Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work (and What to do Instead)

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Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work and What To Do Instead
Young woman getting ready for morning run

Each and every year millions of us set New Year’s resolutions. And while we start with the best of intentions, more likely than not, we fail in keeping them. Whether we want to lose weight, save money, exercise more, or stop smoking, some 80 percent of us fail to meet our goals. This year instead of getting down about your potential failure, why not look deeper as to why it occurs in the first place and how to change it?

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

Psychologically, New Year’s resolutions set us up for failure and by understanding why, it’s easier to fix the problem. First of all, we start with changes that are so drastic that we don’t see ourselves actually accomplishing them. If you don’t see yourself accomplishing a goal, you’re much less likely to achieve it. What’s more, once you fail at your goal, you further deplete your self esteem by thinking you’re a failure. This is especially problematic when you consider the fact that you didn’t see yourself accomplishing your farfetched goal in the first place.

Additionally, we’re often not psychologically ready to give up a bad habit or commit to a daily fitness routine. And again, if you’re not ready to do something, you’re unlikely to do it. Changing bad behaviors or establishing good behaviors is essentially about changing your own mind and until you do that you’re unlikely to succeed. It’s about rewiring your mind so that neural pathways choose to make better decisions when given the opportunity.

How to Actually Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

To start off, the term New Year’s resolution is in itself, quite intimidating. You might be better served by working on better habits on a Wednesday in December. But whenever you get to it, here’s how to change habits:

1. Set one reachable goal.

I have long told myself that I would give up coffee because it causes anxious behavior, but I’ve never been able to take the plunge. I’ve always come back to it again and again. But finally about six months ago I decided I was finally ready to give it up. Replacing coffee with tea was an attainable goal and once I made a habit of ordering tea instead of coffee in coffee shops and buying it instead of coffee at the grocery store, it was done.

2. Be specific.

I’ve long had a meditation and yoga practice, but I constantly skip days of the week, which always throws me off. Currently, I’m working to change this habit by doing yoga and meditation everyday of the week. Sometimes it’s just ten minutes and sometimes it’s 90 minutes, but the goal is just to get it done. If my goal were to do an hour of yoga daily, it would be much less attainable.

3. Set a time limit to reach and maintain your goals.

My yoga and meditation goal also has a time limit. I have to continue to do it daily for two months. By then, the hope is that it will be so ingrained in my daily routine that like drinking tea instead of coffee, I’ll be so used to practicing yoga and meditation, it will almost be like brushing my teeth. If you want to lose weight, make the goal specific and set a time limit. For example, losing seven pounds in three months rather than simply saying that you want to lose weight.

4. Celebrate your successes.

When you reach your small goals, celebrate and be proud of what you’ve accomplished before you move on to the next goal. I’d like to meditate twice per day but before I go for that goal, I’ll celebrate having meditated every day for two months. Give yourself a nice reward for meeting your goals.

5. Give yourself a break.

When you falter, don’t take it so personally. Learn to laugh at yourself. Just because you had a super busy week and didn’t have time to fit in an extra workout, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. We all get busy and fall short sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost.

6. Prioritize what really matters.

When it comes to setting up good habits, take a look at what’s standing in your way. Sometimes you need to rearrange your life to meet goals. For example, if you tend to overeat when you drink alcohol or eat foods that make you feel guilty, sip on soda water with lime instead to keep your will strong. If you forget to workout when you get busy, take a long, hard look at where you’re spending your time. Are you wasting time on social media when you could be fitting in that workout?

7. If something isn’t working, don’t keep doing it the same way.

For the longest time I thought that the only way I could fit my yoga practice in was in the morning, but on the mornings after my son woke up in the middle of the night, I was too tired to force myself out of bed. Finally, I decided to move my yoga practice to the afternoon and that’s when I found success. Make the required changes to meet your goals.

8. Think like a winner.

As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true. When you think you’re not ready or worthy of meeting your goals, you’re much less likely to meet them. Focus your thinking on the positive behaviors you wish to achieve in an effort to rewire your brain toward success. Once you believe you’re capable of reaching your goals, you’re much more likely to meet them.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Are you able to keep them? What are your tips for forming good habits? What have you done that’s failed? We want to know! Drop us a line via Twitter @OrganicAuthorit

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