Reasons New Years Resolutions Fail and How to Fix Them

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80% of New Year’s Resolutions are broken by February.

Why is that? Are people lazy? Incompetent? Kidding themselves? I don’t think so.

I believe that you set New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions and that you genuinely want to reach your goals.

The problem isn’t YOU, it’s your methods.

Today I’m sharing 14 common reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail and how to fix them so that you can ACTUALLY crush your goals in 2019 and make it an epic year!

1. Your goal is too vague – it’s not clear what result you’re after or how to get there.


For example, let’s say your goal is to “Do better financially.” Does that mean…

Increasing your income with a side hustle?

Paying off a certain amount of debt?

Creating and sticking to a budget?

Making smarter investments?

A vague goal, leads to vague results.

That’s where the SMART method of goal-setting comes in to save the day.

The acronym SMART stands for:

S  – Specific. Your objective should be *crystal clear*.  A good goal answers the 5W’s – who, what, when, where, why and how. 

M – Measurable. You need to have a way to track your progress and determine when you’ve “accomplished” your goal.  

A – Attainable. Your goal should stretch your abilities and push you out of your comfort zone, but still remain realistic.  

R – Relevant. The goal must be personally meaningful to you,  and you must have or be able to get the proper support and resources to make it happen. 

T – time-bound. Set yourself deadlines, both for achieving the larger goal, as well as for milestones along the way to keep yourself on track.

2. Nothing is keeping you accountable.

We’re really good at bullshitting ourselves. Like really good.

Your brain would prefer that you stay nice and comfy and will help you think of every plausible excuse to NOT get out of your comfort zone and NOT do what you know you need to in order to accomplish your goal.

When you rely solely on willpower to get sh*t done, odds are you’re going to eventually take the easy route and cave in to the temptation to stick to the status quo.

The best way to avoid this? 

Have people and tools that keep you accountable. 

For example, let’s say you’d like to improve your body composition in 2019. To keep yourself accountable, you could use: 

  • A journal or app where you record your progress. Maybe you keep a food log using MyFitnessPal or you record your measurements and take progress photos once per week. 
  • An online support group or challenge. Maybe you join a program like Katy Hearn’s seasonal promos where you’re given a plan for how to eat + workout, but also have the support of others participating in the challenge and a healthy dose of competition for motivation. 
  • A coach, trainer or mentor – You can hire someone – in this case a personal trainer or health coach – to keep you accountable and on track. Often just knowing that there is someone you’ll have to answer to about your progress, particularly someone that you respect, is enough to provide the motivational boost to push through when you’d rather throw in the towel.
  • Get friends and family involved. Make it personal. Nobody enjoys failing publicly, so use that to your advantage by being vocal about what you intend to do. Consider finding someone in your circle who ALSO shares a similar goal to you and keep each other accountable + motivated.

3.Your “why” isn’t strong enough

In order to stay motivated over the course of an entire year, your goal needs to have significant personal meaning to you. 

A lot of times what we think we want, is not what we’re actually after.

For example, many people set a goal to lose weight, but why do they want to lose that weight? Is it to feel more confident in social situations? Because they’re scared of the future health consequences if they don’t? To set a better example for their kids? 

Oftentimes we get caught up in chasing goals that we think we should want based on our age, culture or social status or to please other people.

Taking a moment to really dig deep, be brutally honest with yourself, and ask WHY you want something, can help you recognize whether your goal is worth pursuing, and if you’re pursuing it for the right reasons.

4. You’re scared

Scared of failure. Scared of being vulnerable. Scared of judgment. Scared of the unknown.

To that I say, good! The fact that you’re scared shows that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and making yourself stretch, so bravo  👏

Achieving big goals requires learning how to re-frame fear.

Instead of seeing fear as something to shrink away from, consider  it a sign that you’re opening yourself up to experiencing personal growth. 

If you’re truly pushing yourself, fear will probably (okay, let’s be real – definitely) be hanging around in some capacity.

Fear itself is nothing to be afraid of, but sometimes you have valid reasons for being scared to take certain risks.

My go-to exercise for determining if my fear is truly justified is Fear-Setting – a method invented by Tim Ferriss, author of Tools of Titans

You can visit his blog here for step by step instructions on how to Fear-Set.

Trust me, it’s a game changer!

5. You don’t have a plan

You know what you want to achieve and it’s meaningful to you, but the distance from where you’re standing now to where you want to go is so great that you’re completely overwhelmed with how to even begin. 

So you drag your feet, perpetually thinking, “I’ll start tomorrow, I have all year to make it happen”, and before you know it the year is gone and you’re no closer to your goal.

Sound familiar? (I’ve soooo been there.)

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

My favorite way to create an action plan for my goals is using Gary Keller’s “goal-setting to the now” method, which helps you reverse engineer a plan by starting with your large “someday” goals and breaking it all the way down into the actions you need to take TODAY to get there. 

Gary has a free workbook to guide you step-by-step through this process available on his website. 

If it’s proper planning that’s tripping you up, I highly recommend you download it and also read his book The ONE Thing (one of my personal faves!). 

6. Obstacles arise and you’re so overwhelmed that your goal takes a back seat (or you give it up altogether)

When working towards a long-term goal, there are inevitably going to be obstacles that make sticking to your plan a challenge.

Demands on your time may increase, unplanned expenses might come up, health issues may arise, relationships may change,  the list goes on… 

When you’re unprepared and blindsided by these challenges in the moment, you’re more likely to fall off track and let your goals take the backseat.

That’s why anticipating and planning for potential barriers to your success ahead of time is so important and major key to keeping you on track.

For example, if your goal is to lose weight and you’re going to a holiday party where TONS of carby-fat-filled goodness awaits, you can eat a healthy meal at home before going to reduce your appetite or volunteer to bring a healthy appetizer to share.  

When setting your goal, list all of the potential challenges you think you may encounter and brainstorm ways that you can overcome them or lessen their impact ahead of time.

That way when  a stressful moment or temptation inevitably comes, you already have an action plan. 

A little forethought and preparation goes a long way!

7. You want MASSIVE results, RIGHT NOW.

“Micro speed, Macro patience”

How many people sign up for a gym membership, show up and crush it that first week, and then stop going when they don’t have a 6-pack after two weeks? 

Most things worth having take time, so you have to learn to love the PROCESS of achieving your goal, not just the RESULT. 

Gary Vaynerchuk explains this mindset really well with his philosophy “micro speed, macro patience”.

Day after day you have to show up and put in work, with the understanding that you may not see the fruits of your labor for weeks, months, or even years, but that when you do, it’ll be so worth it! 

To avoid feeling discouraged when you’re working your ass off but your goal still feels far out of reach, be sure that you’re tracking your progress in a tangible way so you can see your improvement over time and also that you take time to celebrate the small victories on the way to achieving your larger goal. 

8. You have an all or nothing mentality

Whenever you seek to make a long-term lifestyle change, there are inevitably going to be times that you slip up.

When these little slip-ups happen, the WORST thing you can do is beat yourself up about them and decide, “If I’ve already messed up once, I might as well give up the whole thing.” 

One tiny step off track isn’t going to screw you over, and in most cases it should be pretty easy to stay the course and get back to the grind without much damage done. 

Success is not linear, and slip ups are a part of the process.

When a slip-up happens, ask yourself:

  • Why did this happen?
  • How can I be better prepared in the future to keep this from happening again?
  • If you’re continuously struggling to stick to the “rules” you’ve made for yourself, are you holding yourself to unhealthy or unrealistic standards and expectations? How can you start even smaller to make moving towards your goal more manageable? 

The most important thing is to keep moving forward, no matter how slowly you have to go. 

9. You’re trying to do too much too fast

When you decide to tackle a new goal, you may be tempted to try and change everything at once, i.e. the New Year’s classic –  you’ve decided to get healthier in 2019 so starting Jan 1. you’re going to go to the gym 5 days a week, go vegan, get a full 8 hours of sleep each night, and take up yoga.

Hate to break it to ya, but unless you’re motha effin’ Wonder Woman, it ain’t gonna happen sis. 

Instead of trying to massively overhaul your health all at once, start small and build on your successes.

Long-term sustainability is the ultimate goal here.

For example, if you want to clean up your diet, instead of focusing on creating a whole new meal plan from the start, just focus on getting your breakfast right each day.

Or if you drink a lot of soda, start by replacing one soda per day with water or tea and gradually increase the number you replace. 

It seems paradoxical, but the less you attempt to do at once, the more you’ll be able to accomplish over the long term. 

So start small. Don’t rush it. And trust the process. 

10. You Have Too Many Goals

“You can do anything but not everything.”

Having several goals isn’t inherently a BAD thing. Trying to accomplish them all at the same time is.

When you split your focus and energy amongst many different goals, you don’t allow yourself to give your best effort to any of them, usually leading to mediocre (at best) results across the board. 

Instead try to focus on ONE major goal at a time with the understanding that “not now” doesn’t mean “never.” In fact,  prioritizing this way is the secret to crushing more goals in less time. 

Adopting Leo Babauta of Zen Habits’ one-goal policy has been a game changer for me in 2018.

If you feel like you’re ambitious and working your ass off, but you still haven’t crossed many goals off of your to-do list, consider narrowing your focus in the short term and really challenging yourself to make only ONE goal a priority at a time so that you can achieve more in the long term. 

11. You Haven’t Defined “Success”

How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal?

The best goals are specific and measurable, not open-ended.

For example, rather than setting a goal to “finally start that blog in 2019”, try “launch my blog and have 40 posts published by December 31, 2019.” 

With the re-vamped goal, the question “Did I succeed?” becomes a very clear yes or no. 

That’s what we’re going for. 

12. You’re Setting Goals That Are Outside of Your Control

Lose 20 pounds. Get that promotion. Gain 10,000 followers on Instagram.

Goals like this sound okay on the surface, and they can definitely be worth striving for, but they have one fatal flaw: They’re ultimately outside of your control.

You can crush all your workouts, be faithful to your diet, and do everything “right” but because of hormones or health conditions (or simply increasing muscle mass) still not lose those 20 pounds.

You could work incredibly hard in the office,  further your education, go above and beyond… and still get passed up for the job.  

That’s why it is so important to form process-oriented goals rather than outcome-oriented goals.

Only setting “outcome” goals places the power to achieve your goals out of your hands.

Process-oriented goals shift the focus from the result you desire to what you personally can do to make it happen.

The key is to shift your focus to “process” goals, which by achieving, often result in also achieving the related outcome goal.

So, for example, you can’t directly control if you lose 20 pounds in 6 months, but you CAN control if you make it to the gym 5 days per week, follow your training plan, and stick to your macro-nutrient goals over that time period. 

Your process goal (“Go to the gym 5 days per week and complete a 60 minute workout”) should help you achieve your outcome goal (losing 20 pounds)  but your success shouldn’t hinge on it. Kapeesh?

13. You’re focusing on what you WON’T do 

Don’t think about purple polar bears.

Think about anything BESIDES purple polar bears. 

Dude. Srsly. Stop. Forget about purple polar bears. 

WTF do I have against purple polar bears? Nothing at all my frandz.

The point of that was that when you deliberately make an effort to NOT think about or NOT do something, it actually makes the thoughts you’re trying to suppress MORE likely to surface.  

So, if you set a goal to NOT do something, all you do is drive yourself mad thinking about it until you eventually cave in to temptation.

Instead, when you want to break a bad habit, set a goal that allows you to replace the bad habit with a better one. 

For example, if you’re an emotional eater and you become a carb-monster whenever you feel stressed, DON’T set a goal to stop emotionally eating.

Instead, think of another habit you can adopt to deal with your stress in a healthy way, such as meditating or journaling. 

This keeps you from hyper-focusing on the food, but allows you to still get the benefit – stress relief – that the emotional eating was providing you. 

Moral of the story: Focus on REPLACING the bad habit, not ERASING the bad habit.

14. The timing is wrong or you don’t have the support you need

You have to be careful not to use this reason as an excuse to never start

Sometimes goals will force you to work hard or get creative to obtain the resources you need to make it happen, and that’s no reason to give up.

HOWEVER, sometimes there are valid reasons why it’s just not the right time or circumstances to pursue your goal. 

Determining this requires self-awareness and a clear sense of your priorities. 

Sometimes your goal won’t be important enough to you to remain a priority if circumstances in your life change or demand more of your attention, and that’s okay.

Needs change, people change, goals change.

Just be honest with yourself and make sure that you’re ultimately making the right decision FOR YOU.

Now I want to hear from you!

Have any of the above reasons ever stopped you from crushing your New Year’s Resolutions in the past (I know I’m guilty of more than a few)?

Do you have any tips that I missed for how to stick with your resolutions?

Let me know in the comments below!

Happy New Year loves!

xo-lyndsie-signature