on an area, not basing their goals on what others tell them they should/are supposed to do but on what they consider important to them.

They should also create an environment that helps in attainment of the set resolutions.

If one wants to attain their resolutions, they should learn to celebrate the small successes they have managed to achieve towards achieving the goals.

The said goals also have to be realistic and specific. One is also encouraged to focus on their thought process to create neural pathways that promote the creation of new habits.

What to do?

Over the past, recent years, research has indicated that people need to pair up their vision with their new year’s resolutions.

Well, this usually works out because our vision is a clear reflection of what we want to achieve in life.

If you want to be successful at achieving your new year’s resolution, consider making it your top-most priority by following the mentioned, set goals.

The conclusion

SMART goals are said to encourage reaching of goals at whatever cost. Creation of an area of focus taps into an individual’s intrinsic motivation. This it does without necessarily offering a stimulus.

This reduces the temptation to cheat associated with those who set SMART goals since it leaves open possibilities and opportunities and also encourages collaboration.

New Year resolutions are attainable. But they require a lot of commitment and focus on the persons setting them.

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