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Here’s Why You Don’t Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions (And What to Do About It)

Making a New Year’s resolution is a great way to make a positive change in your life, but it’s quite rare that you’ll actually stick to those promises. According to U.S. News, approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February—the odds are definitely against you.

“Researchers have looked at success rates of peoples’ resolutions: The first two weeks usually go along beautifully, but by February people are backsliding,” explains author Ray Williams. “And by the following December most people are back where they started—often even further behind.” Why do so many people fail? Are people just lazy?

What We Want

We looked into what goals people are setting for themselves this year and, according to the online polling firm, YouGov, eating better and exercising more top the list, along with spending less money, with performing better self-care (such as getting more sleep) coming in fourth place. All four of the most popular resolutions split along gender lines, with women being significantly more likely to endorse them as personal goals than men.

Here are the top resolutions for 2018 (respondents were allowed to include more than one):

  • Eat better, 37%
  • Exercise more, 37%
  • Spend less money, 37%
  • Self-care (e.g. getting more sleep), 24%
  • Read more books,18%
  • Learn a new skill, 15%
  • Get a new job, 14%
  • Make new friends, 13%
  • Find a new hobby, 13%
  • Focus more on appearance, 12%
  • Focus on relationship, 12%
  • Cut down on cigarettes/alcohol, 9%
  • Go on more dates, 7%
  • Focus less on appearance, 3%

The list focuses on the same desires and goals we see continually, year after year. Since our resolutions seem to stay the same, why is it so hard to keep them?

Why We Fail (And What We Can Do About It)

Jené Luciani, a fashion journalist, stylist, and best-selling author, recently gave Shape magazine a list of 10 reasons people don’t stick to their New Year’s resolutions. The good news is she also let’s us know how to keep it from happening this year!

Reason 1: Going it alone

Whether it’s quitting smoking, improving your tennis game, or going to the gym more often, don’t go it alone. “If you are someone who has a higher success rate when you have outside support, then get a buddy,” says success coach Amy Applebaum. “This creates accountability, which is essential for success.”

“Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be more, do more, and have more,” advises The Mojo Coach Debi Silber. “If you play tennis and want to improve your game, play with people better than you who inspire you to be better.” Remember, your buddy should be a positive force in your life, not a negative one. Silber recommends avoiding so-called “energy vampires,” or people who drain you mentally and emotionally, even if they’re willing partners.

Reason 2: Extremely lofty resolutions

If your goal is to solve world peace, maybe a more attainable goal is to vow you’ll finally read War and Peace. “Most of us create resolutions that are too ‘big’ and therefore we can’t meet them,” Applebaum says. “Examine your resolutions. Are they what you really want or did you commit to them because you thought you were supposed to?”

Take it day by day, says life coach Hunter Phoenix. “I’ve made a pact with myself to stop obsessing about the past, fantasizing about the future, and to, instead, embrace the present and what I can do to make a difference here and now.”

Reason 3: Giving up too easily

Whether you get discouraged or simply lose interest, giving up too easily is a big resolution breaker. “Many people make their resolutions with a genuine belief that they can accomplish them, but, come February, the excitement wears off and other priorities begin to take precedence,” says Andrew Schrage, founder of MoneyCrashers. “To cure this issue, try to set benchmarks throughout the year. By doing so, you can keep yourself on track throughout the year and use the power of positive reinforcement to keep your momentum going.”

Reason 4: Time management

Sometimes you realize your resolution is a bigger time commitment than you’d originally intended. Instead of trying to accomplish it all in one day, break it up into manageable increments. “I resolve to devote five minutes a day to being clutter-free and organized,” says Melinda Massie, a professional organizer. “The easiest way to get and stay organized and clutter-free is to make it a daily habit, and everyone can spare five minutes a day.”

Reason 5: Financial burden

Many give up on their resolutions if the associated expenses are too high, Schrage says. “For example, losing weight can sometimes require an expensive gym membership. Be creative and try to find less expensive ways to complete your goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, you can exercise and work out without a gym.”

Reason 6: Unrealistic resolutions

You may fantasize about your svelte new size-6 body or that six-figure job, but can you really make it happen before the year is out? “If you think you will lose 100 pounds in three months, this is not going to happen,” says nutrition and fitness expert Erin Palinski. “You need to set a goal that is actually achievable in the time frame you set for yourself.”

This also means being realistic with yourself and taking a hard, long look in the mirror. “Resolutions require changes in behavior, and most of us don’t want to face there is often a laundry list of changes to make,” says Alabama-based clinical psychologist Josh Klapow. “So, pick one you have confidence in and stick with it. It is far better to succeed at a smaller, more manageable resolution than to fail at a larger, loftier one.”

Reason 7: No plan

“The best resolutions are those that actually include a plan of action,” says hypnotist Michael Ellner. Applebaum says people set themselves up for failure because they commit to a resolution, fully knowing they have no plan in place to actually achieve it.

“You need to create a plan that will help you achieve your goals,” say Karena and Katrina, founders of “Break your end goal down into smaller, weekly goals so you feel like you’re working toward something immediate, and make a calendar with something to do every day that will get you closer to your desired result,” they say.

Reason 8: Lack of honesty

Are you truly committed to running a marathon, losing weight, or whatever else you’re committing to do? Be honest with yourself. “Oftentimes we find ourselves committing to things because we think we should,” Applebaum says. “Don’t waste your time with that. You will only be disappointed in yourself. Make resolutions you actually want to achieve because you really want to and are actually going to put a plan of action toward,” she says.

Reason 9: Wrong perspective

While you may have the best intentions with your resolution, you could be putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. Put it in perspective. “Rather than associating the New Year with resolutions or changes you need to make, consider it a time for reflection on things you wish to work on throughout the year,” Applebaum says. “Quit dwelling on what you haven’t accomplished and focus on what you will accomplish instead.”

Reason 10: Not believing in yourself

According to Beverly Hills psychotherapist Barbara Neitlich, sometimes all you need to keep going is a pat on the back—from yourself. “Congratulate yourself for your progress. The problem is that many individuals have a very black and white attitude. They see it as either you have achieved your goal or you have failed, but there is a grey area,” she says.

If your goal was to send out 10 resumes a week for a new job and you only sent out five, don’t beat yourself up for it. “Rather, congratulate and reward yourself for making the effort toward your goal. That will give you the energy and stamina you need to continue achieving your initial goal,” she says. And kill yourself with kindness, says Silber. “With friends, we often offer kindness, praise, warmth, and positive feelings, but most people don’t speak to themselves that way. Commit to offering that same kindness and compassion to yourself.”

Kindness is the engine that drives us to keep trying even after we fall flat on our face. So, this New Year, when you make and inevitably break your resolutions, instead of beating yourself up and then giving up, try being kind to yourself. In the long run you’ll be more likely to succeed.

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(Sources: Business Insider; Psychology Today; Shape; Meredith Women’s Network; Reader’s Digest; The Conversation US, Inc.; and Patch Network.)