Why 92% of resolutions fail (and 6 things you can do about it)

Photo by petrelos/iStock / Getty Images

We’re only a couple of weeks into 2016, yet an incredible 92% of us have already given up on our New Year’s resolutions! 

Every January we have the opportunity for a fresh start, a clean slate. It’s the ideal moment to reflect on the past year, and make plans to improve certain aspects of our lives. We make exciting new promises and share them with friends and family.

But why is it so difficult to keep those resolutions? Let’s look at six common reasons why people fail at building new habits, and their successful counterparts.


#1 People don’t actually believe they can change. 

We make plans and resolutions because a new year begins, because we feel we have to or because it’s really time to do something about this or that. But we’re actually just making a wish. Our resolutions remain things we should do, not something we must do.

If you don’t actually believe you can change, you’re bound to fail.  You’ll be disappointed, increase your fear of failure and end up not trying any more.

One of the strongest forces of the human being is our desire to remain loyal to our identity. We behave in ways that are consistent with how we see ourselves. If you don’t think of yourself as an athlete, a great leader, an excellent cook, you won’t behave like one, and you'll most probably never become one. 

The key is to already ‘act as if’ you were already the better version of yourself. If you want to be the best doctor, the best lawyer, the best entrepreneur, act as if you already are.

‘Acting as if’ will make you ask great questions like “what would the best of the best do if they were in my position?”. ‘Acting as if’ will help you already feel as if you have grown into that person you want to be, and raise your standards in order to make it actually happen! What used to be a ‘should’, will then become a ‘must’!


#2 We are vague on what we want to achieve. 

'I should save some money and invest it'. Vague goals produce vague results. Be very specific on what you want, it will make it much more concrete!


#3 We’re missing a vision that excites us.

Whenever we want to change something, we often focus on what we’re missing out on, rather than the benefits to come!

If you decide to wake up early, you can focus on how painful early waking up is. Or you can think about how much more you can do each day, and how that will impact all the aspects of your life. See the difference in approach?

The challenge here is break through some of your old beliefs and attach new exciting meanings to your new behavior. Diets are a good example: as long as you’re not enjoying your healthy meals, and keep liking the fries and deserts, diets are going to be short sprints in between your regular habits.

As long as you don’t attach pleasure to your new habit and pain to the old one, it will not work! It’s as simple as that.

Sounds too difficult? It’s not! You're not a big fan of running? Start super small, find a way to make it a fun experience (yes you can!), do it consistently over a period of time, feel you’re making progress and slowly you will start to like it! 


#4 We don’t have strong enough reasons.

We've all been there: trying new things. Often we then struggle along the way and end up asking ourselves this excellent question: 'Why on earth am I doing this?', without being able to come up with a decent answer. Is it for us personally, for our wellbeing, for our family, for our finances? We're not sure. 

Well, whenever you have a hard time holding on to your change (and you will), you’ll need strong reasons to keep you going! Reasons preferably larger than yourself. They’re the foundations of your resolution(s)!


#5 We’re using the wrong strategy. 

You may be doing everything else right, if you use the wrong strategy, there is no doubt you will get failure.

Now and then when on holidays, I like to fish by the sea. I buy a piece of bamboo, tie a rope to it and throw it in the water with a piece of bread. I wait for 30 minutes, then I give up empty handed. So far, I’ve caught one fish. By accident. There are so many wrong things with my approach (my material to start with), that if I continue like this I may very well never catch another fish in my life! 

Finding the right strategy is not always easy. Modelling someone who has achieved what you’re after is a great way to get inspiration. Getting help from experts in the field is another good approach.

And even if you find a successful strategy, if may not be the best one for you.

Let’s say you want to get in shape, but your strategy is: “I am going to the gym two times per week”. What if you don’t like the gym? What if the gym is too far away from your home? If so, you may have armed yourself with the wrong strategy for you.  

Maybe the best strategy for you to get in shape is to go running with a friend, or bike to work, or join the local sports club.

What’s working for someone else, may not be working for you! Keep trying until it clicks! Remember: you must find a way if you truly resolved to that change.


#6. We wait for all the stars to be aligned before getting into motion

It is surprising to see how many people over analyse, plan and organise, when what we really need to do is take action.

Too much thinking and waiting may lead to paralysis. When you take action, all kinds of things will get into motion. People around you start paying attention and taking you seriously. You start learning from your experiences and enjoying the process.

Start small. Try and expand. It’s never the perfect time. Soon enough, you’ll feel some progress that will encourage you to continue.

“Act your way into change instead of thinking your way into act”

Next time you are making changes in your life, why not try one of these tactics to help you stick to your new habits. Let me know how you get on!