5 Reasons your New Year’s Resolution Didn’t Work Out, and How to Change That

If you’re like me, and the majority (if not all) of my clients, you have good intentions for yourself and your wellness, but struggle sometimes with follow-through. We seem to enter each new year full of hope, dreams and ambitions….

but somewhere in the middle of January, something happens that often derails the process.

If you’re still maintaining your New Year’s resolution, I commend you and am so proud of you. For the rest of us, our resolutions may be starting to look difficult, sad or even impossible right now, or we may have already given up.

For those of you in this category, this blog is for you!

There are five common reasons our resolutions and goals do not succeed, which I will outline here. Maybe you connect with one, maybe more, or maybe there’s something else that’s going on with you.

Here are 5 common reasons our goals don’t work out, and what we can do to change that.

  1. High Expectations

We humans are so good at knowing exactly what we want to achieve, and expecting ourselves to get there right away. Whether this was a fitness goal, self-care goal, or something else entirely, we often create expectations that are difficult, if not impossible to follow through on.

We forget that we’re human and need to work up to things, or we forget to factor in days off or make room for mistakes. This is one of the most common problems that we run into, and we can be so hard on ourselves when we don’t live up to our expectations. This all-or-nothing mindset can set us up for failure again and again.

NEXT TIME: Aiming high can be a positive motivator for change when we combine it with baby steps and recognize where we’re starting from. Looking realistically at our lives, responsibilities, starting point, and resources can help us get to the results we dream of in a successful and sustainable way. Remembering that lifestyle changes take consistent time and effort can also help.

  1. Factoring in Life

So often we have wonderful goals and plans but forget that “life” can happen. We get sick, we get stressed, we suddenly have things added to our schedule/plate at the last minute, special occasions come along, we feel sad or tired or don’t sleep well, the list of “life” is a very long one!

When we set goals, we can forget that upsets are going to happen along the way, and we neither plan around it, nor are we able to be flexible when things pop up. It’s easy to make it to the gym in the mornings when we’re healthy and life is calmer, but when we come down with a cold, or have a few terrible nights’ sleep in a row, it can be so difficult to continue going.

When we have rigid plans that don’t allow for the ebb and flow of “life,” it makes it difficult to get back to our goals when things settle down again.

NEXT TIME: Adding a contingency plan into your goals may help you manage life and keep on track with achieving them. Having weekly goals versus daily goals can also allow some flexibility in your life. It can also help to simply recognize when life IS happening, give yourself a time-limited break, and get back to it as soon as you can. The trick is figuring out which strategies work best for you personally and implementing them in your life.

  1. Not having a clear plan

So often when we set out with new goals, we have a clear idea of the outcome we want, but we forget to plan the step-by-step process. This is another way all-or-nothing thinking can set us up for failure. When we only have the end goal in mind, nothing we do or achieve along the way is going to be enough until the end. We can lose motivation very quickly when we see how much effort it is going to take to get from a to z.

NEXT TIME: Planning involves a few different factors, including steps a, b, c, etc. before getting to z. Want to run a 10 km run this year? Starting with making it around the block is a great first step. Planning specific steps also allows us to recognize and celebrate each win – this makes it a lot easier to get to the final goal. And really, every small step along the way is an accomplishment and worth celebration!!

  1. Resources and Supports

So often we attempt to conquer goals on our own. This can make it difficult to maintain momentum when the going gets tough and can make it a lot easier to give up before we get there. We are social beings, and big changes need big support. Another side to this I often see is that we ask the wrong people to be our supports, or the people we ask just don’t have the resources or faith to be that support.

Social media also feeds into this, by mostly showing starting and end results, without letting us see the struggle and effort it takes along the way. We’ve become a society that feels like we need to achieve big things without putting in a big effort, and when it gets hard, we believe we’ve failed in some way.

NEXT TIME: Supports are SO important in achieving our goals, and it’s important to understand who in your life are going to be supportive (and in what ways they can be), and who won’t be. Having a list of your supportive people can be an amazing tool, particularly if you include the ways they are supportive. Maybe Aunt Sally is going to be great to call when you’re feeling down because she’s always gives out compliments. Maybe your friend Steve will help you be accountable by texting you each day or week to check in. Maybe you have someone who will join you for an early morning walk, or who will meet with you to meditate. Maybe someone has a similar goal and you can be cheerleaders for each other. There are so many ways to be supportive and knowing where to find these supports can make such a difference.

It is equally important to know who just can’t support you in this goal. This can be hard to recognize or feel, particularly if they are a close friend or family member. However, remembering that it has little to do with you can help in a big way. Maybe your friend is insecure and while you’re both trying to achieve the same goal, he/she will make it into an unhealthy competition rather than mutual supports. Maybe Uncle Dan is too afraid to try himself and doesn’t want to talk to you about your new goals because his own fears about failing are getting in the way. Knowing the people who aren’t supportive can help you avoid that topic with them when you’re feeling down and can prevent your goals from being derailed along the way. Remember that just because someone is having a hard time supporting one goal, doesn’t necessarily make them a toxic person; and they may be able to support other goals at other times. We’re all wonderfully complex, and this comes out in many different ways.

  1. Lacking self-compassion

Last, and most importantly, self-compassion makes a HUGE difference when we’re achieving goals, trying new things, and taking risks of any kind. Goals are HARD and achieving them takes time and energy. And you’re going to make mistakes and struggle along the way.

Without self-compassion, our hard days become so much more difficult. Like we discussed above, life happens, and if we lack self-compassion through the ups and downs, not only do we have the original goal to struggle to achieve, but we have the judgements about not achieving them to overcome as well. Our struggle is automatically bigger. Maybe your goal was related to housework, and you find yourself sick or overwhelmed, and it doesn’t get done. Judgement and self-shame make everything so much harder. We can be so nasty to ourselves in our minds.

NEXT TIME: If you’re struggling in this area (like so many of us do), it can help to try various techniques. Writing yourself an encouraging letter at the start could help, particularly if you’re feeling positive towards yourself at the time. Quotes are a great support for some, as are other creative ways of expressing and encouraging, such as affirmations, favourite songs, or a self-compassion meditation to sit and listen to. Sometimes it can be helpful to have compassion FOR the judgmental thoughts, rather than attempting to counter them (and starting a fight in your head). Again, it’s working out which strategies work best for you.

Many of us really struggle with self-compassion, and if that’s you, I encourage you to reach out and seek the support of a professional. The way we talk to ourselves has a huge impact on how we relate to others, how connected and happy we feel, and how much we are able to get out of our lives. Constant self-judgment can be debilitating, and can be a sign of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. You deserve to see yourself as the valuable, worthy, and amazing individual you are. For more information, feel free to contact me or another professional to see what services might benefit you.

In kindness, always,

Miranda Conley

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