Avoid these New Year’s resolution traps


by Bianca Barratt

Avoid these New Year’s resolution traps

New year’s resolutions can seem hugely appealing. There’s nothing like the start of a new year to get us all fired up about our goals. The trouble is, many of us lack the motivation to follow through on these, with statistics showing that less than a quarter of people are still committed to achieving their resolutions after 30 days and that only 8% of people actually go on to achieve them at all. 

These figures, though a little disheartening, will undoubtedly resonate with many of you - how many times have you vowed to stop drinking, exercise more or work harder, only to forget the minute a glass of wine, bad weather or a fun distraction got in the way? 

The reason so many New Year’s Resolutions never come to fruition is because many of us fall into common traps that do nothing but set us up for failure. After all, setting goals is pretty easy. Sticking to them is a different ball game altogether.  

If you feel called to set one as we enter a new decade, be sure to avoid these common New Year’s resolution traps for the best chance of success.

1. Biting off more than you can chew

Probably the biggest reason so few people actually manage to stick to their resolutions is because they set ones that will take enormous effort, a lot of patience and uncommon levels of motivation to achieve. Though you might have a lofty goal that you’re looking to accomplish, you’re far more likely to achieve it by focusing on smaller milestones that will put you on the right path. For example, if want to write a book, focus on writing a page at a time rather than the whole project - this not only keeps you focused but also helps to stave off overwhelm. When you set smaller goals, they take less time and effort to achieve and every time you accomplish one your confidence and motivation will grow. 

Try this instead: Plot out step-by-step exactly what will be required of you to stick to the resolution. Then use each step as a mini-goal. Focus on the first one and only allow yourself to move onto the next once it’s been achieved.

2. Telling people about them

Though you might think that sharing your goals with friends and family will help hold you accountable to them, research shows that the opposite can, in fact, be true. This is largely down to the fact that the feelings of pride you get in sharing your intentions with others can trick your mind into believing it’s already achieved them. By telling other people, you also run the risk of them diminishing your ideas with their own views – hearing your goal described as ‘impossible’ or a ‘pipe dream’ can be hugely demotivating if you’re not prepared.

Try this instead: Wait until you achieved the goal before speaking – then share your success far and wide. It’ll motivate you to take the next step. 

3. Being self-depreciating

If you do happen to tell someone about your goals (let’s be honest - it’s hard to keep something like a marathon a secret) don’t put yourself down – talk about your goals proudly and speak as if you are sure you’ll achieve them. Words have a lot of power on our conscious and subconscious minds, so telling someone your ambition then following it up with something self-depreciating is doing yourself a disservice. Though a common self-defence mechanism, putting yourself down to protect yourself from others doing the same won’t help you at all. You’re far more likely to achieve your goals if you are your biggest cheerleader than if you go along with the idea that you probably won’t be able to reach them.

Try this instead: If you really want to share your resolution with someone, speak about it with confidence – tell them exactly what you’re going to do to achieve it and explain that their support would mean a lot.

4. Not being prepared for challenges

Challenges are part and parcel of life – particularly when you’re striving to achieve something that takes effort. Resolutions often go unfulfilled because as soon as a challenge comes up, we quit. This usually steps from a failure to prepare – when we’re blindsided by challenges, we react instinctively and usually end up choosing ‘flight mode’ (in other words, ‘protection mode,’) rather than ‘fight mode’. Whether it’s dieting, exercise or learning a new skill, we often lack confidence in our ability to attain the things we want and the challenges that come up can seem like the perfect evidence to support these beliefs.

Try this instead: When you set that small goal in January, spend some time thinking about the challenges that are likely to come up. Is it other people trying to tempt you away from sticking to them? Is it a lack of time, preparation, money? For each challenge you discover, write down a counter point – an action you’ll take to overcome it.

5. Not having a strong reason for doing it

That resolution you set to get a six pack – do you really care about it? Really? Will it make you a better person? Will it change your life for the better?

If your answer to these questions is ‘no’ you might not feel strongly enough about your resolution to achieve it. Motivation comes from feeling a strong pull towards achieving a goal – you have to have a really strong reason for wanting to achieve it, otherwise you’ll fall at the first hurdle.

Do this instead: When you decide on the resolution, spend time thinking of exactly how and why achieving it will make your life better. The reason needs to be emotionally compelling – it’s the only thing that will keep you motivated when the going gets tough.

6. Rushing into it

One of the worst things you can do is decide to start your resolution on January the 1st. Though it might seem neat and tidy to start on the first day of the year, chances are you’re still on a Christmas comedown.

Try this instead: be kind to yourself – give yourself a grace period of at least a couple of days to sink into ‘new year mode’ before starting.

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Post author

Bianca Barratt

Bianca Barratt is a freelance journalist specialising in lifestyle, culture and business features. She has written for titles including the Evening Standard, Independent, The Sunday Times, Refinery 29, Euronews, Sheerluxe and Forbes.com.