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8 Reasons New Year Resolutions Don't Work and How to Start Your Year Right

Updated: Jan 9, 2023

The new year is a mark that represents for many a new start. It gives hope and the feeling of a new world of possibilities opening up for us. Although that is true and great, it can also bring a lot of pressure for some others. Maybe you are not in a good place right now. Maybe you are not as "far ahead in life" as you thought you would be by now. I put it in "quotation marks" because this is a believe we may acquire thanks to the constant input from external forces, maybe society and people who influence our thoughts and believes. Let this be a reminder that there is not something that "you should have done by now". And there is no rush to put unreasonable "new year resolutions" for this new year either.

You are the one in power to decide where and how fast you want to go.

What is a new year resolution anyway? It is understood as a promise to do something different this year. It is said to be the tradition when people resolve to continue good practices, change an undesired conducts or otherwise improve some behavior.

What is wrong with them?

Well, first, they are kind of made to be broken anyways, no? Have you ever heard of anyone, ANYONE, who has stuck to their new year resolution? I have yet to hear someone say: "Hey the year is over, I am happy I made that resolution at the beginning of the year because I totally followed through with it. In fact, statistics show that 80% of new year resolutions fail already by February.

8 Reasons why New Year resolutions don't work

  1. Not self-motivated: Most people do it as an automatism. People talk about it and you kind of have to answer to the question if you have some resolutions for the new year.

  2. They come from a place of guilt: People think they have to change. You think you have to stop smoking. You think you have to stop drinking. You feel guilty about a behavior and as an intent not to deal with that emotion anymore, the new year resolution should fix it. But it is only a band aid. A genuine motivation has to be behind a change and there must be a fundamental desire to accomplish something. True long lasting change has to come from a place of positivity.

  3. You think that's what you should do: Very similarly to the previous ones, the motivation is not internally originated. You may be trying to meet someone's expectations but there is no true own desire for it. Maybe you feel ok with your weight but you think you should be meeting someone else's standards. Who's standards anyways? Only yours should matter, your body, your life.

  4. They are unrealistic: You set yourself up for failure when you set unrealistic expectations in pretty much any area of your life. None of the first three reasons was applicable and you have truly found in yourself a desire to change something out of conviction. Great! If that is the case and it happened to be at new years I would call it an odd coincidence. Otherwise if you have the conviction and desire to change, chances 364 to 1 that it will happen any other day in the year. But because it is the new year you set your resolution and it has to be meaningful. So you set it to lose 20kg, stop smoking after years and years (of maybe even trying), start saving (maybe even if you ended the year more in debt than when it started). Still wondering why it doesn't work?

  5. They are about external factors outside your control: Resolutions often revolve around health, money and relationships. While there is always something we can do to improve every single area in our life, resolutions like "find a prince charming" or "getting married" if you are in a relationship with someone who is not keen on marriage but you think "you can make them change their mind", you are in for a disappointment.

  6. You expect for it to just happen: Well, of course, you just made it a resolution. Just like making a wish when blowing candles on a birthday or maybe the stars align in the exact second a year changes and from that moment all obstacles you had in life that were keeping you from seeing that resolution through will disappear. However you look at it, nowhere in the resolution you nail down what challenges you expect and how you will deal with them.

  7. You don't have a plan: Which leads me to my last point. You don't have a plan. How will you reach that? When? What actions are you going to take? What resources do you need for it? Do you have the knowledge? The time? What will you do if one approach doesn't give the expected results? Are you committed enough to it to keep looking for a way to make it happen?

  8. You don't hold yourself accountable: You probably don't have a plan as a guide and without it is difficult to know how well you're doing. But chances are also that even with one, you are not holding yourself accountable. If you set yourself out to accomplish something, it is important that you are convinced that is what you truly want to do and then hold yourself accountable to that promise. If someone promises you something, usually you remember. This resolution promise however, seems to fade away quickly. I

Not everything is negative though. The change to a new year presents the opportunity for reflection and face how you truly feel about your life. That introspection can lead for a intrinsic desire to change something that you consider will lead to a better and more enjoyable life.

What to do instead?

Set goals instead of resolutions. Make those goals SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Be honest with yourself about what you want and why. This part is the most important one. Find your why. Find YOUR WHY. Sometimes we may need to deep digger in our motivations but somewhere inside we have a strong intuition that will lead us to the right way with the proper help, attention and resilience.

Unless you have gained consciousness of the damage of smoking or drinking too much is doing to your life, health or relationships and something deep in you shifts to make you take the decision, the resolution will remain just that.

If you want to go to the next step in your relationship but your partner is not ready. Why do you want to take that step with someone who isn't ready? Are you willing to give them the time they need? Or are you looking for something different?

Sometimes we can find the answers by digging a bit deeper and asking why a couple of times. But sometimes also even with the answer, the challenge lays in the behavior. You know smoking is bad but won't stop. You know the relationship is not going anywhere but don't want to leave. Sometimes there are other reasons behind and it is for sure worthwhile exploring the origins and reasons for behaviors and choices but if any of these resolutions should come to reality, they need to be well thought and defined goals that you consider worth working towards achieving.

Once you have set SMART goals for yourself, review them and make sure that is really what you want. Lay out what steps would need to be taken for you to reach said goals. Then make sure that you are also willing to take them. If they still sound like something you want to achieve, then go work for them. Try to think of them as promises you make to yourself. Get an accountability partner. Hold yourself accountable but remain kind to yourself.

Celebrate even the small wins and learn from the mistakes.

Even if you don't reach all of your goals, if you're honest and working hard towards them I am certain you will have accomplished great things.

Remember it is about the progress, not perfection.

Go work on those goals and enjoy the process!


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