Best Laid Plans: Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Never Work Out

January 3, 2012  |  
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It’s that time of the year when my Twitter timeline and Facebook news feed are both filled with declarations like, “2012 is my year,” or “Can’t wait to leave so many people behind in the New Year.” Unfortunately, many of these same people will find themselves in the same situations come December of 2012.  Just because it’s a new year doesn’t mean you or your situations will automatically change for the better. If you discover you constantly are breaking promises to yourself, even though on the first of January you’re so amped to make a change, it could be because you’re falling victim to the following New Year’s resolution pitfalls:

1.  You failed to plan.

Goals need to be two things in order to be successful: measurable and realistic.  The more specific they are, the better chance you have at succeeding.  Whether you’re improving or eliminating harmful behavior, or setting goals to in some way to be a better person, you have to make sure that the objective you’re aiming for makes sense.  Resolutions should be clear and focused and require an actual plan of action.  For example, maybe you plan to finally leave that dead-end job you dread going to everyday, but what is your next destination?  How will you then gain income? In what ways will you work daily to move closer to your goals?  Will you fill out job applications?  Tweak your resume?  Start your own business?  Set a timeline for yourself so that you can measure your progress and celebrate small successes along the way. Realistic goals include specific steps. As cheesy as it sounds, the truth is that a goal is just a dream with a plan of action.

2.  You didn’t include time for transition.

As you slept in a post-Christmas dinner coma, you probably were contemplating all of the ways you were going to live healthy starting on the first of January.  These thoughts may include a dramatic clearing of your cabinets as you plan a trip to Whole Foods for organic fruit and veggies, wheatgrass and tofu. This isn’t healthy physically or mentally. Creating a drastic shock to your body and lifestyle will only make you crave all of the things you’re trying to leave behind even more. Instead of aiming for a total 180 degree turnaround in a matter of hours, find ways to include elements of your intended goal into your life slowly by ridding your diet of unhealthy items slowly; you have better chances of being successful when you incorporate change gradually.

3.  You’re surrounded by people who don’t support you.

Your goals are only as good as the environment you’re in.  If you’re trying to leave the “party” girl lifestyle behind in 2011, you’re only making your progress more difficult by continuing to roll with a crew who won’t enter any place unless they have “Shots” on their playlist.  If the people you’re closest with are unwilling to support your plans for a new you, and worse, even go a step further by purposely throwing a wrench into your plans, you may need to limit your time with those friends.

4.  You got a little overambitious with your resolution list.

Women are some of the few creatures on earth who can carry a conversation, clean the fridge, brainstorm a business plan and look gorgeous all at the same time.  We are natural multi-taskers.  Unfortunately, this talent isn’t really conducive to good goal-setting.  When you are focused on 10 completely different changes you want to make in your life, you deny yourself the opportunity to make one change well.  When your energy is scattered, you run the risk of getting a bunch of things done half-a***d as opposed to completing one task well.

5.  You’ve placed too much pressure on January 1.

The big problem I have with New Year’s resolutions is the amount of credit people give one date.  If there are changes you want to make, why are you waiting for a new calendar to start when you can make changes right now?  Although the beginning of a new year may make your goals seem that much more official, if you really take the “new you” seriously, the date will have little to do with your determination.

6.  You didn’t prep for problems.

Please tell me you didn’t believe that at the stroke of midnight while you were toasting champagne, cosmic forces would cause the planets to fall into perfect alignment so that your path to transformation would be without its share of roadblocks.  Part of successfully changing is figuring out how to navigate yourself through setbacks.  This means that you can’t abandon your plan to lose weight just because you indulged in that slice of Choco Cherry Cheesecake.  When you include alternatives (à la plan B) for when your original plan doesn’t work out as expected and don’t break down every time you don’t live up to your expectations, you’re more likely to stick to your resolution(s) in the long run.

7.  You didn’t give yourself enough credit for the year you’re leaving behind.

When the end of the year hits, many of us dwell so much on what went wrong with the past 12 months and fail to appreciate what went right.  Maybe that long-term relationship went south, but at least you’re free to find the love you deserve (you live and you learn).  Maybe you ended up in a little more debt than you can handle, but that trip to South Africa: totally worth it.  Before you start beating yourself up about everything you need to change about your life in the new year, make sure to congratulate yourself on all the big and small ways you totally kicked a** in 2011.

8.  In reality, you already feel a sense of self-defeat.

Confidence is a necessity when attempting any life change.  If you’re already feeling like you’re no match for everything that will stand in your way, you’ve already lost the battle.  There’s nothing wrong with anticipating challenges, but don’t start buckling under pressure before you even get in the game. If you don’t think you can do it, you can’t expect life to make a way for you. Winners make a way; losers make excuses. Therefore, with all resolutions and changes you are hoping to make this year, like the saying goes, stop talking about it, and be about it.

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