What To Do When New Year’s Resolutions Fail

Want to make this year THE YEAR you finally achieve all of your new year’s resolutions? Learn why trying harder isn’t the answer and what to do instead.

Unsplash

We’re about a month into the new year, and out of all the new year’s resolutions that were made, roughly 40% have already made their curtain call.

Some we will never see again, but most have been tucked away safely, awaiting the next new year for their annual moments in the spotlight.

How are yours doing? 🙂

Here’s another statistics: according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, in the US, of those who made resolutions in the past, only 9% feel that they’ve successfully achieved their resolutions.

9%! That’s barely one out of every ten people!

That doesn’t surprise me though. I used to be a frequent traveler on what I call the “Resolution Merry-Go-Around”, the seemingly never-ending cycle of setting resolutions, making progress, picking up speed, falling off of the horse, then making the same resolutions all over again.

I’d go from feelings of excitement and hope and enthusiasm, to guilt and shame and regret, to resignation and defeat…until hope returns via a motivating book, an inspiring story, or (and this is the most likely scenario), the dawn of a brand new year. It was exhausting…

…until I finally figured out what I was doing wrong.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”

Let me ask you something. What do you think or say when your New Year’s resolutions fail?

If you’re like most people, you’ll probably say some version of the following:

“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I make it work? I need to try harder! I need to have more willpower, more self-discipline!”

And therein lies the problem.

I don’t know about you, but those words — trying harder, discipline, willpower — all they conjure up for me is the image of a tight fist waving in the air, the white-knuckled vows of “I will make this work and I shall never fail again”.

Oh the pressure!

Can you feel the tightness, the strain, the forceful effort? It’s like the battle cry to psych yourself up as you suit up to go into a war. In your already way-too-many-things-to-do-and-not-enough-time-to-do-them life, do you really need another battle to fight, another war to win?

No wonder most of us wait until the next new year to renew our vows, when we get buoyed up and carried along by the inspiring and powerful collective “New Year New You” energy. Subconsciously we simply don’t want to go into battle on our own.

Here is my Public Service Announcement for the year:

TRYING HARDER DOES NOT WORK.

If trying harder worked, a lot more than 9% of resolution makers would be achieving their goals of losing weight, eating healthier, exercising more, and drinking less. More of us would be happier, more enlightened, and more at peace.

If at first you don’t succeed, try THIS instead

Here’s the alternative I’d like to suggest.

Instead of trying harder, instead of believing the story that the only thing keeping you from experiencing success is your lack of effort or willpower or self-discipline (or at least, not enough of it), try adding a little self-love instead.

#1 Get Curious

Get curious about the reasons why you couldn’t keep your resolutions, with some compassion and kindness and understanding:

  • Is your resolution based on growing yourself or fixing yourself?
  • Is your resolution reasonable or even humanly achievable? (This happens more often than you think. 😉 )
  • Is your resolution something you actually enjoy or are you doing it only because the experts say it’s good for you?
  • Are you working with your natural tendencies and preferences or against them?
  • How can you tweak your resolutions so they’re more enjoyable and fun?

#2 Focus On YOU

Focus on what you enjoy, what you find naturally motivating, what you are naturally drawn to…in other words, what works for YOU (not your family, or friends, or people on social media, or the experts).

Now, I can easily see many of you turning this into yet another “what-is-wrong-with-me” exercise. I did this often. I could turn the most uplifting and nurturing exercises into an inquisition about how flawed I was and how much I needed to be fixed.

So this is the key….add a little self-love. Inquire not with self-judgment and self-condemnation, but genuine curiosity. Instead of the high-tensioned, forceful approach, try some gentleness and lightheartedness.

#3 Make Small Tweaks. Experiment.

You don’t need to overhaul the whole thing. Instead, is there space to experiment with one small tweak, then another? Is there a way to make it a little easier on yourself, so you’re more likely to succeed?

But What About Willpower?

By the way, making it a little easier on yourself is not the same as going easy on yourself or giving up. And I’m not say willpower or self-discipline isn’t important or useful. In fact, your willpower and self-discipline are precious commodities that must be treated with respect and used with care, because there isn’t a limitless supply.

Building new habits or stopping old ones often involves hard work, and you’ll absolutely need to summon up your willpower or call on your self-discipline to overcome those “No, I don’t feel like ________” moments, which is all the more reason why you need to, as much as possible, set yourself up for success, by setting goals, choosing resolutions, and approach the whole endeavor of making changes in your life with a little self-love.

Because ultimately, you can’t beat yourself into submission. You can’t will yourself into doing something you don’t enjoy, day in and day out. And you can’t shame yourself into change, not if you want the change to be positive and permanent. As l learned from way too many years of trying harder and doing more of the same, you simply cannot white-knuckle your way to transformation.

So this year, when you feel like you’re just about to call it quits with your resolutions, try experimenting with a little self-love and see what happens.

When you stop focusing solely on what might be wrong with you, when you stop blaming yourself for your “not-enough-ness”, when you genuinely get curious about yourself, when you allow yourself to be open and to follow the desires and inklings that bubble up…

…that’s when you’ll notice changes start to happen. And pretty soon the life you’ve always wanted will start to form before your very eyes.

Are you ready to give up the struggle and trying adding a little self-love in your life instead? Click here to learn 3 simple yet powerful practices you can implement today to start living a happier life!