They say that despite the best of intentions 92% of people fail to keep their new year’s resolutions. Not only that, but that the failure comes early on in the year – just 3 weeks. Well this year I bucked the trend and failed spectacularly in just 3 days! While I chastised myself for a moment, in a way it was a relief. I had the failing behind me and now I could focus on what I’m going to achieve this year.

Some of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions include: Losing weight, eating healthier, joining a gym, spending more time with the family, saving money, getting out of debt, or drinking less. And these last about as long as the first stressful day, when you pour yourself a glass of wine – because you deserve it after the day you had! It’s so easy to fall back into default mode, we don’t have to think or make an effort. It’s just easier to go back to old habits, and then we try convince ourselves – were they really that bad anyway?

Such is this New Year’s Resolution failure phenomenon that scientists and psychologists have actually studied it and they have come up with a few theories. If you consider the top resolutions people make, none of them seem to be that unrealistic, so why do so many fail?

Dream big they say

One is the “false hope syndrome” – people believe that self-change is actually easy and so they set themselves goals that aren’t really realistic. We are told to dream big but forget about how entrenched we are in our old habits. Those “little” things about ourselves that we want to change might not be so little after all. They might be a big part of who we are and changing won’t be that easy. If we acknowledge that, we’ll be more prepared for the challenge and not just resign ourselves to giving up.

Excuses are easy

Lose weight? That’s easy! Start an eating plan. Join a gym? Signing up is easy too, but actually getting there regularly and doing more than 30 minutes of exercise somehow seems to get the better of us. The excuses come just as easily. “I’m going to start on Monday”. On Monday: “The gym is too busy” on Tuesday: “I have to work late”. On Wednesday: “I couldn’t find parking” On Thursday: “It’s no fun going to gym alone”. On Friday “Are you kidding me? Who goes to gym on a Friday? It’s weekend! I’ll start on Monday” And so it goes… We feel guilty for a bit and then just give up. Stop yourself at the first excuse and recognize that it’s just an excuse, not a reason to fail. Start today and continue tomorrow and remember to cheer yourself along the way.

Is it best or just good for us?

I know that in my life there are certain aspects of my day that I love, and those are easy to do. Then there are other aspects – for most of us that’s usually things like admin, that we really suck at. It’s these things that usually become part of our New Year’s Resolutions. We look back at the past year and look at all the things we haven’t done and decide this year we’re going to get them right. The problem is the reason we probably haven’t got them right in the past is because we don’t really know how to or it honestly isn’t one of our strengths. But with blind determination we set goals, not even knowing where to start.

There are two alternatives. If you are determined to stick with the resolution, try to break the goal down into bite size chunks. Think of one small or simple thing you can do today that will get you closer to your goal. Then do it and you have your starting point.

The other approach is to admit that your time may better be spent on things you’re good at, and outsource the rest to someone else. The task will still get done but it won’t frustrate you in the process or make you feel like a failure. Think of what the best use of your time will be, not just a good use. Optimize your talents and possible external resources.

Connecting the dots

Another theory is that when we set the goals, we don’t connect the dots. In other words people have an idea of what they want to achieve, but no idea of what it will take to get there. Its small steps that make a goal a reality. Things don’t simply happen because you want them to, they happen because you do things every day that work towards achieving your goal. Remember the starting point, once you’ve got going, figure out the next step and the next. It’s this consistent effort that you need if you really want to change. Create stepping stones that each day will take you closer to achieving your goal, and if you miss a step don’t stress, just keep on in the right direction.

Remember that “failure is not final” Just because your resolutions haven’t worked out doesn’t mean you can’t achieve great things this year. Forget about New Year and start again. It’s time to focus on what you WILL achieve this year.