5 Reasons Your New Year’s Resolutions Won’t Work and How to Fix It

Today I googled ‘New Year’s Resolutions.’ Care to guess how many results came up? Over 2 million. It’s not surprising when you figure how many people consistently make resolutions every year. Fitness gurus have memes about how their gyms will look in the next two weeks when everyone starts rolling in, determined to start the new year off healthy.
However, resolutions don’t work and here’s why:

1. It’s all about what you think you should do, not what you really want to do.
It doesn’t make much sense to wait all year to make a decision about how you’re going to live your life. There are 365 days in a year- you should be making good decisions the entire year. If you spent last year eating fast food 5 days a week and all of the sudden decide that you want to ‘eat clean’ this year, chances are you will for a few weeks but fall right back into your old habits by February. It’s very hard to break habits cold turkey, especially if you aren’t truly committed to them.

Think about why you are making your resolution. Is it because you really want to eat healthier/work out/lose weight/etc? Or is it because someone pointed out/you feel that you should do those things? It’s not a commitment if it’s something you feel obligated to do. Take some time to write down what it is you truly want from life this year and form a plan for how you can achieve those goals!

Top 10 New Year's Resolutions- this is from 2014 but it's been pretty consistent the last several years
Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions- this is from 2014 but it’s been pretty consistent the last several years
2. Resolutions are not realistic.
Many people make resolutions that are not realistic. Worse yet, they make vague resolutions. While its great to say “I want to work out more this year,” working out has very different meanings to different people. Personally, I enjoy running, so I like to run 3-4 times per week. However, some people don’t like running and prefer group classes at the gym. Others would love to do yoga several times per week. So “working out” is a rather vague goal that will inevitably lose steam a few weeks later when you’re not really sure what it is that you want to be doing. Try to set a specific workout goal for the new year- say you want to take Barre classes three times a week or join your local fun running group. This is a specific task that can get you on the right foot when it comes to fitness.
3. There’s no time goal associated with resolutions.
Goals and new habits work best when you have a time limit to them- i.e. work out three times a week for 30 days. That’s something measurable that you can achieve. When you just set a goal to work out more, you’re setting yourself up for failure because you don’t have any end in sight. Looking at all 365 days of the year can be quite intimidating, especially when it comes to changing your habits or adding new, healthier lifestyle choices in. If you think you have to work out three times a week you will lose your interest because you’ll look too far into the future and begin to dread the consistency. By setting the measurable goal of working out three times a week for 30 days, you’re able to have an “end” in sight and reward yourself when you make it happen. Chances are after that first month you’ll feel so good you’ll keep going. You’ll also be able to set another fitness goal for the next month to build upon the previous months achievements.
4. There’s no motivation or commitment.
Most new year’s resolutions don’t make it past January and over half of them are abandoned soon after that. Why? Because there’s no commitment. You’re taking something that has no meaning to you personally and trying to make it happen. Research shows that when you attach a strong emotion to a memory you’re more likely to remember it longer than a memory that didn’t evoke strong emotions in you. The same can be said of your resolutions. Sure, you may get an initial burst of motivation that gets you started, but it rarely lasts. You need something more fundamentally important to you in order to have a sustainable goal. You need to base your fitness goals on something that’s important to you and that matters. That’s why you see brides lose a bunch of weight before their wedding, or athletes intensify their training before the big game or race. There’s a time limit to their goals- they need to be X weight or have Z strength by Y date, and the reason behind the training is important to them.
5. A resolution is not a SMART goal.
If you want to change your life this year and become more fit and healthy, I’m 100% behind you. I admire your goals and wish to change. However, try setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal. And go for one at a time. Trying to do too much too soon will cause burnout and have you pulled in too many directions at once. What does a SMART goal look like?
SPECIFIC: Run a 5k at Disney this year. (This is a specific goal- you want to do a Disney 5k. It’s not vague; you have a definite event in mind.)
MEASURABLE: A 5k is better than just saying you’re going to “run more” or “be more fit.” This puts a distance you need to get to and a time limit on it.
ACHIEVABLE: So many people fail because they try to do too much or sign up for something that’s too intimidating. A 5k is a great distance for everyone, especially someone who has never been a runner.
RELEVANT: A 5k is definitely relevant to fitness goals- you want to run and get fit, and you’re going to complete the 5k distance in order to do so.
TIME BOUND: Signing up for the race would be the step you need to take here. This gives you a deadline- if your event is in May you know you have five months to get in shape to tackle the event. I’d even recommend signing up for something fairly soon- about 8-12 weeks away. While that may sound intimidating to start with, when your event is further away you’re more likely to slack off because the mentality is “well, I don’t have to be ready until five months from now.” If you know you have an event in March, for example, you know you have about 2 months to get to where you want to be, and that will help keep you motivated.
How to set SMART goals
How to set SMART goals
Hopefully these tips on how to make your ‘resolutions’ more attainable help put you on the right path! I know working out didn’t stick with me at first- it took time to fall in love with running! Once I started signing up for 5k’s and OCR’s though I was hooked. Trying something new can be intimidating but the only way you get better is to start somewhere!
*Linking up with Cynthia, Mar and Courtney for the Friday Five!*
Do you set resolutions? Why or why not? 
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13 thoughts on “5 Reasons Your New Year’s Resolutions Won’t Work and How to Fix It”

    1. I liked your post! You made a good point. I just find that if I set a more simple goal it’s easier for me to get off track. Setting specific goals help me stay on track and keep working towards different levels of achievement. Plus I stick with something when I can see progress.

  1. I love the idea of setting SMART goals. For me the most important thing is that a goal is measurable. That way you can really see the progress!

    1. I find that I almost always am able to achieve SMART goals when I set them; every time I made a resolution it fizzled out by March or April.

  2. One of my goals is to run on trails more often, so I bought trail shoes and have been running on trails with friends every Sunday. I also signed up for a couple of trail races this year, so I’m making progress.
    Thanks for the tips!

    1. Trail running is so much fun! I like it better than road racing. Good luck! 🙂

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