The start of a new year is generally thought of as a chance to start over, a time to improve or "fix" things in your life. Yet most people who set stringent New Year's resolutions find themselves failing within weeks—or even days—of setting their lofty goals.
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What is it about some New Year's resolutions that makes them so hard to stick to? The reasons differ, depending on what the resolution actually is, but these are the 10 most common reasons why people suck at following through on their commitments—and how you can avoid them.
Chances are, one of your resolutions this year deals with improving your health. Trying to eat better and eliminate unhealthy foods or planning on losing weight by sticking to a strict workout regimen and routine are great resolutions, but they typically end in failure.
It's not your weak willpower that causes a New Year's diet resolution to flop. Instead, it's because your love of food is too closely tied to your emotions. Bread, red meat, candy—none of these are actually resolution ruiners, it's the fact that you eat when you're sad, when you're happy, or whenever you just feel like eating food.
Instead of allowing yourself to grab a snack every time you "feel" hungry, fight your emotions by asking yourself if you actually need to eat. Is your stomach feeling empty because you've been watching restaurant commercials on TV all day? Are you feeling the urge to work your way through a basket of chips because everyone else is joining in during happy hour? Or, are you genuinely hungry? Check in with your brain before you stick your hand in the bread basket.
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Similarly, being stressed can lead you to ruin your resolutions. It's detrimental in many ways, and when it takes hold of your life, it keeps you from thinking and acting clearly. Your stressed, crazy life will make you want to abandon your well-intentioned resolutions in an effort to stave off additional pressures.
Instead of letting stress rule you, rely on stress relief tactics to keep your mind on track. Try quick fixes, like blowing on your thumb, or even longer-term solutions like replacing your old habits with your new resolutions.
Tempted to check in with every last one of your social media accounts and let them know how your resolutions are progressing? Or to see how theirs are doing for a little self-motivation? Don't. As Psychology Today points out, frequent check-ins and views of your newsfeed make you feel way worse about yourself.
Seeing photos and tweets about your friends' own resolution progress doesn't motivate—it makes you believe you're inadequate. Seeing snaps of your old college buddies' sweaty workouts or your neighbors' healthy meals every day only lead you to feel as though you can't measure up. Instead of feeling inspired, you subconsciously believe that you're not up to par—that you're failing because they appear so much more successful.
Keep your resolutions going strong by limiting your social media exposure. Sure, it can be beneficial to post your own updates (they help you stay accountable), but viewing others' exciting news leads you to give up on your own goals. Check in with friends in person, and you'll find yourself happier—and more dedicated to your resolutions even if you aren't quite as successful as them.
And if you just have to share your progress online, try tweeting or posting Facebook status updates via voicemail instead, which will ensure you don't see anyone else's progress.
Part of the challenge in making a resolution stick is welcoming the new routine or lifestyle change into your already packed days. If incorporating a new behavior, or a new way of life, isn't easy, you naturally won't find it worth adopting. After all, why bother changing if it's too difficult?
As U.S. News Health writes, the key to keeping a resolution is changing your mindset. If you believe a change is too challenging, too overwhelming, and just too hard to work with—like ending your smoking habit, or getting up before sunrise to work out—you need to embrace the fact that it isn't going to be an easy road.
When you're ready to change your mind and face the friction that comes with adopting new habits, you'll find that you become willing to choose your difficult resolution over the ease of lounging on the couch.
In addition to welcoming all of the worst parts of sticking to your resolutions, you have to consciously and actively build new habits in an effort to fit your changes into your life. If you hang on to awful old habits, you'll ruin your progress. Lifehacker and The New York Times both recommend altering your habits to success with resolutions.
Remember, the more challenging a resolution is (and the more stubborn you are), the less likely you'll keep it. So, add your resolution to your daily habits and make it a non-negotiable, unforgettable part of each day.
For example, if you're trying to become an early riser, set your coffee to brew as soon as your alarm goes off; when you roll out of bed, you can immediately get your caffeine boost. Or, leave your gym bag by the door to ensure you grab it every morning on your way to work.
It's incredibly easy to think you're sticking to your resolution, but if you aren't truthfully keeping yourself accountable, you're setting yourself on a path towards failure. There's a reason dieting plans require participants to write down every piece of food eaten throughout the day: it works.
The best course of action for staying accountable and keeping your resolution is checking in regularly with yourself. Whether you rely on a smartphone or smartwatch app, old school journaling, or even setting minor progress goals along the way, it's important to keep track of just how far—or how little—you've come towards clinching that resolution.
For example, is your resolution to eat more veggies each day? Keep a tally on your fridge, and mark off every serving you have throughout your daily and weekly meals. Hoping to get started on your novel? Set a weekly goal of writing 10 pages, and cross each successful week off on your calendar.
There's another factor holding you back: you're using guilt and shame to keep yourself motivated. Although it might sound like a great idea to berate yourself into working out daily, or into saving more of your paycheck throughout the year, all of that negativity is going to hinder your accomplishments.
Kindness, when it comes to sticking out resolutions, is a better motivational tool. Most people choose to inspire guilt rather than reward themselves for taking baby steps, but the goal is lighten the pressure.
Instead of mentally attacking yourself every time you slip up, make exceptions—offer yourself a monthly cheat day in your diet, or a day off each week as you begin a workout regimen. That way, you won't beat yourself out of keeping your own resolution by constantly feeling as though you've failed.
Here's another surefire way to never accomplish your resolutions: setting incredibly unrealistic goals for the year ahead, as Escapist Magazine discusses. Sure, the new year is time to make a great change, but you're setting yourself up for failure if you choose a goal that has no end in sight.
For example, planning on running a marathon by the end of the year when you've never ran a mile in your life, or working towards losing 100 pounds. These aren't goals that can be accomplished quickly, and they require great dedication and determination. If all you focus on is that end, that marathon or final weight, you'll quickly lose faith in yourself when things get difficult.
Those who set unreachable goals like these feel as though no matter how hard they work, they'll never achieve them, or that it'll take forever to do so. So the simple solution is to set smaller goals.
You may want to lose 100 pounds, but why not focus on the first 10 to begin with? You'll feel quite accomplished when you meet that goal—and when you meet your next 10 pound goal. Make your resolutions realistic and possible, and you'll stick with them.
Another reason resolutions get ruined so quickly is because we're focusing on the wrong goal: instead of aiming to accomplish the resolution itself, people tend to focus only on whether they're succeeding or failing. Achieving goals, however, isn't so absolute.
"If I don't workout every day, I'm not keeping my resolution. If I don't eat healthy every meal, every day, I'm already failing." This is an incredibly unrealistic way to think about resolutions, and goals in general. You won't actually succeed unless you stop thinking about success.
When you track your progress, or mentally check in with yourself about how your resolutions are working, avoid thoughts like "I'm never going to be able to get to the gym daily," or "I can't ever make a healthy choice, I'm already failing." There's a lot of gray area in achieving your goals; remember that one or two slip ups doesn't mean you've failed. You just stumbled a bit.
Obviously, there's a failure trend when it comes to resolutions, and adding to that list is giving up entirely with the smallest slip up, as Vox explains.
Also known as the "What the Hell" effect, we have a strong tendency to throw in the towel whenever we think we've screwed up. For example, researchers found that when dieters drank a milkshake and then received a serving of ice cream, they ate both. If a dieter received an extra-large milkshake, they ate even more ice cream than everyone else. They weren't worried about calories when it was time for ice cream; the participants figured they'd already messed up their diet, so why not go for broke?
Whether your resolutions include dieting or not, this same phenomenon applies. Skip a day at the gym, and you'll find yourself lobbying convincing claims that "You've already missed a day, why even bother going today?" Eat a plateful of fun-size candy bars, and you'll notice that you also reach for sweets the next day because all is already lost.
Instead of giving in so easily, fight those slip-ups and prevent them from snowballing into defeat. Don't eat ice cream after your milkshake—start fresh immediately, and skip those calories you don't even want.