Happily Say “No” to Resolutions!

Posted on December 22, 2017 by mmaloney

As we sit 9 days away from 2018 you can already hear the conversations about New Year’s Resolutions.  I was asked to do a radio interview this week on how to set effective goals for 2018.   With resolution talk in the air, I thought it would be great to write about why I don’t want you to set a resolution for the New Year.

This tradition began more consistently in North America after the Great Depression and it started to become more about resolving to change an undesired personal behaviour or trait.  Similar traditions date back as far Babylonian times when they would make vows to their gods at the beginning of the new year to repay debts and return borrowed objects.

Statistics on the topic say on average that 46% of North Americans set a New Year’s Resolution.  There are varied stats on the success rates.  People who set goals in any situation are more likely to accomplish things then those that don’t set a goal.  So when you see a stat like “people who set New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve them then those who don’t”, that makes sense.

The challenge is you can find just as many stats about the failure rate on these same resolutions.  There is a low 8% success rate of achieving the goals set in January, to 80% of people fail on their resolutions by February.  So with such poor success rates do you now understand why I am suggesting to NOT set a resolution this year?

Why do so many resolutions fail?

It may be they are too aggressive.  It may be they are not realistic.  It may be they have challenges you weren’t prepared for.  After watching people set these goals in the fitness industry for the last 17 years, the reason I see people fail more often than not, consists of 2 main things.  1- The mindset between a resolution and a life style change is not the same and 2- the planning that we put into achieving a goal is totally different then the planning we put into a resolution.

Do you want to be successful in achieving some new goals this year?  Here are some tips on how!

Lifestyle Mindset

If you are setting a goal as a resolution it comes with a mindset of resolution.  How many times have you heard “resolutions are meant to be broken”?  The resolution mindset creates the mindset of a short term goal.   A mindset that says “it is okay to not succeed”.  Resolutions feel more fleeting right from the start.  Instead when you have a lifestyle change mindset it sounds more commitment based right off the start.  It has a tone of long term.  Why is this long term intention so important?  If you “fail” at something that is short term goal the motivation to restart is weaker.  You are much more likely to say “I tried”.  Versus if you are working toward a long term goal, you are more likely to see a “fail” as a road block and not an end zone.

An analogy I would use is that of taking a 4 week course vs a 4 year course.  Automatically the decision is much greater.  You weigh it out differently, you plan for it a different way, you strategize for how you will accomplish it in a different way.

Set Winning Goals

  • Plan for Road Blocks in Advance

Understand that you will face a road block at some point in your journey.  This is just going to happen.  There are 2 things you should consider here:  1- what may the road block be and 2- what is your plan when you do hit this road block.

When you break down these two things think about times in the past you have tried to accomplish a similar goal, what has slowed down or stopped your success in the past?  What has derailed your plans?  For example, if you are someone who gets stuck on the couch when you get home from work, then set the plan to NOT go home on the way to the gym if you are trying to incorporate an exercise program into your new goal.  Coming up with strategies to avoid the road blocks before they happen is a good first step.

If you set a plan for what you are going to do if you do hit a road block, it is easier to do this BEFORE the moment hits you then in the moment.  For example; if you are trying to quit smoking you are going to want to smoke again at some point.  Create strategies when you are not in the moment to avoid having the cigarette.  Ie:  if you want a smoke, go for a 10 minute walk then decide if you really need one.  Or every time you want a smoke have a tea instead.  If you have 3 or 4 back up plans in advance then you will have enough ideas you can use to give yourself a better chance of beating the obstacle in the moment!

  • Set steps to your goals and celebrate small wins

When you are setting goals, you need to have a long term outcome you are aiming for, however you also need to have smaller steps you can accomplish along the way.  These smaller accomplishments give you the motivation to keep going.  They also act as measures for you to check in on yourself and know if you need to change the plan.  Imagine you were running a marathon and you were told when you accomplished 1 mile and then not given another update until mile 41… that would never work!  Runners get a status update every mile in a marathon.  This helps a runner plan their pace, make adjustments to their race plan, and know how far until the finish line.  Goal setting is the same thing you should have a finish line… but you need to know the route, the mile markers and where you want to be by when.

If you are looking at setting a weight loss goal this year, I will advise to not solely have only a number goal.  Weight is a funny thing.  Weight can sometimes come off fast, it can sometimes not move for 2 weeks.  It is just something that has a lot of variables.  I am not saying don’t set a weight loss goal… just set a weight loss goal AND another goal that is more within your control (running for 20 mins straight, or lowering your resting heart rate by 15 beats per minute)… these are both things that will lead to weight loss but can help you see more consistently measurable success along the way.

  • Failure is part of the journey

To finish off today I am going to give you the best advice I can.  Failure is part of the journey.  Look at failure as an action… something that you will have happen… don’t look at it as a finish line.  If you can change this mindset I promise you, your goals will become more and more in reach for 2018!

1 Comment

  • Chris Thompson December 24, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Hi Melissa,

    This is a very timely and informative blog. Nichola and I just “set” a long list of resolutions for 2018, perhaps we should reframe them as goals so that we can positively achieve them this year.
    Merry Christmas and much success in the New Year


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