Why We Fail to Keep Our Resolutions and How to Get Back on Track

Every year many of us (including me) write our New Year’s Resolutions with the

best of intentions.

However, unfortunately, by three weeks into January, twenty-five percent of us have

already abandoned our New Year’s resolutions.

We start out January full of optimism and with great intentions.

We resolve to lose weight, eat healthy, exercise more, gain control over our finances or

to generally have a more positive outlook.

Some of us have no problem keeping their resolutions.

According to researcher John Norcross, a study published in the Journal of Clinical

Psychology, about 50 percent of people will make a resolution every New Year.

But for many of us, shortly after the New Year, a week or two or even a month in,

we begin to slide back into our old ways, eventually completely forgetting about

our resolutions.

Why Is It So Hard for Us to Succeed in Following Through?

Why We Fail to Keep Our Resolutions and How to Get Back on Track

Researchers have studied this behavior to try to find the reason.

Is it simply because people are weak-willed?

Or just lazy?

Resolutions are a way of motivating yourself to change a habit.

But if you aren’t ready to actually change your habit, especially a bad habit, the failure

rate will be high.

Another reason can be that we set unrealistic expectations and goals when we make

our resolutions.


“Psychology professor Peter Herman

calls it “the ‘false hope syndrome’,

which means our resolution is significantly

unrealistic and out of alignment with 

our internal view of themselves.”



In other words, if you don’t really believe you can achieve your goal, then the positive

affirmations won’t work.

Another aspect of failed resolutions comes from how you think it will change your

entire life.

You might think that losing weight or reducing your debts will change your life and when

it doesn’t you become discouraged and go back to your old behaviors.

A resolution is basically a goal to change something.

And in order to change you have to work at it and change your way of thinking about it.

In this post we’ll explore why you fail at your resolutions, and ways to get back on track.

In future posts, we’ll examine ways to incorporate healthy eating and exercise into your

daily lifestyle.

Let’s get started.

Why We Fail at Following Through with Our Resolutions
Why We Fail to Keep Our Resolutions and How to Get Back on Track

About 40% of the adults in the United States make a New Year’s Resolution every year.

Out of those, only about 25% will have broken one or more of them within two weeks.

And by the end of January, the failure rate increases to 50%, according to John Norcross,

a psychology professor at the University of Scranton and author of

Changeology:5 Steps to Realizing your Goals and Resolutions.

According to Norcross, the top five resolutions made each year are:

* Weight loss

* Improve finances

* Exercise

* Get a new job

* Healthier eating

Out of these five, weight loss, exercise and eating healthy are easiest.


“What’s the average length of time someone

sticks with their resolution?

*Resolution maintained through first week: 

75% of people

*Past two weeks : 71% of people

*Past one month:  64% of people

*Past six months:  46% of people”


These statistics show an alarming number of people failing to follow through with

their resolutions.

In fact, it’s estimated that 75 percent of all New Year’s resolutions will end in failure.

So, if we’re so determined to change at the beginning of a new year, why do so many

of us fail at following through?

Why We Fail
Why We Fail to Keep Our Resolutions and How to Get Back on Track
By the six month point after maker New Year resolutions, over half have already totally

given up on at least one of them.


Here are some ideas:

• Timing

January is a tough month to begin anything new.

We’ve already packed on pounds starting during Halloween all the way through Super

Bowl Sunday.

Not to mention, it’s cold and dark out (at least in the U.S.) making us less active and even

less motivated to change.

Money is often tighter in January, after splurging during the holidays.

Stress is higher, as well.

• High motivation with no real plan

Those New Year’s Resolutions don’t come with instructions.

We can easily say, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds this year”, but that’s only the first step.

To stay motivated, you need a detailed plan and often expert advice to be more likely

to succeed.

• Setting unrealistic goals

Often we set unrealistic goals, such as going cold turkey from smoking or losing 50 pounds

in 6 months.

We sometimes set multiple resolutions that have nothing in common (like losing weight

and getting out of debt) expecting to accomplish them all simultaneously.

We set our expectations too high.


Why We Fail to Keep Our Resolutions and How to Get Back on Track

• Being too tough on ourselves

We have big expectations for ourselves, and then end up having an even bigger

disappointment when our progress is slower than we expected or we have an

occasional setback.

This can cause you to give up.

• Lack of support or accountability

Trying to stay motivated on your own is tough.

We’re social beings.

We do better trying to reach a goal when we have support and are being held accountable

for what we do.

If no one knows you’re on a diet and fast food isn’t on your approved menu, the only thing

keeping you away from the fast food lane is your own self-control.

Now you know what causes you to fail at your New Year’s resolutions.

To make resolutions work, it involves changing your behavior, setting realistic goals,

having a system for reaching the goal, and having others hold you accountable.


“Approach the journey to a healthy life

like you would any other important goal.

Create lists, work on small steps at a time,

and find ways to stay motivated

along the way.”


A Smarter Way to Approach Your Journey 

Why We Fail to Keep Our Resolutions and How to Get Back on Track

Now that you know why your fail at achieving your New Year’s health resolutions,

let’s dig into how to approach the journey to better health instead.

It begins with having a plan.

• Rev up your can-do

Start with five minute changes.

Instead of making a big unclear resolution, pinpoint one small, meaningful step you can

take towards change that you can do in five minutes.

For example, maybe your resolution is to eat healthier.

Take five minutes to make a grocery list that includes more fruits and vegetables.

Or make small tweaks in what you eat every day by eliminating one sugary drink a day.

Small changes keep you moving toward your goal and help you get unstuck when you

begin to fall off track.

• Stay motivated

One way to do this is to get an accountability partner or mentor.

Another way is to create a vision board of what healthy looks like to you.

Include images of you succeeding and living the life you want.


Why We Fail to Keep Our Resolutions and How to Get Back on Track


• Go for 10

Use the rule of 10, which simply means do something for 10 minutes instead of 30,

or change 10% instead of 100%.

So if you want to get healthier by getting fit, make your goal to do 10 minutes of

exercise every day.

You can work up to longer periods, but getting started is the hard part.

With only doing 10 minutes of something you are more likely to do it.

The same can be said for healthy eating.

Instead of completely changing the way you eat all at once, add more fruit or vegetables

or cut out 10% of sugar intake a day (like 1 donut), gradually decreasing until you’ve

eliminated sugar from your diet.

• Make pre-commitments

Piggy-back what you want to change onto something you’re already doing.

One way to do this is to add one more vegetable to your plate each day.

• Try the proximity trick

This works well if you are trying to add exercise to your daily routine.

The trick here is to place your sneakers and workout clothes next to your bed each night.

That way, when you wake up they’re the first things you see.

• Create a list

Make a list and cross off a task as you do it.

This boosts your motivation.

According to Brian Tracy, author of

Eat That Frog!21 Grea t Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time,

the dopamine or the motivation chemical is released

whenever you “do something life-enhancing, such as completing a task.”


Why We Fail to Keep Our Resolutions and How to Get Back on Track

All in all, we need to approach the journey to a healthy life like you would any other important goal.

Create lists, work on small steps at a time, and find ways to stay motivated along the way.


Why is it so hard for us to succeed in following through on our resolutions?

What are your suggestions for following through on your goals and resolutions?

Share your tips, thoughts and comments with us.


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Why We Fail to Keep Our Resolutions and How to Get Back on Track