The Most Common New Year's Resolution Mistakes and How to Fix Them
The Most Common New Year's Resolution Mistakes and How to Fix Them
You might have heard the grim statistics: Most New Year's resolutions just don't work. Something happens as January drones on, and the once-fierce motivation to stick to that New Year's resolution starts to dwindle. Come February, most people have quit; the people who haven't quit are probably thinking about it.
Some of this is due to mistakes people make in their motivations or mindset. But sometimes, New Year's resolutions are destined to fail before you even begin. Why? It's simple: You may have picked the wrong goal. There are all kinds of places you might go wrong in coming up with your resolution this year. So we talked to counselors and psychotherapists to discover which New Year's resolutions mistakes are most common - and what you can do to fix them.
Mistake: You set too many resolutions at once
It's so easy to think of all the things you want to get better at or fix! But don't tackle them all at once - you're likely to get overwhelmed. And that may result in you quitting them all entirely.
Instead: Decide on one goal to prioritize
Which resolution seems most pressing? Which will bring you the most happiness to achieve? Decide on one goal you'd like to prioritize. Hone in on that resolution for the time being. If you achieve it, you can always start on another. Who says you have to wait until January 1?
Mistake: You lose sight of your 'why'
Often, people get so caught up in the steps it takes to complete the goal itself that they forget about why they set it in the first place. Laura Albers, certified master wellness coach, licensed professional counselor and owner of Albers Wellness, says this is a common mistake she sees in her clients. People forget their "why," or their motivation. This can result in eventually ditching the goal altogether.
Instead: Keep your motivation in mind
How do you stay motivated to achieve your goal? Be intentional about it. "Get clear and specific on why the goal you set is important to you," Albers says. "Then post that 'why' wherever you need the inspiration." Put a sticky note on your mirror, notes in your planner, or set another reminder about why the goal is important to you.
Mistake: The resolution comes from a negative place
Jacqueline Pirtle, life coach, mindfulness and happiness coach, and author, says that she most often sees people making the mistake of keeping resolutions focused on one negative thing. "Usually the chosen resolution is because someone feels bad or guilty about something," Pirtle said. "Nothing in this choice says 'I want to, because it feels good to do so.' That's not a very good start to begin with." Arlene B. Englander, licensed psychotherapist and author, agrees. "Resolving not to do something is like trying not to think of a pink elephant in the room. Suddenly you can see the adorable tail and ears!"
Instead: Focus on the positives
Englander recommends instead choosing resolutions that focus on things you do want to do. Keep your New Year's resolutions focused on things that feel good - not on eliminating things you feel badly about. "Resolve to find fun ways to exercise, for instance, with music, a new sport or a class." This can be a lot more powerful than a resolution like "stop skipping the gym." "If it's pleasurable, it is more likely to be permanent," Englander says.
Mistake: The resolution isn't measurable
A goal that's too general can leave you feeling like you failed no matter what. "It is important to have measurable goals and resolutions. It is hard to track progress when things aren't measurable," says Steven Reigns, licensed psychotherapist and founder of Therapy For Adults. "A resolution to 'be happier' is destined to have you feeling unhappy and unaccomplished. How do you know the goal has been reached?"
Instead: Create a measurable outcome
Decide on a number, specific idea, or other method to determine when your goal has been achieved. "Instead of making a resolution to 'be happier,' schedule more activities that make you happy," Reigns says. Instead of a general "get in shape" resolution, you might specifically plan to sign up for a race such as a 5K.
Mistake: Your resolution isn't genuine
Maybe your resolution is coming from outside pressures instead of what you really want. Or maybe you thought the resolution would be fun and rewarding to accomplish, but you quickly find the reality is feeling much different. For example, say you want to get into running. You set the goal of running a 10K by the end of the year. Once you start training, though, you discover that you hate running and it's actually keeping you away from the other forms of exercise you used to enjoy.
Instead: Stick to goals you truly want to achieve
Don't set goals that you don't really want to achieve. It's OK to figure out that running - or knitting, journaling, writing a book - isn't for you. Don't continue putting hours into something that isn't serving you. New Year's resolutions are supposed to make your life better. If it's not serving that purpose, let that goal go.
Mistake: You don't seek the support you need
This mistake applies to those looking to break an addiction to something like cigarettes or drugs. A goal to prioritize your mental health can be really great - so long as you go about it the right way. "If your goal is to quit drinking or using drugs, declaring it as a resolution is not enough," Reigns says. The same is true of coping with mental health disorders or another condition. You may not be able to do it on your own - and putting that pressure on yourself can lead to feelings of failure.
Instead: Don't be afraid to seek help
There's no shame in seeking the health care you need! "Create a plan that involves support from others - a therapist, 12-step meeting, SMART recovery," Reigns recommends. "Some resolutions are easier when others rally around you. This is one of them."
Mistake: You don't have a plan
"Lack of planning is one of the most common resolution mistakes," says Anna Poss, therapist and owner of Anna Poss Counseling & Psychotherapy. "While you may be motivated to make a change January 1, not having a plan on how you will follow through can set you up for failure."
Instead: Plan ahead for how you will achieve your goal
Sit down and think about what you will do ahead of time. "Ask yourself what you need to do to prepare," Poss says. "How will you overcome the challenges and difficult times?" When those times inevitably come up, you'll be less likely to give up if you have a game plan.
Mistake: The resolution isn't realistic
Setting the bar too high is a set-up for disappointment and shame. "Keep resolutions reasonable," Reigns advised. "Don't make resolutions that ask too much of yourself. Expecting yourself to work out five days a week in 2019 when you haven't been to the gym in years would be an example of an unreasonable resolution." Sure, in your perfect world maybe you're getting to the gym that often. But, Reigns says, "The problem with such resolutions is that they lead to negative feelings when not accomplished."
Instead: Make sure your resolutions are reasonable
Rather than getting caught in the trap of feeling ashamed for failure, set a goal you will realistically achieve. Instead of going to the gym five days a week, for instance, you might resolve to find a fun new way to exercise. Not sure what resolution is right for you? These 19 resolutions are more realistic for you to achieve in 2019.
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