Why New Year’s Resolutions Always Fail

Originally I was going to post this around actual New Year’s, but I decided that the information was too valuable to sit on. Anyway, I’m sure you have heard people make New Year’s resolutions. You’ve probably even done a few yourself. The interesting thing about New Year’s resolutions is that more often than not, people fail at achieving them. Ever wonder why?

The general reason why these resolutions fail has to do with goal setting. Let’s take the common example of somebody deciding to exercise more. Generally when a person makes this resolution, you sign up for a gym membership. Once you have a membership you try to go to the gym three or four times a week, every week. In theory, this sounds like a good idea, but chances are you’ll give up on working out after one or two weeks.

The reason for this is that you created a goal with no progression. You went from no exercise to exercising three or four times a week. This becomes a problem for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that your body has not accomodated to exercising that much or that frequently, but there are other issues as well. For example, going to the gym requires time, you may be turning your entire schedule upside down to go to the gym and in turn it’s making you very unmotivated to go. It’s also a new atmosphere, you might find the gym very unpleasant because you haven’t gotten used to it and found what you like about it.

So, in essence, New Year’s resolutions fail, because they are usually poorly planned out. With that, I want to introduce you to S.M.A.R.T. Goals.

S. M.A.R.T. Goals are essentially a set of rules you use when making any goal. The purpose is to make a goal that sets you up for both short term and long term success.

Specific: Does your goal have clear parameters, or is it wishy-washy?

Measurable: Can you tell when you have accomplished your goal? If not, it’s not measurable.

Achievable: Is this a goal you have the physical capability to do?

Reasonable: On a easy to hard scale of 1 to 10 how hard is it? Ideal goals should be around a 3.

Time-Oriented: Do you have a clear timeline for your goal? Goals should be possible to accomplish within 2 weeks for best results. Always make sure you are starting with the first step of your larger goal.


So with these parameters, you can see why most resolutions are a problem. Getting in shape is very wishy-washy, you have not specified how you will measure your success, it’s probably not reasonable, it’s definitely not time-oriented, and lastly, probably not achievable.


A good goal would be something like: “I will spend 15 minutes researching fitness programs by this Friday”. Notice that we’re not even talking about doing the physical exercise yet because this is the real first step before you can do that. After you accomplish that goal, you’d set your next one: “apply to join a fitness program by the 25th.” Once you start the program, you’d probably set small goals of how much exercise is reasonable for you and gradually increase the goals as the activity gets easier. Depending on who you are, your first goal may even be creating time in your schedule to research a program.


What do you do when you miss a S.M.A.R.T. Goal?


First, check your parameters.

Did your goal originally fit all the qualifications for a S.M.A.R.T. Goal? Specifically, was it reasonable and achievable? If not, you probably want to be more strict in your goal setting, absolutely make sure your goals are well within your capabilities.

Did you account for multiple goals?

If you are trying to pursue multiple goals like “study for 15 mins 3 times a week, this week” and “go to the gym three times this week” you want to assess what their combined difficulty is. If you didn’t do this, you might be biting off more than you can chew and not know it.


Was there something unexpected?

It doesn’t matter how much you plan, you can’t account for everything. When this happens recognize that the difficulty of your goal changed. It’s much harder to meet that exercise goal if you just discovered you have a ten page paper due next week.


Don’t think of it as failure.

It’s impossible to make a perfect S.M.A.R.T. Goal that can’t be failed. Whenever you don’t complete a goal, it just means either something unexpected happened or you overlooked something when planning the goal. When this happens, just readjust your S.M.A.R.T. Goal and try again. Setting these goals is somewhat of a skill and it takes time to get consistent success.
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