Why New-Years resolutions fail and how to fix them

Every year I feel like I see more and more people talking down about New-Years resolutions, and I understand why, they tend not to last and can cause someone a lot of unnecessary guilt when they face a set-back in their goals.

Here’s the thing, though, I think that resolutions are a great thing, I just think we look at them in a really counterproductive way.

Firstly, I think we set our expectations too high.

How many times do you see someone say “This year, I’m going to learn a new language” or “I’m going to the gym every day”?

These are really admirable long term goals, but they’re not realistic in the slightest.

One of my nephews is three and a half years old, and, despite daily practice and immersion in English, he’s still not very good at it.

Going to the gym and pushing yourself is a great thing to do, but if you don’t take a rest every now and again, you’re going to give yourself a hernia.

Change takes time, and that time is probably longer than you think, so plan for it.

Instead of setting a goal to go to the gym every day, set a goal of going to the gym four days a week, instead of planning to master classical Latin, maybe make your benchmark a short conversation in it by next December.

By being more realistic with your goals, you’re less likely to achieve them without getting overwhelmed.

Secondly, we need to be more okay with working towards a goal.

Let’s say you wanted to read a new book every week as your New-Years resolution. Your schedule for the past year hasn’t been built around that, so it won’t just magically fit with no trouble.

I see a lot of people (myself included) give up on their resolutions because they fell short of their goals for a week and they feel like they’ve failed, and thats not how goals work.

If you only read half a book per month in 2022 and want to read one every week in 2023, you can’t expect to make that jump overnight.

You have to be patient with yourself and give yourself grace as you grow.

Finishing a book in a month isn’t the one per week you may be shooting for, but it’s a whole lot closer than where you may have started.

Celebrate your successes, your progress, and even your setbacks. You deserve to grow into the person you want to be, and you deserve to be able to take the time to do that in a way which makes sense for you.

Goals aren’t all or nothing, they’re about progress and not perfection.

Thirdly, we guilt ourselves with our resolutions.

I think the worst part about resolutions is the guilt people put on themselves about them.

When you set your resolution, you were planning for your life in that moment, not for every second of the upcoming year.

You might have all the time in the world on January first, but have your schedule packed full on the fifth, and you shouldn’t hold yourself and your newfound desire to make a new whole-grain sourdough creation to the same standard on both of those days.

Your life is dynamic, and thats okay. If a last minute assignment pops up during the time you wanted to pursue your new hobby, or is you pull a muscle and really don’t want to go for a daily jog, you shouldn’t make yourself feel like you’re less than because of it.

You are a human being, and life is messy.

Let’s say that by the end of the year, you still aren’t up to one book a week, but you’ve hit two a month. That isn’t failure, thats a huge success. You’ve still made a big, positive change in your life.

Lastly, I think the thing I think sets newyears resolutions up for failure is that they only happen once a year.

Goals don’t need a set number of days to be valid, and people love to procrastinate, so why wouldn’t you break up your resolution into smaller goals?

Instead of just saying “I’m going to eat healthier this year” and then promptly forgetting and eating an entire bag of spicy sweet chili Doritos in one sitting (speaking from personal experience,) why not set the goal of “Each week/month, I want to make a healthier change” so you can A) celebrate your successes easier, and B) set goals that work for you in the time you’re doing them.

I think that goals work best when they’re broken down into small manageable pieces, so why treat New-Years resolutions any differently?

At the end of the day, we need to start being flexible with ourselves and our personal goals.

A resolution shouldn’t make you miserable, and it shouldn’t be something you’re afraid of setting.

You deserve to achieve your goals, celebrate yourself, and be the person that you want to be, so you should set yourself up for success.

Maybe that means your resolution is to keep one plant alive for a year instead of having a small, indoor rain-forest.

Maybe that means that instead of being completely zero-waste, you do a better job sorting your recycling and ditch the paper-towels. Thats okay.

Realistic resolutions are part of having healthy boundaries with yourself and your life, and building those boundaries could be a great resolution on it’s own.

A positive change is positive. There is no change, resolution, or goal that is any more or less valuable than any other, you can’t quantify personal growth.

I am proud of you. Really and truly from the bottom of my heart I am proud of you. I want to see you succeed and I know that you can.

So, this year, whether you set a big resolution or not, please remember to set yourself up for success and give yourself time, grace, and forgiveness in wherever the year takes you.

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