The Number One Reason You Don’t Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

I think this is quite an interesting phenomenon. Every year we celebrate the New Year and say farewell to the old. We feel energised and motivated to do something different in the New Year: to become something else than what we currently are, and we are sure we can do it, nothing can stop us! Does it sound familiar?


I have never been big on New Year’s resolutions myself. The main reasons for this are my integrity and my ego. What if I fail to keep my New Year’s resolution? Surely everyone will think that I am just talk and no good for my word. Who knows; the world might just end as well. The truth told however; no one except for me would probably care. Most New Year’s resolutions fail and therefore we expect nothing to come of it.


I want to say a few things about my pet peeve New Year’s resolution; losing weight. Having worked at many different gyms in my career, January is the most fun period to work and also the most frustrating. There are so many new members that you never run out of clients to train and they are all really motivated, for a while. Within a month or two attendance starts going down and by Easter time most of them are gone again. Was it my fault that my clients disappeared and suddenly did not want to prioritise working out with me? It certainly felt that way at times and it is somewhat disheartening. I loved my clients and I would go the extra mile for every single one of them, for the super motivated I would go further than that, so what was going wrong?


I love the term “cultural procrastination”. As far as I know this term was coined by Professor Timothy Pychyl. He describes the cultural procrastination as an effort to reinvent and motivate oneself. The only problem is that most people are not ready for change and they often set unrealistic goals and expectations which they don’t really believe in. This makes me think of a great quote by Henry Ford you may have heard. “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right”. So by expecting too much of yourself or something which is very unlikely to happen quickly, you are almost doomed to fail.


To make resolutions work you need to change behaviours, and in order to change behaviours you have to rewire your brain by creating new habits. There are a few things we can do to increase the success rate of sticking to our New Year’s resolutions though.


  1. Do it together with friends. Whether you want to lose weight, quit smoking or learn a new skill, do it together with one or several friends. That way you will support and motivate each other. Hold each other accountable.
  2. Prioritise and manage your time. Often we slip back into old habits and the New Year’s resolution is just a nagging thought of something you should do in the back of your head. Plan ahead, set aside time for your activity and prioritise.
  3. Set realistic goals. If you desperately want to become a fitness model but are severely overweight, it is better to break it down into smaller goals. You may want to decide to go to the gym a set number of days per week and do specific changes to your diet. Once you have successfully managed to follow through you can decide what the next step is. By taking the step wise approach you can see and measure the success and are much more likely to stay motivated.
  4. Believe in yourself. Now this is a tricky one. Most of us many times fail to see the tree for the forest. Let’s say that your goal is to go on a specific diet to lose weight. You have been on the diet successfully for two weeks and you have already lost a significant amount of weight. However, you have this pesky wedding to go to this weekend and you know that you are still far away from your goal weight so you have decided to be a good person. You will eat and drink sensibly and just have a small piece of cake if any. Once at the wedding you clean the plates, have a few drinks too many and double or triple servings of cake. The next morning you feel awful, your self-esteem has disappeared over night and you just know that you are a bad person because you have failed staying on track with your diet, again. You can only see your failures and obviously you are not capable of following a diet at all so what’s the point? You may as well go buy yourself a big tub of your favourite ice cream, a packet of biscuits, and a family sized bag of crisps. What the heck, let’s just order pizza for dinner as well! What if you instead had congratulated yourself on the two weeks and the weight loss you had already achieved? Told yourself that you had done great so far but tonight there is a wedding and I’m off the diet, I’m going to enjoy myself and what I eat or drink does not matter. That way you can relax about the wedding, just enjoy the moment and then be back on track the next day without any feelings of guilt or failure. Your self-worth has not changed and you can feel good about yourself. After all it was all part of the plan. If you for some reason had chosen to not have any cake or drink less than you would normally do, that would make you feel awesome and in control, right? So by having planned eating days and sticking to those days only you can still be on the diet and feel good about it. The only problem with this approach is if you do this too often. With too many excuses you may not be able to reach your goal, so plan carefully.
  5. Your goal is not actually that important to you. To use the weight loss as an example again: many people want to lose weight because they are not happy with the way they look. Normal weight people may want to look like super models and overweight people want to be normal weight. Often they think that changing their weight is going to change their life to the better. By identifying the particular aspect of your life (increase self-esteem, making new friends, having more energy, being able to play with the kids etc.) that you actually want to change and making this your goal, you are much more likely to succeed. Have a good think about what is truly important to you and focus on new behaviours rather than a specific end goal.


Hopefully these tips will help you stay on track with your New Year’s resolution or redefine your goal into something more realistic or important. If you already have a group of friends but need that extra support we are offering you free coaching when you sign up for group coaching in January together with six of your friends. There are also discounts for smaller groups or you can join our Facebook competition for 3 months of free coaching!


Please feel free to leave a comment or ask any questions on the blog or on Facebook and I will do my best to help you. Happy New Year, may all your resolutions come true!

Pim JanssonComment