Chalkboard with new year's resolutions on it
Growth and Goals,  Thoughts

It’s Easy to Fail Your New Year’s Resolutions but You Should Keep Trying

It’s June, the perfect time to talk about new year’s resolutions! Remember those? The things you probably set sometime six months ago?

We all wake up January 1st and say to ourselves, “this is the year, this year will be different.” This is the year we’ll work out, or lose weight, or read more, or whatever we set our minds to do in the next 12 months. How does that end up going?

Well, not great as around 80% of people fail or give up on their new year’s resolutions by February. That’s a pretty quick rate of giving up. It’s the most common thread that ties us together when it comes to new year’s resolutions. After all, we all have different types of resolutions but it’s the failure to meet them that brings us together as people!

And that’s 80% through February! It’s June so who the hell knows what the failure is by now?

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that it’s very easy to give up. It’s as simple as that. Most of us(including myself) are lazy and look for a reason to not do stuff. There’s a reason that 80% of people give up around 40 days into the resolution. The pure fact is that giving up and failing is easier than continuing on the path you tried to set for yourself.

Goals, even when specific, are simply easy to fail at least once and once failed, it’s very simple to get into a mental state that pushes future success out the window. Think about a goal like going to the gym once a week this year. It may seem like a simple goal, but for most, it’s one that’s impossible to achieve. It’s not even because you’re lazy but simply because life happens.

Getting in shape is a popular new year's resolution

Imagine something as simple as getting a cold in January. You’re sick all week, feel like crap and miss that weekly gym visit. Suddenly, you failed that goal and the thought of continuing with it seems pointless. Why bother, you already failed! Even if you’re not sick, what if you have a terrible week at work or family stuff comes up or whatever.

The discouragement that can come with something as simple as missing that one week is real and is one of the reasons that causes people to give up on their goals.

There’s a mentality that many of us have that forces any goal into a PASS or FAIL scenario. You either pass and keep going or you fail and give up.

And that to me is the problem. Goals shouldn’t be something you either fail or pass but something that helps you grow incrementally. That’s why things like new year’s resolutions are often doomed to fail for many. They put a distinct target for you to hit and when you miss it even once, it means you failed.

However, that’s not the case at all if you just get up and try again. However, for most, one miss means complete failure. Many don’t believe they can keep it going if they fail once. People simply don’t check in throughout the year after a failure and keep resetting the resolution to pursue the growth they wanted to see in the first place.

After all, what good are new year’s resolutions if you don’t check in on them every once in a while and gauge their progress? If you failed, why did you fail and would it be worth it to try again? You were so excited and ready for change in January so why not now too?

That’s why it makes perfect sense to me to talk about resolutions or goals in June. It’s the perfect time to get back on the horse if you somehow fell off during the year.

There are many things that can cause you to “fail” a new year’s resolution, some outside of your control, some within. It’s easy to feel discouraged, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and it’s very easy to fail as early as February. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the growth that you were seeking. Growth is not a linear process. Whatever change you wanted to make won’t happen overnight and that’s why it’s important to take baby steps and re-asses when bumps steer you off course.

Like many, in January, this year, I set 5 personal goals for 2019. These goals were;

  1. Exercise every day
  2. Write every day
  3. Drink 10+ glasses of water every day
  4. Put the phone away
  5. Read every night before bed

I went into the year thinking these were attainable and I’d have an easy time with them. After all, the established parameters didn’t seem hard. Exercise, for example, was just anything extra so even a 30 second plank counted. I had this on lock down!

What were the results? I “failed” two of them by the end of February. Hey, I’m part of the 80%! I “failed” another in March and another soon after.. Only one of them(the easiest) remains a “success”.

It was winter so I caught the flu and my streak of exercise ended pretty early in February. Since I was feeling like death, I wasn’t up for writing either so that fell by the wayside.

I did a good job of staying mindful of my phone usage but that drifted away in March. It was easy to get into a mindset that made that seem OK. After all, I had already failed at two of the five goals, why would another matter? In fact, even after I got better from the flu, I didn’t start writing or exercising daily again. After all, what was the point, I had already “failed”.

I’d do it here and there but then more stuff came up. I had tooth pain and a root canal and stopped exercising and writing during that period. That’s not to say I should have forced myself to do those things. Like I said before, shit happens, but the right thing to do would have been to get better then start aiming for my goals again. However, I had already “failed” so I didn’t.

The reading was the next to go. Often, I’d just end up staying up later and watching TV instead of reading something. The good thing about reading is that I enjoy it so it’s something I went back and still do most nights.

The only success? I’ve been a pro about drinking that water!

One of out five ain’t bad right?

And the truth is that it’s not! It’s easy to look at my 5 personal goals and see them as a failure. It’s also easy to see those new year’s resolutions that 80% fail by February and see those as a failure.

However, the reality is different. I look back at this first part of the year and see that I “failed” a lot of things. I used the quotes specifically because they weren’t really failures.

The truth is that because of my 5 goals, I exercised every day for at least two months, two months I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I also write more than I would have written otherwise. There was more reading too and I spent less time on my phone and kept myself more hydrated. Sure, I didn’t do it every day but I did it more than I would have if I didn’t set goals!

Does that sound like a failure? I don’t think so.

Hell, those 80% of people that failed went to the gym for a month longer than they would have gone otherwise. And sure, 80% gave up by February but 20% didn’t and that’s something. Next year, the percentage may be the same but you can bet that some of the 80% that gave up this year will be part of the 20% that don’t.

The best part is that I’m still aware of these goals even though I set them so long ago.

That’s why I’m revisiting my goals right now in June. I “failed” some of them but is it really a failure if I start doing it again now. I’m getting over another cold but I plan to start exercising every day soon. I plan to put the phone away, read more again, write more and continue drinking water.

Will I fail again? Hell yea, I will. It’s inevitable. Goals, no matter how simple, will never be easy. There will be ups and downs and failures and successes.

That’s the point of setting goals. I might fail again. However, I plan to revisit again, see where I am and keep working toward a better me.

Growth isn’t linear and new year’s resolutions aren’t meant to help you achieve growth right away. They’re meant to get you on a path that makes you think about what you’re doing and what you want to do going forward. It’s very easy to fail your new year’s resolution but one day you won’t and that’s why it’s important to keep trying.

New year's resolutions are easy to fail

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