Why Your 2015 Resolutions Failed and How to Make 2016 A Success

Why Your 2015 Resolutions Failed

Did you start off 2015 with high hopes of making significant life changes only to end the year with guilt that nothing actually materialized?

You aren’t alone.

The number of Americans that set out each year with resolutions in hand is high – varying reports place the number at somewhere between 40-50% — but the number of people that are still sticking to their resolution past the first rough patch are much smaller. Forty-six percent say they were able to hold strong for at least six months, but a whopping 25% weren’t able to make it past the first week.

Yes, that’s right – the first week.

So what went wrong? Instead of setting yourself up for resolution failure in 2016, let’s figure out why success wasn’t the end result in 2015.

Falling Victim to “False Hope Syndrome”

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According to psychology professor Peter Herman, many people have what he calls “false hope syndrome.”

In other words, your resolutions are unrealistic and completely out of alignment with how you currently view yourself. So while you might feel an initial burst of optimism surrounding a goal, you don’t actually believe it’s possible, or that you are capable of achieving it.

What to do instead:
Select resolutions that are a stretch, but still very possible in your mind. If you don’t believe you can do it today, you probably won’t act on it tomorrow.

Resorting to Cause and Effect

When lofty resolutions are set, high expectations of how these changes will ultimately impact your life are adopted as well. When change doesn’t occur quite like you initially imagined, discouragement follows, which can create the exact opposite of the intended effect: you slide backwards into bad habits and bad behaviors.

What to do instead:
Keep your expectations in check when it comes to how much this resolution will transform your life and don’t expect all your motivation to come from physically seeing progress.

 Not Defining Steps

An entire five-course meal cannot be swallowed whole — it must be broken down into a series of smaller bites. Resolutions are much the same way.

If you had a larger resolution, like to reduce your debt by 50%, but you didn’t actually figure out the smaller actionable items you needed to tackle in order to get there, you likely became overwhelmed and gave up before substantial progress could be made. You need more than to just have a destination in mind, you need a road map.

What to do instead:
Break all resolutions down into actionable steps with specific numbers and dates. These bite-sized chunks will help you to stay on track.

Being Unwilling to Change Habits

That thing you’ve decided you really want to achieve might seem really shiny and bright on the surface – and that certainly provides a great boost of initial motivation – but what about the habits that will need to be changed in order to reach that end goal?

Often times we aren’t ready or willing to actually change the “bad behavior” we’ve become accustomed to and we don’t admit that to ourselves in the process of setting resolutions.

What to do instead:
Before setting a resolution, identify the specific changes you will need to make in order to make way for success. If you aren’t willing to make those smaller changes, pick a new resolution or amend the one you’re considering.

Relying on Willpower Alone

If you think you will receive a huge injection of willpower come January 1st, think again.

According to Pauline W. Wallin, Ph.D. from the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, we are okay setting resolutions in December because it’s a period of extreme over-indulgence. We’ve essentially forgotten what deprivation feels like until January when we’re trying to adhere to our newfound resolutions.

“…too many people approach New Year’s resolutions as if they were punishments for “bad” behavior. We can endure punishment only for so long before we rebel, even if it’s against ourselves.”

What to do instead:
Set up systems that will put your resolutions on autopilot. Is lowering your spending the resolution you’re shooting for? Switching to all cash spending or using apps to constantly remind you of where you’re at are much better than simply willing yourself not to spend.

Giving Up Too Soon

If you were in the group that gave your 2015 resolutions a valiant effort in the beginning but gave up before the 6-month mark, your biggest issue could just be that you threw in the towel too soon.

A study conducted by John C. Norcross of the University of Scranton found those that stuck to their resolutions for six months were, “more than 10 times as likely to keep them as people who don’t follow the annual tradition….just 4 percent of “non-resolvers” were able to say that they had continuously stuck with an attempt to change something after six months.”

What to do instead:
Find an accountability partner, preferably one that is working towards resolutions of their own. Set up weekly check-ins to give each other that much needed motivation to keep moving forward.

How do you plan on increasing your chance of resolution success this year?

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