Why Most New Year’s Resolutions Fail (and how to make yours succeed)

You’re focusing on the wrong thing.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

It’s January, which means everyone is setting goals (and blogging about them on Medium ;). People are hitting the gym, eating healthier, drinking less, and just being “better.”

The problem is, most New Year’s Resolutions will fail.

Statistics say that by January 8, some 25% of resolutions have fallen by the wayside. By the end of February, only 16% of people are still sticking to their resolution, and by the end of the year, only 8% have survived.

That’s like asking 100 people to cross a busy street…and 92 of them get hit by a truck and die.

Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but so is a 92% failure rate.

What are we to do?

Mind the Gap

We all want to improve ourselves, but the gap between where we are and where we want to be is huge. We can envision the “future” us that is healthier, nicer, and more well-rounded, but how to get there?

Is our willpower just that weak? Do we really not want the changes we claim we want? Are we non-committal?

How to Fail at Your New Year’s Resolution

If you want to fail at your NYR, focus on that gap. Focus on the huge, insurmountable space that lies between where you are today and where you want to be at the end of the year.

It could be all of the weight you want to lose. It could be the alcohol in the cabinet, or the broken relationship you’re trying to mend. It could be that promotion you want at work, your monthly sales quota, or the pile of debt that’s staring you in the face every time you whip out your credit card.

Doesn’t really matter what it is. What does matter is that as long as you’re focusing on the gap, you’re going to fail.

This is because when you focus on the gap, you’re automatically adopting a defeatist mindset. Every time you focus on the huge space in between where you are and where you want to be, it’s defeating. ”How will I ever get there? There’s no way I can do it.”

There’s a lot of research out there on the lies we tell ourselves and what our subconscious will believe. I won’t go into it all here, but the lesson is this: over time, you will start to become what you believe about yourself.

The good news is, there are ways to tell yourself a better story, and it all starts with the simple question: what am I going to do today?

How to Win at New Year’s Resolutions: Re-Framing Your Goals

To succeed at your NYR, whatever it is, you have to set the right goals and tell yourself the right story. A huge part of this is asking yourself what you will do today.

When you deliberately decide what you’re going to do today, it places your focus on incremental improvements that are necessary for behavior change. Do that enough times in a row, and soon enough you’ll realize that you’ve met (or exceeded) your goals.

Rather than focusing on the 30 pounds you want to lose, re-frame your desire by saying, “I’m going to work out at the gym for 30 minutes today, no matter what.”

Repeat this process daily, and you’ll not only be forming a habit (one in which it takes more effort to not go to the gym), but you’ll be right on track to accomplishing your goal.

Adopting a Growth Mindset

A neat little trick to help you accomplish your goal is to frame it as though you’ve already accomplished it. Rather than focusing on where you so desire to be, act as if you’re already there:

  • “I made $125,000 this year.”
  • “I lost 30 pounds and regularly make healthier choices with food.”
  • “I’ve been sober for 9 months.”

I have a good friend (I’ll call him John) who had struggled with alcohol for much of his adult life. He’s more than 25 years sober now, but it wasn’t an easy road getting there. His alcoholism had destroyed his career, wrecked a marriage or two, and made his life miserable.

But then he stopped drinking.

Amazed by his accomplishment, I asked him how he did it. How did he manage 25 years of sobriety after being addicted to alcohol all those years?

His response?

“You don’t get to be 25 years sober by setting a goal of not drinking for 25 years. All you have to do is wake up in the morning and decide, ‘I’m not going to drink today.’ 25 years of sobriety isn’t that hard, because it’s done one day at a time.”

Whether you’re trying to do something life-changing like recover from alcoholism or just trying to wake up earlier in the morning, this is a powerful lesson.

All you have to do is decide and commit to changing yourself today. How can you make yourself even 1% better today?

So if you want to accomplish your goals, achieve your beloved New Year’s Resolution, or just make yourself better in any way, don’t worry about the next 6 months, the next year, or even the next 25 years.

Just focus on today.

This article was originally published on crawfordifland.com

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