New Years Resolutions: Why We Fail and Steps to Succeed

Yes, New Year’s Resolutions can be marked as fluff or folly, but for those of us intent on change this old method can prove valuable. Stats show that six months in, 46% are still keeping their resolutions!!! In comparison, people who have similar goals but do not set a resolution are only 4% successful after 6 months.

In this blog, we’ll examine 5 reasons resolutions fail, and 5 tips to make this momentous time work for us toward lasting change.

Pitfall #1

A 2014 study showed that the majority of folks who fail started out TOO BIG! Setting unrealistic goals is as good as trying to run a marathon on your first day jogging. The self-discipline that didn’t get you the results before hasn’t miraculously sprouted with the new year. 

Steps to Succeed #1

Rather, look at this fresh start as a chance to move closer to your goal one small step at a time. Whether it’s curbing eating patterns, increasing exercise, or building a new habit, start with a small, doable change.

Finance Challenge

Consider your splurges and identify a small way to cut back. (Is it that overpriced coffee each morning? Get some motivation by adding up how much they cost over a month. Then cut that budget down a bit and make it a treat for a manic Monday.)

By week two, only 71% of New Year’s Resolutions are still going, often because the goals were unrealistic. As we build strategy into this season of fresh starts, let’s gain ground towards our goals with #2.

Pitfalls #2

One study found that 33% of participants dropped their resolutions because they didn’t keep track of their progress.

Steps to Succeed #2

Rather than a magic pill to fix it all, focus on one area. This focus allows us to build steps towards our goals in a manageable way we can track. AND yes, do track your progress!!! Seeing your success helps both with motivation and with focus.

Finance Challenge

Put that money you’re saving on your one small change somewhere you can see it grow! (Example: now that you’re spending less each week on over-priced coffee, you can see that money growing in a savings account earmarked for that summer slush fund.)

Pitfall #3

One study found that 23% of participants lose their momentum simply because they forget about their resolutions. Whether it’s New Year’s Resolutions, or just a moment of self-realization that makes us say NO MORE… we often forget that resolve with the numerous obligations and distractions that cloud our calendars.

Steps to Succeed #3

In the hubbub of life, it’s so easy to lose focus. While the “track and celebrate” strategy from last week definitely helps, we don’t have to do it alone. In fact, those who share their goals with others often find encouragement and accountability that increase their likelihood of success.

Finance Challenge

Reflect on your progress (review and readjust in an accountable relationship). (Example: that over-priced coffee felt great each morning, but in order to save you’ve cut it down to a weekly indulgence. As you stop to reflect on how it’s gone, consider who could share your journey. Which friend would help, not hurt your growth toward your goal. See if you can find someone to share your journey with (have them ask about your progress and encourage you with the long-term results). If they decide to share your goal, all the better!)

By week 4, it’s getting tougher. Because many of us choose New Year’s Resolutions that are overwhelming and unrealistic, only 64% of New Year’s Resolutions are still afloat. BUT don’t give up yet! Let’s keep moving with #4.

Pitfall #4

One study shared that 1 in every 10 say they chose too many resolutions.

Steps to Succeed #4

Build up, rather than back down.

We’ve identified small steps to grow in one area. We’ve tracked our progress, and asked a friend to hold us accountable. Now, we consider our timeline. When is this habit solid, and is there another step to add?

Finance Challenge

Project the impact of another change. (Example: that once daily, over-priced coffee is now a weekly splurge. The extra cash is building a cushion in our summer splurge account. Now what about another pricey habit, perhaps we could eat out a bit less, find a hobby to lessen our regular shopping habit, hmmm…. How much could we save by reducing our spend? One less dinner out each week? Reversing our expensive spending habits isn’t so overwhelming when we consider them one small step at a time.)

Pitfall #5

In a study of over 100 behavior changes, fear and regret were consistently the most detrimental motivators. In fact, they can even paralyze change!

Steps to Succeed #5

Flip the glass half-full mentality. Rather than focusing on what needs to change, what can’t be done, and all that you haven’t done—identify what you can do, celebrate what you have done, and choose to focus on the positive. When we hear, “Don’t think of a purple elephant,” it’s the one thing we can’t get out of our heads! We struggle to change a thought when the motivator is DON’T. Rather, identify the DOs, and celebrate the DONEs.

Finance Challenge

Reflect on your financial mindset. Since perspective is the most important change agent, give yours a good review. As you’re considering splurges to curb, consider what you value and why. Do you find yourself prioritizing short-term comfort (flashy clothing, convenient food options, etc.) over your own long-term financial health (building a savings account, pension plan, assets, etc.) Review the feelings behind your choices and the reasons behind your habits. Then continue on the journey, one small step at a time to greater financial health.