Why New Year's Resolutions Fail

Four common ways you may be standing in the way of your personal growth.

Posted Dec 05, 2018

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As we approach the end of 2018, you may find yourself reflecting on your past resolutions. Were you able to meet your aspirations? If so, amazing! Give yourself a round of applause! If not, you’re not alone. According to U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.i What exactly goes wrong in this process? While the reasons vary from person to person, here are 4 common ways you are standing in the way of your success.

Your goals aren’t clear.

Do you know where your goals came from?

Why are they important to you?

How would achieving these goals influence your life?

If you can’t answer these questions easily, you may need to consider clarifying your goals prior to setting them. Uncertainty about your goals creates room for indifference, confusion, and distance between your goals and your aspirations. You may think the most important step is simply creating the goals, but crafting vague objectives can cause you more psychological distress.ii The crucial component is tailoring tasks that align with who you are and where you wish to be.

You feel overwhelmed.

Change can be daunting. It may seem as though you are making a sharp turn to adapt to a path paved with your goals. You may not know where to start, however, you may also be facing pressured to hurry up and do so. The pressure surrounding you may come from your environment, culture, loved ones, and even from yourself. Over time, this pressure may cause it to seem as though the walls are beginning to close in on you. Even if you surface from the pressure, you may not know where the road begins. Further, even if you do know where the journey starts, looking at the long road ahead may cause you to feel as though it’s too much, too soon. These factors may cause you to quit before you even start.

You feel discouraged.

As you strive for your goals, you may become impatient in the process. Perhaps you are not seeing signs of progress, or at least not as fast as you previously expected. You may find yourself reflecting on the pros and cons, and whether the goals are even valuable.iii When this happens, you’re at risk of a snowball effect.iii Rather than getting up, dusting off your hands, and moving forward, when faced with hurdles in the process your goals may no longer seem doable or desirable.iv

If you’re unwilling to abandon your aspirations, you may then find yourself at a fork in the road. At this point, you may the decision to continue as is, or reevaluate your process. You may be set in your ways, comfortable in your routine, and attached to your idea of the goal and the regimented way in which it must be achieved. On one hand, your methods may be adequate and you simply need more time. On the other hand, rigid adherence to your strategies may cause you to be blinded at the other possibilities that may promote goal-attainment.v

You’re not ready to change.

Growth isn’t a linear process.vi You may think you are interested in change, and you very well may be, but are you ready? The chances are, if you’re setting new goals for yourself, you may be hungry for some level of change. Nevertheless, failure to thoroughly consider the corresponding what, when, where, and why may cause you to lack the ability to truly ask yourself if you are currently ready to make the necessary changes. You may find yourself making and taking every excusevii under the sun that helps you step away from your path. This lack of connection, motivation, and dedication doesn’t mean that your goals aren’t representative of your dreams. It may simply mean that they are not the goals that matter the most to you at this present time.

When you know how you may stand in your way, you can empower yourself to move. If you're ready to make this step, look out for the second part in this series in which I share strategies to set meaningful goals, tackle these four common hurdles, and improve your personal growth.

References

Luciani, J. (2015). Why 80 Percent of New Year's Resolutions Fail. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2015-12-29/why-80-percent-of-new-years-resolutions-fail

Nicholas J. Moberly, Joanne M. Dickson. Goal conflict, ambivalence and psychological distress: Concurrent and longitudinal relationships. Personality and Individual Differences, 2018; 129: 38 DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2018.03.008

Maria A. Rodas, Rohini Ahluwalia, Nicholas J. Olson. A Path to More Enduring Happiness: Take a Detour from Specific Emotional Goals. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2018; DOI: 10.1002/jcpy.1042

Richard J. Vann, José Antonio Rosa, Sean M. McCrea. When consumers struggle: Action crisis and its effects on problematic goal pursuit. Psychology & Marketing, 2018; DOI: 10.1002/mar.21116

Milyavskaya, M., & Werner, K. M. (2018). Goal pursuit: Current state of affairs and directions for future research. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 59(2), 163-175. doi:10.1037/cap0000147

Prochaska, J.O., Norcross, J.C., & DiClemente, C. C. (1994). Changing for good: A revolutionary six-stage program for overcoming bad habits and moving your life positively forward. Harper Collins: NY.

Jihae Shin, Katherine L. Milkman. How backup plans can harm goal pursuit: The unexpected downside of being prepared for failure. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 2016; 135: 1 DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2016.04.003