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This is why you’ve never stuck with your new year’s resolutions

Did you not keep up with last year’s resolutions? You might be making one of the most common mistakes below.

This is why you’ve never stuck with your new year’s resolutions
[Photo: i yunmai/Unsplash]

As the sun rises on 2019, you might be reflecting on those resolutions that you set for yourself at the start of last year. Perhaps you stayed true to a few, but didn’t quite hit the target on some. Or maybe you’ve found yourself in the same, frustrated state every year. You had the intention to run five miles a day, but somewhere along the line, life got in the way and making headway on your New Year’s resolutions just seemed too difficult.

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If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. As Stephanie Vozza previously reported for Fast Company, only 8% of Americans will be successful in meeting their new year’s resolutions. If you want to be among that group and don’t know where you’re going wrong, you might be making one of these common mistakes. Here are some possible reasons why you might be falling short on your New Year’s resolutions:

1. You want the change in outcome without the change in process

Many people set resolutions to achieve a particular outcome. Save money, get a new job, or lose 10 pounds by the end of the year. But not as many want to go through the process it takes to get there. As business psychology professor Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic previously wrote for Fast Company, “There is a big difference between wanting change and wanting to change. Even when people profess a clear desire to change, what that usually means is that they are interested in change as an outcome rather than change as a process. In other words, most people don’t really want to change, they want to have changed.”

Premuzic went on to say that if the thought of running every other day makes you want to break out in hives, then you probably don’t really want to run that half-marathon. If the thought of cutting back on expenses or starting a side hustle sounds unappealing, then saving a big amount might not be what you really want at this time. To achieve a change in outcome, you have to want the change in process. Otherwise, you’ll get bored of your resolutions very fast.

2. You expect to see big changes quickly

365 days is a long time. Yet in the new year, your sudden burst of motivation might make you more impatient to achieve that big goal. With big goals, progress is often slow. For example, say one of your resolutions is to adopt a healthier diet. Rather than cutting out all junk food altogether, you’ll be better off trying to introduce small changes to your diet over time–perhaps you can add leafy greens to your lunch and dinner one week, and the next week you can swap those midday candy bars for berries and yogurt or vegetables and hummus. As author Daryl Gioffre told Stephanie Vozza in a previous Fast Company article, if you want to be successful in meeting your resolutions, the key is to introduce small changes over time. “Start with one or two habits, then once those become natural and you don’t even have to think about them, consider adding on a few more.”

3. You didn’t plan for setbacks

Even if you’ve planned everything that it takes to achieve your resolutions to the hour, life will throw you curveballs. You might fall ill to the point where you’re unable to exercise, or you might have a necessary but unexpected financial expense that requires you to dip into your savings. Some setbacks are inevitable, and if you didn’t plan for how you’d deal with it, it’s easy to throw in the towel and give up altogether.

Tim Bono, lecturer in psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, previously told Fast Company’s Stephanie Vozza that people who meet their resolutions identify potential setbacks in advance and then create contingency plans should they occur.

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4. You don’t break it down into manageable chunks

There’s nothing wrong with setting ambitious goals, but it’s easy to feel disillusioned when halfway through the year, you feel like you still have a long way to go. Say you want to start a side hustle and bring in a certain amount of money from that. You’d be better off making a series of small goals that you can achieve in, say three months, because you’re more likely to achieve that, and you’re less likely to feel defeated by your small progress.

Time management expert and Fast Company contributor Laura Vanderkam explained the benefits of this strategy when it comes to setting business goals. “You may have lots of goals, and that’s a good thing. Giving yourself 90 days means you can focus on a few at a time, knowing that there’s another 90-day period coming up soon. Maybe during the first quarter you focus on launching a new product. Then in the second quarter you focus on finding a new and bigger space. At the end of six months, you’ll have the new product and the bigger space, whereas if you aimed to do both at once, you might get overwhelmed and figure out neither.”

5. You didn’t ditch the goals that turned out to be unimportant

Sometimes, in the course of the year, you find that some of your new year’s resolutions no longer make sense. Perhaps you wanted a promotion, but a change in company structure made you question whether your current company is still the right place for you. Don’t stay married to your resolutions if it no longer makes sense for you.

Christina Nicholson wrote in a previous Fast Company article that it’s important to take an inventory of your resolutions throughout the year to determine which ones are worth keeping and which ones you should ditch. “So when you’re figuring out which resolutions you may have to dump, make a list of reasons (hell, call them excuses if you like!) for why you haven’t made as much progress as you’d hoped. Then determine which of those reasons are the most intractable. Which would take the greatest effort or might wreak the most havoc on your life or work duties to try and remove–and which wouldn’t be so hard to wipe out?”

Remember, your resolutions are there to serve you, not the other way around. Some goals are meant to be abandoned, and in doing so, you’re creating room to make more progress on the goals that actually improve your quality of life.

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About the author

Anisa is the assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. She covers everything from productivity to the future of work

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