I’m sure you’ve all read the articles that talk about why we almost NEVER keep our New Year’s resolutions. According to studies, about 90% of us will fail to achieve the goals we set on January 1st. Raise your hand if you’ve been guilty of this in the past.
This year, we are going to set ourselves up for success so that we aren’t among the 90% who give up on their goals.
Let’s examine the psychology behind sticking to our goals and what we need to do to break out of the cycle of failure and start achieving goals in 2021.
Why do so many of us fail to achieve our goals?
You may have some ideas already in your head about this, but it’s worth exploring further. At the start of the new year, we have such good intentions. This is the year we’re going to finally lose the weight or increase that savings account. It is electrifying, exciting, invigorating.
So why do 90% of fail to keep going when we know that sticking with this plan will make us happier and improve our quality of life?
Here are six reasons why you might be failing to achieve your goals, plus tips to help you overcome them.
- You’re attempting to achieve this goal on your own.
- Your goals are way too big.
- You give up too easily.
- You don’t have a clear plan for achieving your goal.
- Lack of honesty. (Translation: You don’t really want to achieve this goal.)
- You don’t believe in yourself.
1. You’re trying to achieve your goals all by yourself.
Making any big life change is hard. Whether you’re trying to start new, healthy habits, or break bad ones, making sustainable change takes a ton of work and consistency.
You need a strong support system. Depending on your specific goal, this can come from a variety of sources like:
- Friends and family members who are supportive of your goals.
- A community of people with similar goals, like members of your gym or studio.
- Online communities organized around the same goal.
- A counselor or therapist.
- An accountability partner with the same goals.
Find a community that can help you through this process and don’t be afraid to reach out. We aren’t meant to do these things in isolation.
2. Your goals are way too big.
We aren’t going to go from novice seamstress to money-making designer overnight. Nor are we going to lose 20 pounds in a couple of months.
If you’re doing something like quitting drinking or smoking, weighing yourself down with ideas of “forever” and “never again” are going to overwhelm you.
Big, terrifying goals can be paralyzing. That doesn’t mean we can’t have them. It means we need to break them down into attainable pieces.
For goals that requires immediate behavioral change, like quitting drinking or smoking, that means confronting the challenging day-by-day and not getting caught up in the enormity of what this change means for the future.
For goals that do not require huge changes at once, because they aren’t as life-threatening, it means giving yourself achievable steps to work towards.
What can you accomplish this week that will get your one step closer to your goal? If your ultimate goal is to lose 20 pounds, what does that look like this week? If you’re starting at zero, maybe it means going to the gym one day and having a salad for lunch.
Small changes done consistently over time is what gets you the big results. Charging at enormous goals with everything you’ve got rarely works.
Related Post: Why Willpower Alone Isn’t Enough To Achieve Goals
3. You give up too easily.
This is me %1,000, me, me, me – the thing about myself I dislike the most. It’s also connected to #2. When we take things on too quickly, it is easier to crash and burn. That, in turn, leads to quitting.
When it comes to achieving goals like getting sober, it is very easy to fall into relapse traps of your own making. We don’t believe we can push through our cravings or we quick to cave into temptations to go drink with friends.
If we’re trying to eat better, this might look like “treating yourself” a little often or opting for the fries when you could’ve easily chosen a side salad. Or perhaps it looks like hitting snooze on your alarm instead of doing even five minutes of exercise in the morning.
You need to make a plan for yourself, which we started to do yesterday, but now I want you to get incredibly specific.
Make a plan and stick to it. This is why starting small is so important. If your goal is to get in shape, commit to 10 minutes a day, three days per week. If that’s too big, then knock it down to 5 minutes.
Don’t quit on your goals altogether. Find ways to make them more manageable and then push yourself to reject those little temptations to stray from your goal.
And if you do mess up, get back on track. Black-and-white thinking that tells us we’re either all in 100% of the time or we’re not doing it at all is a common lie we tell ourselves and it is a brutal one.
4. You don’t have a clear plan for achieving your goal.
This ties into the last section, but it bears repeating. As Benjamin Franklin is noted for saying, “A failure to plan is planning to fail.”
If you’re getting sober, that might look like this – every single day, you work on your sobriety through journaling, checking in with your support systems, and making sure that you know how you’re going to handle the day without drinking. It’s not particularly time-consuming, but it is critical.
It doesn’t really work to say, “I’m quitting X” and then making no plan for how you intend to do that.
It’s true for anything. If you want to your own your business, what are the steps you need to take to get there? What can you do today, this week, and this month to work towards that goal?
If you’re not sure, that’s when you can rely on professionals – therapists or coaches – to help guide you build the plans you need to achieve your goals.
5. Lack Of Honesty: You don’t really want this.
This is a tough one and I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of this many times in my life, especially around fitness resolutions.
I’ve had to sit down with myself and say, “Alicia why are you REALLY out here running?” The answer was mostly because I thought that this is what people do to feel better, but I never stopped to ask if it made ME feel better. The answer is no, it doesn’t. But you know what does? Lifting weights. So that’s what I do!
You have to enjoy the process on some level to keep going and the end result has to be something you genuinely care about.
For the majority of you here because you want to quit drinking, I know you’ve reached a point with alcohol where you think you need to change. There’s a huge step between wishing you didn’t drink and truly wanting to stop.
If you’re trying to achieve goals like weight loss, getting in shape, or taking on a new project, make sure you understand WHY you want these things. Is it for health reasons? Are you trying to build a better future?
What is the intrinsic motivation pushing you towards the goal? External drivers like wanting to look the part, or thinking this change is what is expected of you, aren’t powerful enough. In fact, they are often damaging.
Your goals need to exist because YOU want them, not because you think it’s what you’re supposed to want.
6. You don’t believe in yourself.
Does anybody else feel like their own worst enemy at times? We all have a story in our minds about who we are, and even though we authored this story, it can feel impossible to rewrite.
The story in my brain has been that I’m not tough. I quit too easily. I lack willpower. Everything I’ve started, I’ve ended up abandoning way sooner than I should have (if at all). That story snowballs, but I will spare you the melodramatics.
We’re all guilty of this. We’ve all created a story, and for many of us, we are the villain of our own stories. It’s time to chip away at that.
Every day, we have to work on refuting the story we’ve made about ourselves piece by piece. It is not going to be instantaneous or easy or miraculously come to us in the middle of a meditation session. But we’re going to get there.
Sometimes those feelings of self-doubt run deep and we need help unpacking where they come from. We need strategies to move past them. If this is the case, I highly recommend working with a trained professional.
Soberish is lucky to be sponsored by BetterHelp, which is what I personally use for talk therapy. My therapist has helped me unearth so much stuff I didn’t realize contributed to a lot of the difficulties I’ve experienced and I’m really grateful to her for helping me get at the roots.
If you’re interested in trying BetterHelp, you can sign up with my link and get 10% off your first month.
If You’re Not Achieving Goals, Don’t Give Up
This stuff is HARD and it is normal to experience ups and downs. Achievement is rarely linear. But we can do hard things if we equip ourselves with the tools to get there.
Start small. Make a plan. Give yourself some grace. And get going!