How to Actually Achieve Your New Year's Resolutions

goal-setting self-empowerment self-learning Dec 27, 2022
Woman thinking of many New Year's Resolutions Goals


It's that time of year when a majority of us will set a New Year's resolution hoping to become a better version of ourselves in the new year. That means it's also the time of year when most of us will fail. Data suggests that 91% of people who set New Year's resolutions fall short of keeping them, and in this article I want to explain why and give you some tips on doing a better job in 2023. As you read, you’ll see that it's really not your fault that you haven't been achieving your New Year's resolutions. Very few of us have been taught how to actually work with our minds to help us achieve the goals that we set.


The most important thing to know when setting goals

The most important thing to know when setting goals whether you're setting them around the new year or at another time of the year is that 95% of your behavior is driven by your subconscious mind (Leonard Mlodinow, Subliminal book), and your subconscious mind operates by using mental shortcuts. It’s instinctual, instantaneous, quick, and automatic. So, in any given moment, although you want to think that you’re making conscious decisions for how to live your life, you’re actually living mostly from the automatic, instinctive processes of your subconscious mind. This is why we take so much care to unweave the habits and beliefs that our subconscious mind has in my coaching program, Happy from the Inside Out.

And there's good reason for this. The automatic shortcuts that your subconscious mind uses help you to preserve energy. Preserving energy is great, but what’s not so great is that our brain’s shortcuts can be good ones (i.e., ones that help us achieve goals that are constructive for our lives) or they can be bad ones (i.e., ones that lead us to do things that keep us from achieving constructive goals).


Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

Now that you know what actually drives your behavior day to day, you can begin to understand why so many New Year's resolutions fail despite the best of intentions. Here is how it usually goes:

  1. Your conscious self sets up the plan. “This is what I should do…”
  2. Your subconscious self says, “Not so fast. Doing what we’re used to doing is fast, it’s easy, and it’s habitual. There’s no way we’re gonna stop now…”
  3. You realize that your plan to willpower your way to achieving this goal never really stood a chance (more on that here).



So when you say “I know what I should do… but I don’t know why I don’t do it,” it’s not nearly as much of a puzzle as you might think. What's happening is you haven’t taken into account how you actually make decisions day to day. You haven't considered your subconscious mind’s way of operating in the world. If you want to be successful in accomplishing your goals, it helps to learn how to work with the shortcuts or automatic behaviors that your brain creates and to help it create more positive and fewer negative ones.

If you want to be successful in accomplishing your goals, it helps to learn how to work with the shortcuts or automatic behaviors that your brain creates and to help it create more positive and fewer negative ones.


How to give yourself an edge when it comes to your New Year’s Resolutions

Your inability to successfully keep our New Year’s Resolutions in the past was never about you not being good enough or motivated enough. It was simply a result of the fact that no one taught you how to make it easier for your brain to automatically do the things that you want it to do. Let me do that now with three big tips…


1. You've got to make the thing that you want to do the easiest choice and make distractions or obstacles to it more difficult.

One of the most important things we can do that will help us achieve our goal is to make that goal a much easier choice than it would be otherwise. Make it such an easy choice that you can’t possibly choose anything else. Because as they say, “Only wrong things happen automatically. You have to make right things happen.” And one of the most impactful ways to make right things happen is to pay attention to your environment.

Say, for example, you want to consciously work on being closer to your family or friends. You might choose to put photos of these people in your living room, bedroom, or anywhere else you might be reminded of them even while living your busy life. And you might automate cues to do these things, too, like setting a phone alert/alarm or reminder every Saturday or every other weekend to call them. 

And if you want to watch less TV (this was a personal goal I had ~10 years ago), you might consider having a TV in a room that’s not the room where you spend most of your time. Or maybe you’d decide to not have a TV in your house at all. By taking the TV out of the main room of your home (e.g., the living room), you're making not watching TV a much easier choice than it would have been if the TV was in the front and center of your living room.

If you want to read more books, you might decide to put the TV in a room that's not the main room in your home. If the TV is in the front and center in your home, it'll likely act as an obstacle to you reading in the evenings. To get to the book you'd have to first get through the TV. And we often know how that goes...

The same applies to eating healthily. If you want to eat fewer unhealthy snacks, you probably wouldn't want to have an unlimited supply of potato chips in your pantry, right? And you also probably wouldn't want your partner to bring back a super-sized version of your favorite sweet treat from Costco every weekend… These things would make it really hard for you to accomplish your goal. As you’re hopefully beginning to see, your ability to achieve your goals has much less to do with you and much more to do with the situation and environment you find yourself in.



Your ability to achieve your goals has much less to do with you and much more to do with the situation and environment you find yourself in.


2. Be specific and start SMALL.

One of the top reasons that our goals typically fail is that they are unreasonable. A New Year’s Resolution to lose 15 pounds in a month might be quite unreasonable, for instance, for someone who weighs 150 pounds and has barely ever exercised, and eating whole foods every day might be an unreasonable goal for someone who is used to eating out most days of the week. A more reasonable approach would be to start small, e.g., “I want to lose 6 pounds in January” or “I will eat salmon or chicken for dinner with a salad 2x a week.” Not only does this specificity give you a “how” for getting to your end goal, it helps to eliminate competing options like the boxed mac & cheese you might have ready to go and taunting you in your cupboard.


3. Get in touch with the reason why you want to accomplish your goal.

Our reasons for wanting to do the things we do go a long way in impacting our actual behavior. So, I’d say to start by asking yourself “Why do I want to achieve this goal?” And whether you hear yourself think/say “it'll help me to be in better physical shape” or “it'll help me to be better employed in my company” or “it'll help me to get the kind of partner I really want”, again ask “Why?” “Why do I want that? Why do I want to be better employed in my company?”… “Why do I want to be in better physical shape?”… “Why do I want to attract a better partner?”

Asking “why” at least a couple of times and maybe up to ten times will help you get to the deep-rooted reason for your goal. And why this is important is because when our goals are intrinsically motivated (i.e., something I want to do for me, for the sake of my own pleasure and fulfillment) we’re far more likely to achieve them than if they are extrinsically motivated (i.e., something I feel like I should do). So if you find that you’re setting a goal to please someone or to get validation from someone in your life, reconsider the goal. Take ten minutes to reflect with your eyes closed or in your journal about why this is so important to you and see if there is a way to align more with your own heart and your own desires for your life. A lot of freedom and a sense of peace awaits on the other side 😊

4. Set your resolutions from a place of love.

So often we set our New Year's resolutions from the space of wanting to improve ourselves and fix something that isn't quite right, whether it's something about our behavior, the way we look, or how good we are at something. When we set goals from a place of wanting to fix or change ourselves because we're not good enough, those goals very rarely last. After all, nobody likes to do what a bully says whether that bully is inside or outside of your head. And I get it - this isn't the norm for most of us. A majority of kids are raised with at least some degree of criticism and judgment from the people who raised them who are just trying to get by themselves. But what really works when it comes to keeping our New Year's resolutions and goals in general is to set them not from a place of wanting to improve what's not good enough about ourselves but from wanting to love and care for ourselves. So I leave you with this one question: What would your New Year's resolutions sound like if you made them from a place of love?

Let us know in the comments 


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