Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Always Fail (And What To Do About It)

We’re now halfway through December, and this is about the time most people begin thinking about their New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, according to an infographic from online investment company Betterment, only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions.

Of course, different sources cite different percentages of those who realize their New Year’s resolutions, but the point is very few people realize the goals they set for themselves. Why? Much of the problem lies in the work ethic of the average person, but an equally large issue is that most people set poor goals for themselves as well.

Developing a stronger work ethic has been covered elsewhere on my blog, so for the remainder of this post we’ll focus on where most people goes wrong in their goal-setting, and how to set better goals for yourself.

The Problem With Setting Arbitrarily Timed Goals

The first reason setting New Year’s resolutions doesn’t work? They’re far too arbitrary. It’s tempting to wait until January 1st to make a change, both because it’s in the future, and because it seems like a convenient time for a clean slate. Unfortunately, few changes occur in the clean fashion we expect them to. We work out for a couple weeks, and then we slack off. Then we get back to our training, and then we fall off again. Change isn’t linear, it’s a process of ups and downs, and it’s very rarely cleanly cut.

Waiting until New Year’s to begin working on a goal is the same as a drug addict saying they’re just going to get high one last time. It’s an easy way to justify your actions, but ultimately it only disconnects you from truth, and makes future change even more difficult.

If you’re serious about making a change you’ll begin working on it today. If you’re not, you’ll make an excuse… Or a New Year’s resolution 😉

Setting Goals That Matter

One of the biggest reasons people aren’t able to realize their goals is that their goals don’t matter. At least to them.

We’re constantly being influenced by family, friends, media, and society on what’s “right” or “cool.” We’re constantly losing the essence of who we are in social conditioning. Everyone is. Even if you don’t consume mainstream media, things such as this article are still influencing the way you think.

So what’s the solution? To stop looking for outside entities to give you the solution. You already know what you need to do. You may have repressed the very things that bring you to life, but within the depths of your subconscious they still exist. You just need to bring them back to the surface. This sounds very poetic, and seems like somewhat of a mental circle jerk, but it’s the truth.

If no particular direction in life is giving you passion I’d say the best solution is for you to simply move in a direction that allows your brain to function at a higher level. Depending on your circumstances this may mean different things such as healthy eating, exercising, meditating, working, socializing, or reading.

Selective Focus

In the United States we tend to equate more with better. More girls, more money, more workouts, etc. Unfortunately, we also tend to think more goals are better as well. This isn’t true though, at least in most cases.

As human beings we’re creatures of habit. We do possess the unique ability of being able to change our habits, but we usually overestimate our ability to do so. We think we can tackle a dozen goals at once, but doing so rarely works.

It’s been said humans have a finite reservoir of will power, and if yours is being divided between 10 different goals it’s likely you’ll fail in all of them. The solution? Well, actually there’s several.

  • One solution is that you focus on one, maybe two major goals, and put the rest of your life into maintenance mode. This’ll give you a good chance of making solid, steady progress on the most important of your goals.
  • However, if your life’s a complete mess you may find another more dramatic line of action is necessary. Letting everything burn while you focus on improving one area of your life. Fat, tired, poor, and unloved? In that case it’s probably best to focus on exercise, and diet while you let everything continue to go to hell. Improving your health will allow your brain to function properly, and provide you the brain power needed to make progress on your other goals.
  • The final solution is the most dramatic, but if one has the discipline to stick to it, will quickly produce results at an astounding pace. The solution? Creating an upward spiral throughout your whole life. If you eat healthy it’s likely you’ll have energy to exercise, and if you exercise you’ll sleep better, and if you sleep better… well, you get the point.

Think Actions, Not Results

Focus on the actions you need to take, rather than the results you wish to produce. Intelligent goals focus on things within your control rather than random variables.

You can’t will yourself to fall in love, but you can go out 3-4 times per week to greatly increase the possibility of it. You can’t will yourself to 10,000 subscribers on Youtube, but you can post a video every week, and put forth your best effort to make each video a little better than the last.

By setting specific actions for yourself that’ll progress you towards your goals you greatly increase your likelihood of achieving them.

Prepare For The Inevitable Slip Up

Good people make bad decisions. You can’t always be at your best. This means at some point you’re probably going to slip up with your goal. That’s ok. Just prepare yourself. Arrange your circumstances to make slip ups a minor, infrequent occurrence, and accept that you’ll inevitably make mistakes at some point.

When you do, don’t beat yourself up. Acknowledge the situation, but don’t dwell on it. Don’t deny what’s happened, but don’t make it out to be worse than it actually is either. The only way to make amends for the past is to create a better future, and that’s what you need to focus on.

Identify how you can prevent yourself from making a similar mistake in the future, and then get back on track as soon as possible. Resist the urge to fall off the rails completely.

Through the application of these five tips you’ll have a much greater chance at achieving the goals that matter to you. If you’ve have any questions, or additional tips feel free to post them in the comment below 🙂


Picture is of me during 8th grade year when I decided to try football.

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