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The end of one year and the start of another typically brings with it the resolve to start doing things better in the months to come. But while many people make firm goals for the New Year, most find that their New Year's resolutions don't work out in the end because they failed to fully commit.
According to one study carried out by the University of Scranton, by Feb. 1 only 55% of those who swore by New Year's resolutions a month earlier will still be on track. That’s a pretty miserable success rate, and the figures continue to go down from there. In fact, by the time we’re all gathering to sing "Auld Lang Syne" 12 months later, 81% of resolution makers will have completely failed to fulfill the previous year's goals.
So, why does everybody fail? Here are four specific reasons you're not sticking to those resolutions you were so excited about pre-new year.
Why Most New Year's Resolutions Don't Work in the Long Run
1. Your Resolutions Aren't Specific or Measurable
The best way to stick to your New Year’s resolution is to make it very specific, New Hampshire-based Spartan SGX coach Todd Cambio says. For example, if your goal is to make this the year you get fit and healthy, then you need to get really clear on what that looks like.
Generic goals like "In 2023, I’m going to get fit" or "I am going to lose 20 pounds," won’t work because they are too vague, Coach Cambio says. Instead, you need to describe exactly what you’ll do.
“It can be very simple, but stating something like ‘I will walk at least 10 minutes after dinner during the week,' ‘In 2023, I will drink at least one 12-ounce glass of water at every meal,' or ‘I will do strength training three times per week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 30 minutes before work,’ can give you an exact idea of the steps to take," he says.
How to commit: Don’t create large, nonspecific goals. Instead, Coach Cambio suggests making smaller, more attainable resolutions that will lead you to accomplish the bigger, more generic one(s). Write the big, overarching goal at the top of a page, and then write down all the smaller steps that you can take to accomplish it.
2. You’re Not Sacrificing Anything to Accomplish Your New Year's Resolution
According to Gabrielle Collard, founder of the online coaching platform, The Coach Space, if your goal is to incorporate new positive habits into your life, then you need to kick old negative ones to the curb. This is as much about practicality as anything else.
“If you want to start a new regimen — whether that’s running three times a week or reading two books a month — you need to sacrifice something from the old regimen, otherwise you’ll be constantly fighting against yourself," Collard says. "It’s about making space and time for your new habit.”
It’s also a good idea, she notes, to specify what it is that you’re going to give up to make space for the new habit.
How to commit: Collard recommends saying out loud or writing down exactly what you’re going to swap out. For example, she advises, “Write down ‘I’m going to swap out four hours of social media browsing for four hours of working out every week.’ Without doing this, the old regimen will win out because you won’t be able to see where you can fit in the time for the new goal.”
3. You Haven’t Set Up Your Environment for Success
Want to be the person who goes for a run every morning? Then leave your running shoes by the door the night before. Want to stop eating shitty food and shred some fat? Make sure your kitchen cabinets are stocked with healthy food.
“Whatever your resolution is, you need to create an environment that encourages its success,” Collard says. “The type of person who goes to the gym regularly will have a gym kit ready to throw into a bag at any given moment. You need to be that person.”
How to commit: Ensure that your immediate environment contains everything you need to succeed in your goal. If you want to learn a new language this year, get the books, download the apps, and switch your phone and TV to the language you’re learning.
Equally, if your new goal is to run a Spartan race or complete a Trifecta, go online now and register for the applicable races, download the Spartan FIT app to get training, and dial in your mental fitness with the Spartan Up! podcast.
4. You Have No Non-Negotiables
One of the main reasons that most people fail to accomplish their New Year’s resolutions is because they allow the excuses they make up — such as a lack of time — to become more important than achieving the goal. If the goal is important to you, Coach Cambio says, then it has to become a non-negotiable.
But here’s the thing: A non-negotiable goal doesn’t have to take over your whole day.
“Make it short if you have to, but make it happen no matter what," Cambio says. "Give yourself a bare minimum that you must do, and do it”.
For example, what could you accomplish in 15 minutes a day? If you’re learning a language, could you sit down to read a set amount of pages in your textbook? If you’re attempting to lose fat, could you take 15 minutes each evening to prep healthy food for the next day? And what if you resolve to be a better parent? How awesome would it be to use those 15 minutes to check in and connect with your kids?
How to commit: Use the above 15-minute rule and then expand it over time so that it stretches to 30 minutes, an hour, etc. For fitness goals, Coach Cambio — who is also a strength and conditioning specialist and a StrongFirst kettlebell instructor — suggests incorporating the 100 rule.
“This means doing 100 of something," Cambio says. "Anything really, just do 100 reps."
Try one of these exercises:
- 100 push-ups
- 100 squats
- 100 burpees
- 100 lunges
- 100 jumping jacks
- 100 sun salutations
- 100 kettlebell swings
“The cool thing is that if you are really struggling for time that day, then you pick the 'easier' 100 reps and save a more challenging one for a different day,” he says.