Why people will fail to keep New Year’s resolutions

Which of the top resolutions have you set yourself up to achieve at the start of 2017?

  • lose weight
  • give up smoking
  • change of career
  • get fitter
  • achieve a better work life balance

Did you try this last year, or the year before by simply writing a SMART goal? 

If you did, here is the bad news, you too will fail again in 2017, along with about 92% of the people who have actually thought about it, and these are the reasons why: Is it...

  • A lack of honesty?
  • A lack of commitment?
  • A tendency to procrastinate and put off starting until next week?

Probably it will be some or all these, but generally, people simply have never learned how to set goals properly, SMART or otherwise: Even before the ink has dried on the paper, they have set themselves up for failure, and are sadly not even aware of it. They do not understand that goal setting is a process, not a one off event.

It is easy to forget the time scales associated with achievement – important things in our lives like learning to walk, learning to talk, going through school, finishing higher education, finishing a probationary year in work – long time scales, each achieved by a little and often approach.

So having decided what you want to achieve, write it down (if you haven’t done this in the past, do it this year, it acts like a contract and it will make a huge difference). However, make sure the contract you are writing is with you: Your ‘true’ self, the one person you look in the mirror and who knows what you are really thinking about. Agree with yourself on something that you know you can achieve, the eye to eye searching look that says "yes’, I can and want to do this".

Self-help articles on goal setting often moralise on the need to believe in yourself – it’s unlikely to happen. Why? Because usually there is a lack of evidence of success – if you believed in yourself you wouldn’t be reading this article. The key is to create or generate some new evidence which will start the success train. Easier said than done? No, not if you know what taking action actually involves!

One of many actions not taken is the simple act of ring fencing regular time when something will get done. Ring fenced means exactly that: It is a period of time when nothing else whatsoever happens, other than what you planned. So do this first: Ensure you colour code your paper or electronic diary using a colour that has the most significance to you.

For many, the goal writing process involves something that is unpleasant, or hard such as to give up smoking, or to lose weight – a proven recipe for failure: The contract will only be meaningful if you change how you think about it. In other words ‘reframe’ what you are trying to do by being clear about what is in it for you: How are you going to gain from this, what is the positive outcome you are going to get?

 A successfully written contract starts a process that will, not might, set up an ongoing sequence of little wins. Nothing succeeds like success, so acknowledge what you have achieved and celebrate these small steps in an appropriate way and share your good news with others.

This article highlights a couple of key issues that underpin effective goal achievement. Plans are not confined to the start of the year; goals can be set whenever the need exists. Whether you are thinking about a New Year’s resolution, or want to inject new life into an ongoing project, make sure you have set yourself up to succeed, rather than fail.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Graham Norris - Personal Development Coach

Graham Norris works as a development and performance coach, facilitator and trainer. He supports individuals achieve their personal goals and within organisations, he helps teams learn how to perform effectively in order to achieve key targets. He also helps organisations embed coaching and mentoring ideas and skills within their working practices.… Read more

Written by Graham Norris - Personal Development Coach

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