Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work (and what to do instead)


Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work (and what to do instead)

By Pete Kadushin, O2X Mental Performance Specialist (PhD, CMPC)
Try Again Next Year

At the end of each year, I think about the ways that I’d like to be different in the year to come. If you’re reading this, you’re probably like me, and doing the same. Looking for ways to grow, to improve, to change. And as the calendar turns and January rolls around, I want to harness some of that energy as momentum to slingshot me into a different orbit the following year. 

So I set a New Year’s Resolution (NYR). 

This is where things start to get messy. Research has found that 25 percent of NYRs are abandoned within the first week. 

If we check in after six months, that number jumps to over 60 percent of people who have let go of their goal, with many of them just waiting for the following January to try again. 

I’d like to be honest with you, I’ve been there – even after studying habits and behavior change for over a decade! It’s tempting to set resolutions, but the good news is, with a few tweaks, we can make changes that stick. But before we get there, let’s figure out why we have such a bad track record with our resolutions to begin with.

Resolution Roadblocks

One of the biggest challenges with sticking with resolutions is that our expectations get us into trouble. We’ve been sold on the idea that change can be quick, easy, and delivered with free two-day shipping. 

The truth is that meaningful change takes time, effort, and it can get messy. 

Additionally, even if we clear the first hurdle and get our expectations calibrated correctly, we have a second obstacle to our success. In order to work at maximum effect, we need to set goals with structure and clarity. Unfortunately, most of us have a fuzzy image of the specific things we’d like to change, and our “goals” are simply too vague to help us out. 

Finally – even if we dial up a 5K ultra-high-definition picture of our end goal, most of us don’t build flexibility into the process. Real life is unpredictable, and if we’re not prepared to adapt as conditions evolve, we set ourselves up for failure before we even start to change.

If you’ve been nodding your head through this section, then you probably know where things might ride off the rails or where your resolutions have been derailed in the past. If it isn’t clear quite yet, taking the time to reflect on your previous attempts at behavior change might shine some light on the different ways these three roadblocks come up for you. Understanding these challenges will be a huge help as we head into the new year.

1% Better

If you want to supercharge your growth this year, here are a few key adjustments you can make to help dodge the typical resolution roadblocks and set yourself up for success:

 1. Get Clear on your What and your Why

You need to start with a clear target – but that’s not enough on its own. Take some time to write down why the goal is meaningful. Close your eyes and time travel to this time next year. Consider how your goal will impact you, your family, friends, coworkers, and your community. Doing this up front will help you plug into a deep, long-lasting reservoir of motivation right from the beginning. 

 2. Focus on the Process

Making lasting change requires us to lay solid foundations. As you build your plan of attack for this year’s goals, consider what the daily and weekly markers for success might look like, rather than waiting for the finish line to celebrate.  Specifically, what habits and daily practices are necessary to support your long-term goals? 

Get 1% better each day by knocking out daily habits. This helps to keep the momentum going as you work towards your bigger goals. The THRIVE section on the O2X Tactical Performance App has several great plans to help you start daily habits such as journaling, meditating, and breath practice!

 3. Use Your Evolution

We’re hardwired to respond to rewards! Find little ways to reward yourself when you complete your daily practices and make progress towards your goals. Rewards should be small, they shouldn’t take you further away from your goals, and they should be motivating. Treating yourself to a smoothie after each workout, your favorite tv show, or time spent cruising social media are all little ways you can reinforce your habits so they get stronger each day.

Better Together

As you work to supercharge your goals with the strategies above, remember that way too often we try making the journey alone. We’re social animals – find a friend, a family member, or a coworker who is also making change, and team up!

Turn it into a game, a competition, or a support group. The bottom line is that we’re wired to want to feel connected, and if you can build that into the journey, you’re seriously upping your chances of success.

Our New Year’s Resolutions aren’t doomed to fail, unless we try the same thing again and again. Getting 1% better means finding ways to work smarter before we work harder. If you take the time to work through the strategies here, you’ll have yourself on a trajectory towards the big picture change you’ve been aiming for.

I’ll be back next month to check in and offer up some strategies for how to keep the momentum going and how to troubleshoot some of the common potholes we might hit along the journey.