The top 3 reasons New Year’s resolutions fail and what to do instead

We’re three weeks into the new year and I wonder how your new year’s resolutions are progressing? This is often the time when people get wobbly, if they haven’t already fallen away from their resolution. But it’s not too late!

Setting New Year’s resolutions is a custom of good intention – we reflect on the year before and where we’d like to be in the next 12 months, identifying areas we’d like to improve on and habits we’d like to break or replace and then we often set grand plans for change. But, for most of us, the force of habit and conditioning sees us fall back into our old ways. Some studies have shown that four out of five people will eventually break their resolutions, and at least one third of us will not make it past the first month.

There’s a couple of reasons why our resolutions don’t stand the test of time:

  1. We underestimate how long it will take to change our behaviour;
  2. We often set big, audacious longer-term goals for ourselves and focus so much on the substantial effort required to make such changes that we become overwhelmed instead of focusing on the smaller steps along the way;
  3. Overwhelm tends to narrow our focus and we then have a tendency to fall into the ‘all or nothing’ thinking trap, which often results in one slip up or oversight leading us to abandon our well-intentioned resolutions.

So, if you find yourself feeling rocky with your resolutions, I invite you to consider setting an intention instead. The difference between a resolution (n: a firm decision to do or not do something) versus an intention (n: a thing intended; an aim or plan) is that an intention is more flexible and forgiving. An intention honours the attempts and effort we make in the right direction; it honours the process of change rather than the outcome or result, which helps us to avoid falling into the ‘all or nothing’ (i.e., success or failure) thinking that tends to come with resolutions.

An intention can become a positive call to action about something you desire and want to cultivate more of in your life, rather than something you feel you should do. It invites creativity into the mix, allowing a multitude of solutions instead of falling into the rigidity of a resolution, which either is or is not, it sticks or it doesn’t, it works or it fails etc.

Be mindful that an intention does not have to be focused on a tangible outcome (e.g., losing weight is usually high on the list of new year’s resolutions).

My favourite way to set an intention is to simply choose a word or a phrase that you can continually revisit to reset how you want to feel and this can be used to guide your actions and decisions throughout each day/week/month/year. A good intention nurtures your consciousness and has the power to significantly raise your awareness.

Allow yourself to think about how you want to feel and use this as a guiding force for your intention setting.

My personal intentions for the past three years have been as follows:

Engaging your intention on a daily basis can be as simple as asking yourself every morning “What am I going to do today to feel more _______?”  which feels far more do-able and achievable than setting a rigid expectation. It also helps when faced with making decisions, because you can ask yourself if the action or outcome of that decision is in alignment with your intentions. 

I encourage you to create a visual reminder to prompt yourself into taking conscious, daily action. This may be a pop up reminder on your phone. However, those of you who have worked with me already know how much I love sticky notes, so I have these on my back door or the steering wheel of my car. And my new fascination is scribbling on my bathroom mirror with chalk pens (so fabulous!).

And remember, in the words of my favourite author Paulo Coelho,

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”

Big love,