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It's that time of year again, people. Everyone you know is stoked to the brim about their new "routine," the gyms are crowded beyond belief, and kale is sold out in nearly every grocery store. New Year's resolutions are an extremely strong motivator for most of America, and it seems more uncommon to not have a resolution planned for the new year. But by February 1, the gym goers reduce to the same recognizable faces from December (plus a select few who stuck around), and most people are back to their same old, less-than-ideal habits.
With so much motivation going into the new year, why do most New Year's resolutions fail? The answer lies in the difference between "motivation" and "discipline." You can be as psyched as ever about a goal, but if you don't commit, make it a non-negotiable in your schedule, and show up every single day — no matter what — to make progress, you just won't get there.
That's just scraping the surface of why Spartan CEO Joe De Sena thinks the process of making New Year's resolutions is absolute bulls***. Here are five additional reasons why New Year's resolutions, more often than not, fail.
Why Do New Year's Resolutions Fail?
1. Resolutions fail because they are not rituals.
A "resolution" is just that, a quick fix or attempt to solve a problem that can really only be tackled with a long-term consistent commitment. Anything that sounds too good to be true usually is, and that goes for any resolution that promises to help you accomplish nearly anything worth maintaining in under 30-60 days.
2. Resolutions fail because they sound too final, and the mind resists them.
How many New Year's resolutions have you heard that sound like, "I'm cutting out X completely this year?" Whether it's processed food, spending hours on the phone before bed, or drinking too much alcohol, cold-turkey elimination just doesn't jive well with some people, and the finality of such a goal can set you up for failure. If you're going to set a goal, make sure that it's actually reasonable for you.
3. Resolutions fail because you haven’t practiced them.
The holidays can be tough for some people. Most use the final weeks of December as a sliding scale into absolute chaos, under the guise that everything will be back on track (and even better) as soon as the new year starts. (This is also why most people start new training and meal plans on a Monday.)
But the smartest people start before January. Studies show that it takes more than two months to actually make something a habit, so if you wait to start in January, you won't be in the zone until at least March. Next year, you can easily give yourself a one-month head start before the competition by beginning in December.
4. Resolutions fail because no one is holding you accountable.
When Joe first started the Spartan Death Race, hundreds of people were showing up for the near-impossible race, and 90% of them were quitting within HOURS of showing up. So, he started requiring prospective racers to print their commitment to showing up for and completing the race in a local newspaper. That way, if they backed out of their commitment, they had public shame and embarrassment to reckon with. Problem solved.
It's really easy to not show up to your morning run in the rain or snow when there's no one waiting on the curb for you at 6 a.m. You'll stop failing once you start surrounding yourself with people on the same journey to hold you accountable, so find five friends and commit to something hard together right now.
5. Resolutions fail because you didn’t choose them wisely.
Finally, stop shooting for the stars. That's not to say you shouldn't have ambition, but if you've never run a mile before, you couldn't reasonably expect to be capable of safely running a marathon by March 1, no matter how motivated you might feel. Instead, commit to something attainable — something specific and measurable — that you can do (or tolerate) every single day, and don't relent.
And above all, ensure that you always have a "why" associated with your goal. When the going gets tough and you want to quit more than anything, your "why" will be what gets you through.