Why We Fail At New Years Resolutions By February
How is your New Year’s resolution (or multiple resolutions) going right about now? My guess is that one may be going strong, while a few others may have dropped off. There are some places I absolutely avoid in the first couple of weeks of January knowing that they’ll be flooded with resolution-ers. Gyms. Pilates studios. Any coffee shop that hosts an open mic. Tax filing services (for those who resolve to get their taxes done early—they do it now, or lose steam, and do it late). But, I pretty much know that it’s safe to return to these places by February, because at that point, a lot of people have dropped their resolutions.
It’s a shame though, right? We make those resolutions with the best of intentions. The year closes, and we reflect on how we can be better people, so that we can be better spouses/friends/sisters/daughters/employees/bosses/neighbors. It’s all part of the bigger picture. If we’re better, society is better. That’s an admirable aspiration. So why is it so hard to stick to resolutions? Throughout the year, I’ll set little goals for myself—not relying on the New Year timeline—and I’ll meet them. But those resolutions can be so darn difficult.
It’s all about understanding our own psychology, habits, and motivation. That’s how we’ll actually stick to our resolutions. But beyond that, it’s about choosing the right resolutions. What’s right for your friend isn’t necessarily right for you, and that’s okay. You just need to be honest with yourself when choosing these resolutions, rather than let a personal trainer, financial advisor, stylist, friend, or anyone else pressure you into something. It’s okay to admit that we can’t do it all, or that we can’t do it all that fast. Here is why most New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
It’s not a true priority
Perhaps your resolution isn’t a true priority. I mean really. If you sit down and take stock of what’s happening in your life, what changes would actually improve your happiness every day? It’s funny how often we choose resolutions that won’t really change our day-to-day joy. Ultimately, as busy as we are, we will always prioritize activities and changes that we’ll actually feel the difference of on a regular basis. Thing like, “I’ll wash my car more” or “I’ll only buy organic” just don’t fall under that category.
Or at least it shouldn’t be
Maybe your resolution shouldn’t be a priority, and that’s the issue. Your life will always pull you in the direction of what needs to be a true priority. Maybe your resolution is to go to the gym every day, but, you know what? It’s clear your kids need you to spend more time with them, and gym time cuts into that.
It’s a revenge resolution
Revenge resolutions. They’re very common. You can tell when someone has made one by the way they talk about their resolutions. Maybe, after a breakup, it’s all about that revenge body. Or, after getting fired from a job, you start a competing business that’s not really your passion, to get back at your ex boss. But revenge can’t keep us motivated for long.
Or an “I’ll show them” resolution
Sometimes, the resolution is just about impressing people. It’s about showing people who didn’t think you could do something, that you can. The thing is, we quickly find that that isn’t very satisfying. Even when we do it, the impressed person isn’t that impressed. They barely notice. We have to make resolutions that make us feel proud of ourselves.
It’s somebody else’s resolution
Your mom pressures you to lose weight. Your friends pressure you to make more money to keep up with their lifestyle. Maybe your resolution just isn’t really for you. It’s interesting how often we make resolutions because someone else makes us believe that’s something we should want.
We jumped from level 1 to 10
You want to go from never going to the gym at all to going every day. You want to go from making zero meals at home a week to making them all from home. You want to go from never calling your mom to calling her daily. If you plan on going from level 1 to 10, it’s just not going to work out. You have to be realistic about where you’re currently at.
We didn’t consider the time commitment
Often, we just don’t think about how much time something will really take. Like deciding to go to the gym every day. You may only think about the 30 minutes you’ll spend on the machine, but not the 15 minutes it takes to drive there, the other 10 it takes to find parking, and the 20 it takes to shower and change after. You only had a half hour to dedicate to this: you didn’t have over an hour.
Or the financial restraints
Sometimes we just don’t realize the financial restraints that come with a goal, either. For example, deciding to buy all of your produce from the Farmer’s Market may come with the frightening realization that that may triple the cost of your produce. That doesn’t mean it isn’t an admirable goal, but, you may need to scale it back.
It’s just a distraction
Your resolution may just be a form of avoidance. Maybe you have something you should be working on—build that website, work more hours, spend time with your mother—but you can tell yourself that you can’t do that right now, because you’re too busy…organizing your photo albums. Sure. Okay. Seems like a very important task.
It requires all new gear
I know I’m guilty of it: choosing a resolution that will require so much gear. Sometimes, we just don’t do our research for these resolutions. I wanted to take up self-defense classes and didn’t realize just how many things I would need both for class and for home practice. I didn’t mean to turn my spare room into a Dojo.
We rely on a buddy
A buddy can help make sticking to a resolution fun, but you can’t rely on your buddy to keep you motivated. If you’ll only stick with your resolution if she does, then what happens the second she feels unmotivated? So do you. What happens the day she wants to take a break? So do you. And you enable each other, handing each other excuses to quit, because you both want to. You rise together but you also die together just as quickly.
It’s a lifestyle; not a resolution
Becoming vegan. Quitting driving and walking everywhere. Becoming more spiritual. These are entire lifestyle changes. These aren’t just one singular resolution. They encapsulate dozens of resolutions. That realization can hit us like a ton of bricks, and we can just quit.
We give ourselves too long
If you tell yourself that you will do something by the end of the year, then by February, you’ve already totally removed it from your conscious. Then your subconscious. It’s not on any calendars or post-it notes or reminders or white boards anymore. You’ve forgotten it entirely by February because you tell yourself, “That’s a September problem.”
We don’t break it into small steps
We’ll set a big goal, but it contains many steps within it, and we haven’t really thought out the logistics of those steps. We haven’t sat down and written out a plan by which we do this exact task on this exact day and that exact task on that exact day. We just say at “some time” we’ll do all the parts, so we never do.
We make too many
Take it easy there. A human can only make so many changes at once. The best situation would be spreading out resolutions throughout the year as they occur to us. Instead, we avoid self-reflection until the last week of December, and then set a ton of resolutions, all at once. Several are bound to fall off our radar.