Why didn't my New Year's Resolution last?
"You may know them under their more usual name of New Year Resolutions (the capitals show how important they are!); you may also be familiar with the realisation, by the end of January, that you have either forgotten what you had resolved because the list was too long and you've mislaid the paper it was jotted on, or that those you do remember were simply unmanageable!" - Alicia Brent
Things were going so well... you made it through the first week of the year... perhaps even the second... but then you slipped up on one day... and then another... and now you just feel as though there is no point at all.
WHY IS IT THAT NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS RARELY STICK? Here are some of the reasons why most new year's resolutions are destined to fail:
1. You are trying to change too much at once
One of the best ways to achieve any sort of behaviour change is to gradually and gently introduce one new behaviour at a time until it becomes a habit. If however, you try to completely overhaul something like your diet, lifestyle or exercise regime overnight - you may stick with this for a while, but it may be tricky to keep this up long-term. The reason for this is that we can experience a lot of resistance to drastic change. We are creatures of habit and we love our routines. You may notice that you just naturally eat the same things on rotation or that you just naturally fall back into the same patterns in other areas of your life. As creatures of habit, we do not like going through a lot of change in one go. This is why gradual change tends to be much more effective at building sustainable habits. So New Year's Resolutions often fail because they are too big of a change. Often just aiming to change one small thing is likely to be much more effective, and stick for the long-haul.
2. You got stuck in all-or-nothing thinking
Another reason that New Year's Resolutions fail is because they are too rigid. Let's say that you want to improve your diet, you may have decided to completely stop eating sugar or ultra-processed food. Then you go to your friend's house and she offers you some cake that she has just made - you have a piece - and you feel that you have "ruined it" now, so you might as well give up. This is an example of all-or-nothing thinking. Your goals/rules are very strict and rigid and so when you break the goal/rule, you end up giving up altogether. This is why, when building goals or resolutions it is much more helpful to build flexible goals, that allow for you to have some cake sometimes and to not feel the need to be really strict with what you are aiming for.
3. Your goals were not aligned with what you want for yourself long-term
Sometimes your vision for what you want for yourself short-term isn't aligned with what you really want for yourself long-term. For example, let's say your New Year's Resolution is to go and work out for 1.5 hours every single day. This may sound great but it may also actually be completely impractical with the lifestyle that you lead. Exercising this much every day may mean, for example, not seeing friends in the evening, spending enough time with family or ever going to a work event. Your short-term goal is not aligned with what would work for you long-term. This is another reason why New Year's Resolutions fail - they just aren't aligned with what you really want for yourself and your life long-term.
4. You changed your habits without changing your mindset
Many people often look to change their behaviours and habits without working on changing their mindset. For example, they may force themselves to eat healthy food - even though they dread the thought of eating this food. Or they may force themselves to go and work out - even though they hate going to gym and really don't look forward to it. They are trying to force a behaviour without really changing how they think about that behaviour. I often find, when working with individuals, shifting someone's mindset is one of the most powerful ways to change their behaviours long-term. Let's say that you suddenly really valued and prioritised your body and health and your mindset was one of wanting to nurture and nourish your body - eating healthy food then wouldn't feel like a chore. You just naturally engage in behaviours that are aligned with your positive mindset. This is where tools such as hypnotherapy can be really helpful in achieving behaviour change - they help to shift your mindset and new helpful habits often just follow.
5. It is easier to go back into old ways or there are no consequences for not staying the course
Having some sort of accountability can really help you to stay motivated to follow-through with a goal that you have set yourself. If there is nobody cheering you along or nobody that you have to keep up with something for - it is all too easy to just slip back into old habits. This is why ensuring that you have some support and accountability as you try to make changes in your life can be really helpful.
6. You are trying to change your habits without changing your self-perception
We will often live up to our own self-perception. Let's say that you see yourself as "an over-eater" - by seeing yourself in this way, you are effectively giving yourself permission to over-eat. Let's say instead that you saw yourself as an "athlete" - because you perceive yourself in this way, you are likely to exercise and train even on days where you don't really feel like it- because this is just a part of who you are. Our self-perception or our identity really shapes our behaviours. So in order to change our behaviours long-term, we really need to think of ourselves as someone who just naturally engages in the behaviours that we want to engage in. For example, someone that just sees themselves as a "non-smoker" would probably not contemplate smoking just because others around them were smoking. So often New Year's Resolutions don't stick because you may have tried to change a behaviour without changing your self-perception.
If your new year's resolution is related to food, exercise or your lifestyle, we can help you to make shifts in your mindset and thoughts that will mean that your goals are likely to stick long-term. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to book in a free initial consultation.
"Most people will passively do exactly what they did last year. Whatever you do, don't let that person be you." - Richie Norton