Why New Year’s Resolutions Aren’t Effective

Forbes Magazine: People Fail in Their New year’s Resolution

Why New Year’s Resolutions Aren’t EffectiveAfter spending years helping patients, I’ve come to realize that New Year’s resolutions do not work. In fact, according to Forbes, 92% of people ultimately fail in their New Year’s resolutions, with well over 36% breaking their resolutions within the first month.

If you’re like most people, these statistics probably come as no surprise. The truth is, while New Year’s resolutions make us feel good in the moment, in the end they can actually bring us down. Here’s why –we treat them like holiday decorations. We get excited, get out our sticky notes, and put them up at our desks and mirrors.  Then eventually the holidays end, we take them down, and wait to get them back out next year. And we wonder why we feel so down.

The Reason Behind Why New Year’s Resolution Always Fails

Here’s what’s really going on: The real reason New Year’s resolutions don’t stick is because a simple date on a calendar is not enough motivation to make a lasting change. Each passing day puts you farther and farther away from the very thing that “inspired” you to change, making it harder to keep your resolution. Having said that, if you’re still inspired to make a New Year’s resolution this year, here are a few tips I can share with you that I’ve gained from my years of experience working with my patients:

  1. Choose something that speaks to you. We know that New Year’s isn’t a catalyst for change, so draw inspiration from your own life. Find something intrinsically meaningful on your journey –maybe a new job or making a change in your current position, a new relationship or working on a relationship you are already in, losing weight or just making a healthy change in life style, or even just a trip to a new place –make a goal that inspires you!
  2. Do something measurable. Whatever goal you choose, make sure you find small, measurable ways to achieve it. Vague, unstructured targets like “eating healthy” provide no real value and can leave you feeling frustrated and discouraged at the lack of progress you’ll experience. Instead, try something tangible like swapping a salad for French fries or flavored water for sugary drinks. Clearly define a concrete goal for your resolution so you can take measurable steps towards achieving it. How do you that? It depends! Which brings us to our next point…
  3. Start small. If you want to lose weight but haven’t been to a gym in 2 years, making a resolution to go running an hour every day is setting yourself up for failure. Take baby steps and shoot for a goal that you know for sure you can do. If exercising more is your goal, try one or two 20-minute sessions the first week. After three weeks (the average amount of time it takes to form a habit), add another day or increase your time increment—whatever works for you to increase your goals. Build on your resolution to make it stronger over time.
  4. Have an accountability buddy. Sharing your goals with your family and friends is proven to increase your likelihood to stick with them – according to one study, people who shared their weight loss progress lost four times the amount of weight than those who didn’t. Find a person you can confide in, and take some time each week to discuss your progress. In addition to being held accountable, you’ll feel more supported and motivated, which will help you push through rough patches instead of giving up!
  5. Remember: “messing up” is NOT failure! While creating a consistent routine is important to maintaining your new resolution, it’s also important to remember that life doesn’t always go as planned. Getting upset or down over missing a day or two of your new habit is only going to make it more difficult to achieve your overall goal. We’re all human and slip ups will happen! Expect the bumps and embrace them – you’ll be amazed at how you can overcome them. Don’t look at them as set-backs, and realize it’s just part of the process. Having a positive attitude and leaning on your support system will help get you through any bumps on your journey to a better you.

When it comes to making big life changes, remember that why you do it is more important than when you do it. What matters is that you start working toward your goals when you are emotionally and psychologically ready to do so.  So if your January resolutions don’t work out, don’t be afraid to start them back up in March, or June, or even September. But above all, don’t do it for the New Year – do it for a new you!