Why You’re Going to Fail Your New Year’s Resolution…Again…

New Year’s resolutions and the inevitable wave of tips, tricks, and “life hacks” that follow from every media source possible have reached a rather cynical low.

Every year you get told that you’re probably going to fail (statistically speaking this isn’t…uhm…“untrue”), then some person you don’t know on the internet gives you some tips to help you not fail, andddd eventually you fail anyway. Rough cycle to be a part of for sure.

“This year for sure!”– resolutioner about to fail within the first month

So…I’m going to tell you every single reason you will fail your New Year’s resolution this year ahead of time. One so we can at least drop one reason off this list, “you didn’t know all the reasons you were going to fail”, and two because if you know every hole you could fall into before it happens…I’m hoping you won’t let yourself fall in the hole yeah?

Here’s all the reasons you are most likely to fail your New Year’s resolution this year.

1. Your Resolution Was Way Too Big

This is the biggest resolution pitfall of them all so we’re going to make sure we avoid it first. Your resolution wasn’t possible in the first place. 

The “New Year energy” can unfortunately play a harsh trick on us in which we highly overestimate how much we are going to be able to accomplish, and highly underestimate exactly how hard behavior change really is.

You could ride this wave of energy for a few weeks, hell maybe even a full month or two…and then it fades. Now your resolution that you were so hyped up about just seems like…work. As a defense we start dropping more and more of our new behaviors and sinking back into our old habits. This is completely normal and happened simply because you put too much on your plate to try and tackle for your resolution.

The saying is “make your resolution so easy it’s laughable”. What’s something you can guarantee yourself you’d do even on your worst of days. Basically a guaranteed slam dunk of a resolution. No extra motivation or willpower needed, something you know you could start doing it immediately with little to no hesitation. Make that your resolution.

An easy example is if you have a goal of working out. Don’t try to immediately jump into a 5 day a week program if you currently workout 0 days. Promise yourself you’ll workout once per week. Don’t even set a time limit on how long you’ll workout either just simply, “I will workout once per week”.

This seems silly and might even feel like you aren’t making a change, but you are. If you solidify the tiny step of working out once per week, that can grow to two times per week, to three times per week, etc. This encourages you along the way instead of completely overwhelming you right out of the starting gate. Stringing together a bunch of small wins over a long period of time leads to behavior change. Don’t try and force yourself to make it all happen at once.

2. You Tried to “Will” Your Resolution to Happen

We all love a great motivational video or speech. It pumps us up, gives us solid hope and direction for the future, and…is completely worthless when it comes to resolutions. Sorry…

Willpower and motivation are almost useless when it comes to behavior changes which is exactly what your new years resolution is. They can help in particularly tough situations where we need a slight “push”, but they cannot be your main method of making a behavior change happen.

We are trying to make our resolution a habit. That means you’ll do it every single day whether you feel like it or not. If you have to summon unreasonable amounts of motivation to accomplish your resolution, I promise you it will need adjusting or it’s not going to happen.

3. You Had Exactly Zero Patience

Some of us take the phrase “new year new me” a little too literally. As if just because it’s a new year we are going to magically transform into a new person overnight.

Behavior change takes time. More time than most people realize.

You can’t “rush” a behavior change to happen as it leads to what we talked about in tip #1. You take on too much too soon, get overwhelmed, and ultimately fail. Try to avoid putting yourself “on a timer” or demanding your resolution be accomplished on some arbitrary day. Instead, focus on those tiny wins every single day and you’ll realize they eventually pile up into the progress you want to see.

If you have a problem with patience it can be useful to track your progress. That way you can confirm to yourself that, while it may be slow, you are indeed moving in the right direction over time.

4. You Didn’t Have a Plan

You’re most likely not just going to be able to “wing it” with your new years resolution. Again, we are trying to develop a habit, which is something we regularly “just do”. A basic requirement of that being that there is some sort of structure in place for that to happen.

If your resolution is to have a healthier diet this year, you’re going to need a basic game plan for things like groceries, what meals you intend to eat, when you are going to prep things, etc.

If your resolution is to get fit you need a plan for where you will be working out, what sort of training you will be doing, when your training fits into your schedule, etc.

This doesn’t have to be anything overly complicated for a reason we’ll see in a second, but you do want to help yourself out here. Figure out what bare minimum game plan you need to have in place so you can execute your resolution appropriately.

5. All You Did Was Plan

There is something to be said for the individual who jumps into action first, and figures out their plan second.

Your resolution game plan is not the most important step of your resolution. Taking action is. Is a plan going to help you take action? 100%, but don’t get stuck planning and planning waiting until it’s “perfect”. 

You’ll never have a perfect plan. In fact, I guarantee within the first week of executing whatever plan you make you’re going to find several flaws with it no matter how long you spend “perfecting it”. Somethings you just won’t figure out until you actually start. I’d much rather you had a slapdash plan that you are executing on a daily basis than having a brilliant plan that you do absolutely nothing with. That experience of simply doing whatever it is you are trying to do will help correct for any mistakes your poor planning created.

Prioritize what absolutely needs to be planned out for your resolution, then focus on actually doing it. Don’t get caught up in all the tiny details constantly planning for something that your never going to actually do.

6. Your Resolution Wasn’t Specific

“I’m going to be more fit this year”, “I’m going to eat healthier this year”, “I’m going to work harder this year”.

These are all fantastic goals…but really hard to objectively measure.

What is “more fit”? Are you going to go to the gym more times per week? Get better at a certain movement? Prep for a competition?

Get really specific with yourself about what your goal actually is. Not only does this narrow down exactly what your resolution is, it helps us avoid basically every other pitfall on the list.

If you know exactly what your resolution is you can better judge if you’re taking on too much, the kind of small wins you will need to achieve to reach the larger goal, what kind of planning you need to undertake, if this requires more motivation than you can reasonably muster, etc.

If you find you have a general goal for the year take the time to really narrow down what it is you actually want out of that goal and that will help you on every other step along the way.

7. You Didn’t Actually Want to Change

This can be a weird one for people to grasp.

A main principle behind behavior change theory is the person in question actually has to want to change. No amount of outside forces, interventions, or motivational speakers will get them to go through with changing their behavior if they themselves don’t want to.

If you don’t don’t actually want to achieve your intended resolution, whatever it may be, you will end up either consciously or subconsciously sabotaging your progress for that resolution.

Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious that you have no actual interest in your resolution. Other times not so much. We can go to great lengths to convince ourselves the goal is “all for us”, but is it really you who wants this? Or somebody else? If you currently are or have been struggling with a resolution you might want to do some soul searching on where the motivation for the resolution is actually coming from.

At the end of the day your resolution needs to be something YOU want to happen.

(Looking for more tips to make sure your resolution sticks? Check out this video!)

Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.