New Year’s Resolutions Part I: Motivation is Not the Key


It’s a new year, which means new hopes, new goals and a new you, right?  What is it about January 1 that pushes so many of us to jump into new routines, to try to break bad habits, or decide we’re finally going to make those changes that we’ve been contemplating, yet putting off for months?  And why do almost 91 percent of us fail?  Yes, you read that correctly…less than 10 percent of us actually succeed at New Year’s resolutions! How can that be?  More importantly, how do we make sure that we don’t fail?  I wanted answers. So, I decided to conduct my own anonymous survey through social media to test some of these numbers and began researching why otherwise seemingly smart, determined, well-intentioned people face plant when it comes to fulfilling their New Year’s resolutions.  After all, you just need a little motivation to conquer those resolutions, right?  Not exactly.

Let’s talk numbers first.  In 2017, 41 percent of Americans made New Year’s resolutions. To put that into perspective, 55 percent of Americans voted in the 2016 Presidential election (or 126 million people[3]), and 111.3 million people tuned in to watch the Super Bowl last year.  My social media survey was spot on with the national numbers showing that 41% of those surveyed made a resolution for 2017.  I actually suspect that there are many more of us that set self-improvement goals for the new year, but simply refuse to call them “resolutions” – perhaps for fear they’ll be lumped into that 91 percent failure rate.

What did we resolve to do in 2017?  It probably comes as no surprise that topping the list of 2017 resolutions was losing weight/getting healthier and 2018 is no different.  My survey numbers were even higher with a whopping 85 percent reporting that their 2017 resolution was focused on health and wellness.  For 2018, more than 66 percent identified weight loss/changing their body composition as their goal, with another 43 percent endeavoring to eat healthier.

If so many people want to lead healthy lives, why is it that so many of us do not stick to these resolutions?  Why doesn’t the resolution have a long-lasting effect?  Instead of trying to lose the same 10 pounds (or more, *gulp*) every year, falling back into the trap of eating processed foods, or eating out too often, trudging along in an energy depleted and nutrient deprived state, why do most people fail before the spring flowers bloom?  We simply don’t want to do it.

Now you’re probably thinking, wait a second, I thought you said that we do want to be healthier, lose weight, or accomplish whatever the resolution is.  That’s just it…we absolutely do want the result, but we do not want to do the activities necessary to get the result (and often, have no concrete plan).  You see, when we’re making the resolution, we feel empowered and eager for change because we are envisioning what accomplishing it looks like.  But, how motivated do you feel come the last week of January?  How motivated do you feel to peel your head off the pillow an hour early in the dark of winter (amid freezing temps for many of you) because you swore you were going to get up and exercise before work?  Two words…SNOOZE BUTTON!  You don’t feel very motivated to get up and get yourself to the gym, do you?

Here’s the thing…motivation is garbage! If your plan to tackle your resolutions is to feel more motivated, I can promise you that you will fail.  It turns out that we’ve got this whole motivation thing backward.  Renowned author and speaker, Mel Robbins, explains.

“You have these incredible ideas and what you think is missing is motivation…that’s not true. The way our minds are wired and the fact about human beings is that we are not designed to do things that are uncomfortable, scary, or difficult.”

Hmmm, difficult things like a New Year’s resolution?  Let’s face it, for many of us, we resolve to do things we’ve struggled with in the past (perhaps even a failed prior resolution). We choose something that is going to be challenging, maybe even frustrating or painful.  And that presents a big problem:  we only feel motivated to do things that are easy, fun and bring us immediate gratification.  If you’re waiting for motivation to kick in, well, you’re just lying to yourself.  Motivation doesn’t exist.  It’s our way of making an excuse for why we’re not doing exactly what we need to be doing to accomplish our goals. This so-called lack of motivation that people point to as the reason for why they fail is actually a conscious decision – choosing defeat.  Think about that.  How do you feel about yourself when you know that you are choosing to fail?  Yep, that doesn’t sit well with me either.

So, is it hopeless?  Absolutely not. Look out for part II next week that shares the secret to ensuring your New Year’s resolutions are successful.


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