Why Your New Year’s Resolution Will Fail

If you’re like most people, you made a New Year’s Resolution that sounds something like this:

  • I will lose weight
  • I will be healthier
  • I resolve to eat better
  • In 2016 I will get back on an exercise program

And if you’re like most people, this resolution will be broken by February 1st (or if not, definitely sometime before 2017).

Here’s why.

a goal without a plan is just a wish

Your Resolution Is Not SMART

I don’t mean to say that your resolution isn’t a good idea or isn’t backed by a great motive or need. I meant that is isn’t:

  • Specific: hash out all the details – the who, what, when, when, why and which of what you want
  • Measurable: you will need someway of measuring whether you are reaching your goal, like benchmarks that tell you if you are on the right track or need to change something
  • Attainable: let’s be realistic and honest with ourselves about what we can accomplish and think about the “how” that is going to take us from where we currently are to where we want to be
  • Relevant: is this something that matches up with my bigger vision and goals? Is this something that I am truly ready and able to tackle now? Is this a worthwhile endeavor?
  • Time-Bound: when is this change going to take place? There needs to be a “by March 1st…” or “after 6 weeks…” or “starting next Sunday…” sort of timeline to ground your goal or give you a finishing line to aim for


Here are some examples of SMART diet and exercise-related goals:

I will take hour-long TRX classes every Monday, Wednesday at Friday at 8am beginning on January 18.

I will spend 4-7pm every Sunday starting today planning and prepping my meals for the week.

I will bring my lunch to work every Monday-Thursday in February. To do this, I will pack leftovers from dinner plus a piece of fruit the night before.

I will start a food log and write down everything I eat for the next two weeks.

I will go to the Farmer’s Market every Monday and buy 7 pieces of fruit (1 per day) and 3 different vegetables for a salad, stir-fry and stew.

By next Monday, I will lay out my workout clothes every night and go for a 45 minute walk first thing in the morning at 6am right after I wake up.


Your Resolution Is An Outcome

We cannot control outcomes. We can only control our own choices and actions.

  • I can control how much I exercise, but I can’t control whether that gives me a 6-pack.
  • I can change how much I eat, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a 20-pound weight loss.
  • I can start eating mindfully and intuitively, but that doesn’t mean I’ll fit into my old jeans.

Making a resolution about results or outcomes is tricky business and it can be extremely frustrating! It can be a trigger for the “What the heck effect”. I’m doing all this exercise and watching what I eat, so why haven’t I lost that much weight? What the heck! Why even try?

Focus on what you can do and what you can control. Know that even if the outcomes are different from what you expected, you’re still making incredibly important and successful changes in your health and wellbeing.


This took years

Your Resolution Is Ridiculous

This ties into the attainability aspect of the SMART goals, but it is worth emphasizing. If you haven’t been exercising for the past 5 years and are resolving to do Crossfit 5 days a week, that will last all of 1 day. Maybe 2 if you can move on that second day.

If you’ve been eating fast food for lunch and don’t know how to cook, resolving to bring a home-cooked lunch is going to take a lot of the steps to get from A to B that you may be overlooking:

  • meal planning and going grocery shopping every week
  • learning basic cooking skills
  • getting used to eating more vegetables and protein and less carbohydrate

That means, it’s better to make a resolution about meal planning or about learning how to cook before going straight to a promise that is likely to be broken.

Likewise, expecting unrealistic change from yourself is setting yourself up for failure. Saying you’re never going to eat chocolate ever again is silly. A diet that is impractical, unenjoyable and boring is bound to end. Expecting to lose 10 pounds in a week and keep it off just isn’t going to happen.

Extreme, restrictive, all-or-nothing, unrealistic, unsustainable resolutions should all be warning signs that it’s not going to last.


success - go get it

Resolutions don’t have to be broken promises, disappointments or frustrations. They can be a springboard for impactful, encouraging and hope-filled change. If you’re ready to make this kind of change, let me know!


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