Nearly everyone makes new year’s resolutions, especially in the new era of social media. Whether it’s a personal goal, change of direction, or simply doing things differently this time around, new year’s resolutions are made – with or without the label. This is actually the same reason why they fail. As you may have guessed, this is what I will bring light to: why new year’s resolutions fail, and how to fix them before they happen again. Keep in mind that there is an abundance of reasons why resolutions fail depending on our age, what stage of life we’re in, our responsibilities, and so on. The following focuses on the 5 most common reasons for failure, and can be applied to nearly every goal one can ever make for themselves.
1. Creating a Goal – Without a Strategy
Creating a goal that is both objective and measurable is absolutely critical to success. After all, we cannot track how we’re doing without specific, measurable tasks. (Well, there is a qualitative aspect that differentiates from it’s quantitative counterpart, but let’s leave that out for now.)
Above I mentioned creating a new year’s resolution, or goal, is the same reason why they fail. This is because all we did was create a goal, which is sometimes paired with some sort of plan. Let’s understand the difference between a strategy and a plan, because they seem quite similar but have one very important difference. A quick search resulted with these Google definitions:
Plan– a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.
Strategy– a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.
In other words, a strategy is carried out; a plan is thought about. Think of a commanding General in the military. They devise a strategy (a plan of action) for conquering, not a proposal of one possible method we could use to potentially do what needs to be done. It isn’t extremely detailed either, it’s just major milestones to get to the goal. Here’s an example of a strategy: We go here, do this, then go there, do that. BAM! This may be an oversimplification, but it gets the point across – don’t get lost in the details. That’s where improvisation comes into play. It’s important to realize, though, that goal creating is easier than it seems. The difficult part is how to achieve the goal. It’s quite simple actually. Keep reading.
2. Setting an Unrealistic Schedule
Let’s use the good ol’ gym resolution. We haven’t been active with physical fitness due to work, family, school, “not enough time”, and so on. These are valid reasons for missing the gym, but not every day. The new year comes and we decide it’s time to go to the gym [again]. We desire to lose weight and tone up to become happier with our physical appearance and enhance our health and well-being. Great, so what do we do now?
We decide to hit the ground running and exercise daily Monday through Friday! It starts off pretty well, and soon enough we miss a day. Eventually, we stop going entirely. Why? Because we’re aching, exhausted, and defeated! And rightly so. We’ve been busting our butts (no pun intended) 5 days a week! You might be thinking the time-old phrase, “no pain, no gain!” And if you are, you’re correct. But going “0-100 real quick” will bring us from 100-0 just as fast. The key to preventing this inevitable self-defeat is, as you may have guessed – your strategy.
Fact: our bodies adapt to the stresses we routinely face every day. If we haven’t been exercising in addition to our daily activities, the truth is we are in no condition to start things up full throttle with the pedal to the metal. The fix is now clear: start off light. Exercise 2-3x/week for 3 to 4 weeks of light intensity with high volume with rest days scheduled between your sessions. (i.e. If you’re a runner, run at a slow & consistent pace for a long period or periods of time. If you’re a sprinter, sprint at 50% of your max for, say 100m x 10-15. If you weight train, use light weights that you can accomplish for 10-20 repetitions/set for 4-6 sets and 2-3 exercises.) Then 3-4x/week for the following 3-4 weeks, only now with moderate intensity and moderate-high volumes. At this point, you can maintain 4x/week and switch up your exercise regimen for the next 3-4 weeks. And so on. The point here is to get a rhythm going while staying motivated and not injuring yourself.
3. Being Too Strict – Or Not Strict Enough
Understand that if we’re too strict with our exercise schedule but we’re not a timely person, we’ll be discouraged quickly. On the other hand, if we’re not strict enough and we’re usually very punctual, we probably won’t last long either. Let’s keep running with the gym analogy, no pun intended.
Unexpected circumstances happen that are out of our control. What we can control is how we react to them. Days will come where we simply cannot make it to the gym. So, we must adjust our schedule for the rest of the week & stay on track. If we’re truly committed, this means we’re willing to DVR the next episode of Blacklist so we can go to sleep earlier in order to wake up earlier the next morning to continue to achieve your goal. Sleep is necessary for recovery and mental well-being, so we don’t want to shorten our sleep schedule either. Don’t make the mistake of saying “I’ll just workout longer tomorrow.” Make it happen. We’re committed! We started off with 2-3x a week for a reason – to create a foundation. Just staying longer next time is breaking the flow. Stick to the strategy to remain effective. No excuses.
Let me point out that missing the newest episode of Blacklist (or Game of Thrones, or your other favorite shows) takes a LOT of will power. That in itself shows dedication. And I’m not kidding. This brings me to #4 on the list.
4. Lack of Moderation
By this point, there is a common theme that resonates: extremes lead to failure. The same applies with moderation, which is avoiding extremes. It’s okay to like food that isn’t the healthiest for us and being addicted to TV shows. Often times, these two come hand in hand. Realistically, we don’t have to give up what we enjoy because we set a new goal or resolution. This leads to failure. We simply need to enjoy them in moderation.
I’ll give you an example: I love Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry, lots of gravy, cream of corn, sweet/mashed potatoes, caramelized carrots, and who can forget about pumpkin/cherry/apple pie with whipped cream?! (Is your mouth watering too?) Here’s the catch: I know that if I eat a lot of everything, I’ll hate myself for the next week or three. So I choose to eat a little of everything, or pick what I can live without so I can eat more of what I really love. The same goes with dessert. Don’t get me wrong, I ensure that I am stuffed at the end of the night (turkey pun intended). But I do so knowing that my future self will not regret it because at this point, I adjusted my strategy to compensate for this situation. This enables me to continue moving forward and work on what I still need to work on – without taking any steps back. This brings me to the final and most common reason why goals/resolutions fail.
5. The Inability to Consistently WORK.
If we don’t put the work in, we don’t get the results. It’s that simple. Work is how we transition from a plan to a strategy, how we stick to our schedule, and how we get results. Work is the master key that enables us to open any lock we desire. Some of the most successful people in the world have even written books, made movies, and published documentaries on their successes in life – all with the basis of hard work in different scenarios. Take a moment to think about that. These people have already attained the goals they created for themselves. They can rest now, they did it. We have not. What more motivation do we need?
Note that an important part of WORK is constantly challenging and believing in ourselves. Once we do this, we are the only ones who can stop us. Never settle and never give up – no matter how hard things get. Because remember – when we put in the work, we get the results.