Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail
January 08th, 2013 - 104 Comments
New Year’s resolutions are kind of like a drunk uncle. You know you shouldn’t take him too seriously…but you can’t help but laugh and play along when he comes around once a year.
It’s become popular for people to make fun of New Year’s resolutions (they never work!) in an almost gleeful way (why don’t these fake January people get out of my gym??) but few people understand WHY these resolutions don’t work.
Here, take a look.
I asked some of my students how they felt after claiming they were going to do something…and then NOT doing it.
But what about people who DO follow through? I asked some of my successful Dream Job graduates to share how they felt after taking action and learning how to take control of their own behavior. Watch what they said:
Some of these Dream Job graduates got new jobs that paid paid $10,000 – $50,000 more than their old job. From the outside, that effectively seems like magic (“How did they do that? There’s no way I could ever do that”).
But notice how when you hear how they ACTUALLY did it, there are no magical secrets. It’s an “iterative process, as Chris, one of the DJ graduates, says in the video. “The interview is the easy part,” another student says. These top performers have a very different perspective than the average person, who says “I want to get in shape this year.”
The successful students follow a proven system, so it’s no surprise when they get dramatic results.
Which brings me to your New Year’s resolutions.
Why New Year’s resolutions fail
Consider this insight I discovered during the research of one of my courses: In an interesting quirk of human behavior, we would rather continue doing something that doesn’t work rather than try something new that COULD work — but also could fail.
That sounds insane, but think about these examples… First, think back to your resolutions from last January. Did you follow through? Do you even remember what they were? Yet how many of us were tempted to make more resolutions this year?
3 more examples:
SAVING ON POINTLESS EXPENDITURES: This is why you see people constantly trying to cut back on lattes or other pointless savings goals…and when it fails, they resolve to “try harder” next time. Codewords: “I did all the right things…and look how it turned out.”
WORKING OUT INCORRECTLY: This is also why you see people who’ve been working out for years but don’t really show any visible changes. It’s scary for them to to admit that perhaps they’ve been working out wrong for years — and that while it makes them feel “good,” they are not getting the results they want. Codewords: “I’m not the kind of person who can lose that kind of weight” or “Lift weights? I’m a girl. I don’t want to get huge!”
SENDING OUT 100+ RESUMES: We have people who send out 100 resumes, then complain about the economy. They never understand that there’s an entire game being played around them, and top performers are snatching the best jobs away before average candidates ever see them. Codewords: “The Baby Boomers and immigrants stole my jobs…I guess I just need to send out another 50 resumes and wait and see.”
So yes, we want to change, but don’t know HOW to do it. So we do what’s easy, and what the media tells us to do: Make a New Year’s resolution!
Here’s why New Year’s resolutions fail:
- They’re unspecific. We say “I want to get healthy this year” but when faced with the birthday parties in March, the overtime in June, and the family vacation in August, that goal falls by the wayside.
- They’re unrealistic. “I want to go the gym 5x/week.” Really? You averaged twice a month last year. Setting unrealistic, highly aspirational goals is a quick way to guilt and failure.
- They’re based on willpower, not systems. We say, “I want to walk more” instead of parking our car 10 minutes away. We say, “I want to stop messing around and go to sleep earlier” instead of testing different ways of falling asleep (like leaving our laptop in the other room, unplugging our TV, quietly covering our partner’s face with a pillow, etc). Hey, it’s a test.
But here’s the most haunting part of all…. Failing at our resolutions has implications…we start to distrust ourselves. If you’ve set the same resolutions for 5 years, and you never follow through, what makes you think you’ll be different this year?
And yet every year, we set yet another one (because that’s all we know), saying things like, “Ok, this year I’m going to buckle down” and “I’m gonna get serious about ____ this time,” but as we say it, in the back of our heads we KNOW we’re not actually going to do it.
Having a goal isn’t enough. We need a plan and a system.
Let me show you the difference between GOOD and BAD plans:
I asked some students to share their goals for the week:
These seem like good goals, but they are actually terrible.
Then I gave them some feedback, and they got much better after that.
You can see how being specific, being realistic, and using systems can help you actually achieve your goals.
If you want to improve your health or find a job that pays you 25% more, hope and willpower aren’t going to cut it. Just like they didn’t cut it last year. Or the year before.
You need a system. Let’s practice building that today.
TO DO TODAY:
I want to focus on what you’re going to do THIS WEEK — by Friday. In the comments below, share your plan and BE SPECIFIC. I will hold you accountable.
P.S. I’ve also included a “Time Clinic” below, which over 25,000+ people have used to save hours every week. Imagine: What would you do with an extra hour a day?
Enter your email address to get it — and I’ll send you an email to check in on you this week.
Save an hour a day — Sign up FREE to get my exclusive Time Management Clinic
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