new year resolution

Why Most People Fail At New Year Resolutions (And What To Do About It)

New Year’s eve is just around the corner.

This is the time when most people start planning the details for next year. What’s going to change. What’s going to be improved. What bad habits will be completely eliminated. We combine all of these decisions in our New Year resolutions and we promise ourselves that next year is going to be the best year yet.

Unfortunately, the statistics are against us. Only 8% of the people that make resolutions for the next year ever achieve them. That does not mean that you should not make a plan and put it in a resolution. It simple means that you need to create your goals in way that guarantees your success. You need to be the 8%, not the 92%. Here are the best practices for creating (and keeping) a New Year resolution.

Spread Your Goals Out

The typical resolution goes from 0 to 100 in almost no time. People get caught up in the excitement of a new beginning and plan to change everything they don’t like about themselves overnight. On the 31st, you are one person, on the 1st, you have magically transformed into a much better version of yourself. This way of thinking is a sure path for failure.

Instead of having all your goals start at the same time, spread them out over the course of the year.

We are creatures of habit. We don’t like change. If you introduce a lot of (dramatic) changes to your life all at once, you are going to overwhelm yourself. When you feel overwhelmed you stand a much bigger chances to just revert to the old f way of doing things and disregard all the promises you made to yourself.

Change should be gradual and made overtime.

Create a goal for each month. In January, you’ll start waking up early. In February, you’ll start going to the gym on a regular basis. In March, you’ll write 3 blog posts per week to grow your audience and so on.

It takes 30 days on average to create, change, or eliminate a habit. Having one major goal for each 30 days gives you enough time to create a habit before you start a new one. This way, by the time you start the next one, the goal from the previous month will already be part of your routine, and you won’t have to work hard to maintain it.

A goal a month also enables you to take advantage of the magic of compounding. If you have decided for the next year to be your healthiest year ever, you might have on your goal list to wake up early, exercise on a regular basis, eat healthy and jog 3 times a week. If you have not done any of these before, it will be nearly impossible to start and maintain them at the same time. But if you have been eating healthy since January and you’ve been exercising regularly since February, when March hits and it’s time to start jogging, it will be much easier to add it to your routine.

Make Your Goals Specific

For a goal to be achievable, it needs to be specific.

“I want to be more productive next year” is not a goal, it’s a wish.

“I want to reduce the time I spend in my email by 30% in 60 days” is a goal (and an achievable one).

When you are planning your resolutions, make sure all your goals are as specific and measurable as possible. If you don’t have an exact number in mind for something, estimate it.

Having a specific goal will give you a more clear target to aim for. You know you spend 3 hours per day in your email (because you tracked your time). Now, you want to spend 2 hours. You have a starting point and a finish line, you just need to figure out the best way to get there. If you don’t have an end point, how can you even figure the way to get there?

Making your goals specific and measurable will also enable you to test different approaches and make adjustments and improvements. You know your start and your finish, but there are multiple ways to get from one to the other. Some methods are better than others and the only way to figure that out is to test them all. Maybe reducing the emails you get is the way to go. Or maybe improving your typing speed will get you there faster. You don’t know until you test. And the only way to test is to have a specific, measurable goal.

Start Small

The same way your broke your goals for the year into smaller pieces and spread them our over time, the same way you should break each one of them to even smaller pieces.

Start small and gradually build your way up. This is the only way to guarantee your long term success.

The reason why most people fail with their resolutions (and goals in general) is the need for immediate results. They want things to change “yesterday” and with little, or preferably, no work at all. But life does not work like that. If big, lasting, change was so easy and quick, everyone would be doing it and we’ll all be perfect, but we all know that is not true.

Start small. Figure our the smallest amount of change you can make. Now cut that in half and make that your starting point.

If you want to run a marathon next year, but you’ve never ran for more than 15 minutes at the gym, start with running for 2 minutes outside. 2 minutes might seem like a ridiculously low number, but think of at as so low that there is no excuse not to do it. Get used to running for 2 minutes, then make it 5. Get used to that, then make it 10, 15, 25, 35, 1 hour and over the course of time you’ll be capable of running a marathon.

Start small, ridiculously small, and gradually build your way up. That is the key to long-lasting change and achieving your goals.

Reduce Friction

We are creatures of habit and we’ll naturally resist change.

When you want to introduce a new way to doing things (aka a change), you need to make sure you reduce (if possible, eliminate) friction as much as possible. Friction can be caused by any, big or small obstacle or distraction that can cause you to not follow through with the change.

If you want to start going out for a little jog first thing in the morning, but you’ve never done it before, that is a pretty big change. Take 10 minutes the day before and mentally walk yourself through everything that needs to happen between opening your eyes and shutting the door behind you on the way out. No detail is too small.

Now, it’s time to eliminate friction. Lay out all the clothes you are going to wear. Put your running shoes next to your bed. Charge your iPod and load it with your jogging playlist. Lay out your toothbrush and toothpaste in the bathroom. Lay out a bottle of water, keys and anything else you want to take with you. Prepare. The next morning, as soon as you wake up, dress up, jump in your shoes, brush up, take your keys, water and iPod and out you go.

When you are trying to change a habit or introduce a new one, every little obstacle might tip you over and cause you not to follow through. When your entire system is telling you “it’s too hard, why bother, you can do it tomorrow”, a simple thing such as not being able to find your keys on your way for the jog, might cause you to give up and go back to bed.

Reducing friction is setting yourself up for success and following thought on the promises you made to yourself.

Over To You Now

New Year resolutions are great. You start a new year, it is time for a change. Be smart about what you put on your resolution and how you go about achieving those goals.

Spread your goals out over the entire year, one major goal per month. Make them specific and measurable. Start small and gradually build your way up and reduce friction as much as possible.

Long lasting change is possible, but you’ll need to work at it. Get excited, get happy because next year is going to be the best year of your life!

What are your major goals for next year? Share in the comment section below…