After nearly three decades in the health, fitness and wellness industry, I still see the trend of New Year’s Resolutions failing every year… An influx of people excited about ‘getting fit’ and making positive lifestyle changes hitting the gyms, pounding the pavements, swimming down at the beach or saying no to their favourite foods because they are on their new diet and so on.
Yet sure enough, as the weeks and (sometimes) months go by the gyms thin out, there are fewer people out and about exercising and the diet restrictions seem to have been forgotten…
There are numerous reasons why New Year’s Resolutions fail and the statistics aren’t great:
- 64% of people abandon their New Year’s Resolution within a month1
- Only 8% of people achieve the New Year Resolution2
- 80% of people fail to achieve their New Year’s Resolution3
Over the years, there hasn’t been any real change in the numbers so to ensure you don’t get added to the statistics of failing your New Year’s Resolutions, keep reading to understand the most common reasons why and what to do about it.
The usual New Year’s Resolution trend
Many people use this time to start at a gym or start a fitness program and everything goes really well for a few weeks. After this time many find they start getting bored, start making old excuses, start getting a little sick and start to dislike turning up for training.
Usually, people push through for another couple of weeks and anywhere between the 5 to 8-week mark is when a large percentage of people no longer return to the gym or put their fitness plan on hold.
The people that follow this trend, may find a boost of motivation during the year and show up to the gym or training again at certain times, only for the giving up pattern to continue.
They many of us stop the gym or fitness program, due to a number of excuses and reasons and continue to follow the same patterns and behaviours that occured last year.
Usually, we find that we get to the end of the year and say “next year will be different” and the trend to fail our New Year’s Resolutions starts for another year.
We start at a gym, find a trainer online or face to face and start a fitness program, do well for a few weeks and then the excuses or reasons to stop happen. We often start again periodically or start again in the next year after getting no results with our health and fitness yet again. Yet again we have failed our New Year’s Resolutions.
Common reasons why New Year’s Resolutions fail
How long is a piece of string? There are so many reasons why New Year’s Resolutions fail and we continue the patterns, habits and behaviours that no longer serve us.
Here are some handy questions to ask yourself before starting any new health and wellness programs?
- Do you really want the results you say you want?
- Do you actually enjoy the exercise you’ve chosen?
- Do you understand that you will feel uncomfortable?
- Do you know you may feel pain?
- Are you prepared to make compromises to achieve the results you say you want?
- Is this about health or aesthetics for you?
- Have you chosen an exercise that fits into your lifestyle, as well as meets your goal expectations?
- Do you know your ‘why’?
- Do you need support, guidance education and accountability?
- Do you have an all or nothing attitude?
Knowing the answers to these questions is a good place to start!
7 Reasons why why New Year’s Resolutions fail
I could have listed at least 20 common reasons why New Year’s Resolutions fail that I’ve seen over my three decades in the health and wellness industry.
But hey, we’re all busy right? So here are my top 7.
1. You don’t enjoy what you’re doing
Have you chosen an exercise, training or fitness activity that you are actually interested in and enjoy? So many of us sign up for exercise that we just don’t enjoy. Many see it as some sort of punishment for their habits that have contributed to their current state of health and fitness.
Some of us choose the exercise that we think we need to do after looking online for the best way to lose weight, get fit, build muscle or tone up in the fastest possible way.
Sometimes it is the best way to achieve our goals, and we need to make peace with the fact that this is not always something we are going to feel like doing. Sometimes we need to understand that while we want those results, we may need to find another way there because the way we have been shown or chosen simply doesn’t suit us, our health and our lifestyle and we are going to dislike most of our time that we spend exercising or training.
Remember, being fit and healthy, exercising and training, is always best and the best results always come, when we do it because we love our body, not because we hate it.
Enjoying our chosen activity is essential to not only our success with our health and fitness but also us enjoying our time in the present moment. Anyone can change, so not enjoying a group sport when younger, but joining a team later in life is no reflection of what your commitment and success will be, but knowing what you enjoy now absolutely is.
Motivation will come and go and old negative thought processes will come up to challenge us before we rid ourselves of them for good. Persistent and consistent action is what will lead us to success in all that we want to achieve and forming new habits, patterns and behaviours are much more likely to stick with us when we actually enjoy what we are doing.
Take the time to look into your new chosen activity, what it will entail, will it help to achieve your goals and is this really something you want to do. This is a big step forward in making sure we don’t fail our New Year’s Resolutions.
2. You’re out of your comfort zone
Another reason we fail at our New Year’s Resolutions is not understanding what it will take to achieve them, and not knowing whether we are willing, or are able to take the action needed to achieve our goals on a consistent basis.
Knowing there will be some discomfort and understanding there may be some pain after either not being an exerciser or starting again after a long time off is an important part of the process when starting anything new. It’s not the pain that comes with our newfound activity, but whether we expect it and how we deal with it that matters most.
Many of us have been taught that feeling uncomfortable is a negative feeling, we associate this with pain and feeling unsafe. When we associate feeling uncomfortable with an understanding that this feeling is what creates growth, when we understand feeling uncomfortable can be exciting and exhilarating we are able to completely change our response to this.
The level of discomfort when moving our body in a different way or for the first time in a long time of course depends upon many things. How we recover (a blog all on its own), how often we train, our pain tolerance in this area and how hard we train (thankfully the old, no pain no gain trend has left us for the most part), just to name a few.
Most people do find that they either experience some discomfort during exercise or as part of the recovery phase, more often tit is the two to three days after exercise that we feel this. Building up to a level you are comfortable with and knowing how your body recovers, comes, like anything with experience and time.
At first, many people may find they feel sore, they may experience shortness of breath during exercise and they may experience muscle fatigue during exercise to name just a few areas in which you may feel differently in your body when participating in a new exercise or training program.
We need to ask ourselves, are we ready to feel uncomfortable in both our physical, mental and emotional body? How uncomfortable we are ready to feel will give you some guidance as to how hard we train and how often. Remember feeling uncomfortable is the place where change and growth occurs.
3. You haven’t been realistic about the compromises you need to make
Are you aware that you will need to make compromises in your life to achieve your goal and if so, are you aware of what they will be?
Many people start a program and have not planned how this extra half to one hour on any chosen day or night will fit into their schedule. We can also be unrealistic with what we can do with our time and lifestyle.
It’s true, we can make anything work if we really want it enough, however, we do need to be aware of what that looks like. Will you get up an hour early? Are you then prepared to wake up tired or go to bed a little earlier? Are you prepared for the fact that on many occasions you will not want to go?
Are you going to go after work? Do you need to speak with your workplace and team to make sure there is an expectation set that you need to leave on time for your health goals? If you’ve chosen a group sport, are you prepared to meet new people, work in a team and have to be reliable with the times that you show up to train?
Or is an exercise with more time flexibility important for your lifestyle? All questions we need to ask ourselves and know and all questions a good trainer will ask as part of their induction program for you.
While, as I said, we can achieve anything if we want it enough, we do need to set ourselves up to succeed. Have you chosen an activity that can be supported by those around you? Have you chosen an activity that fits with your busy lifestyle ?
Will your chosen activity to achieve your New Year’s Resolution work with some compromises and some sacrifice or is what you’ve chosen going to add so much extra pressure and stress that you’re setting yourself up to fail before you even start?
Make sure you have a plan and have thought out how you will build this new habit into your lifestyle. is essential if we don’t want to fail our New Year’s Resolutions. Done properly, it can be a transition that soon feels like second nature, done poorly or not at all, with a haphazard approach and an “I’ll do it tomorrow” or an “I’ll just make it work” attitude without some forethought will ensure your new schedule feels like a bigger pain than it is worth on almost every occasion.
4. You’ve focussed on the wrong success measures
The focus on aesthetics as opposed to health or wanting to FEEL better and have a better quality of life is one of the reasons we give up too early. Often when we start a program or gym, we will be told or we will read somewhere that we will start to see results in around 12 weeks.
For many people who when you think about it, 12 weeks is too long to wait for results that we can have immediately if we just focus on the right area.
When we are changing our schedule, trying something new, placing our body in a position to feel uncomfortable, possibly learning new skills, going into an environment we are not used to, making compromises and sacrifices in our daily life, possibly asking loved ones to support us in building new habits, behaviours and patterns, waiting 12 weeks for the results to start showing is a big ask!
As humans, we move away from pain and towards pleasure. We enjoy immediate satisfaction and our increasing internet and social media activity over the years has helped us to get used to a constant demand for immediate satisfaction.
Remember, our motivation will always come and go, we need to rely on our discipline and accountability until we form new habits and patterns that lead to our consistent and longer-term change in behaviours.
Focusing on aesthetics over health is something the fitness industry has always had around the wrong way. We need to focus on health first and understand that the aesthetic results will come as a bonus to that.
How we look on the outside reflects how healthy we are on the inside. How we look is reflected in our habits, patterns and behaviour’s in our life area of health.
The great thing is, when we focus on our health we can immediately enjoy our new exercise and the feelings we get from it, we don’t need to wait.
Think about it, if we focus on how we FEEL, we notice it straight away.
Immediately after taking action that takes us a step further towards our goals, we FEEL proud, happy and lifted both emotionally and mentally. This is an immediate result of us completing the action we said we would and focusing on that, instead of going to the mirror and looking at how we haven’t changed yet.
Yes many of us do and have done this. Working out or training and then looking at ourselves thinking we may see some results is not uncommon and does an incredible amount of damage to our psyche.
It’s much the same with scales, though that’s for another blog all of its own.
We may feel tired, and we may feel sore after starting our new activity, but we do FEEL proud of doing what we said we would do, of turning up for ourselves, of being able to say “yes I did that today”.
We get to enjoy the endorphins that are pumping through our body when we exercise, the feeling of the air in our lungs after asking our body to work a little harder than usual, the feeling of moving our body in a way we enjoy and a way in which our body was designed to move.
That is immediate and it’s incredible. When we focus on these benefits we get to feel great during and straight after exercise (and of course, there are many more benefits I haven’t mentioned).
We get to FEEL good now and we feel good tomorrow. The better quality sleep we have and the feeling of doing what we said we would do. When we focus on health, we get to enjoy feeling better straight away.
When we do this we will always enjoy the benefits of the action we are taking today.
The results that start to show in around 12 weeks are a bonus and can be enjoyed because you didn’t give up after not seeing results quickly enough after all of your efforts and sacrifice, but you kept going because you built a new behaviour and focused on the right areas that are now long term and sustainable results.
5. You’ve tried to do it all on your own
It’s always amazed me that the area of health is often an area that we ask strangers for advice, go it alone, google the most and copy what our next-door neighbour or workmate has done or is doing to lose weight, get fit, build muscle or achieve a fitness goal.
We are often motivated and inspired by others, in fact, many a community sport has been built on friends wanting a group to train with and many a person has been inspired to run a marathon for example because someone got them into it. This is very different from asking advice that is suited to you, to achieve your goals.
Imagine if your neighbour had just renovated their house. It makes sense to ask advice from them doesn’t it? Perhaps……We can certainly benefit from hearing about their experience, but will copying what they did suit our home?
We may find that our home is on a different angle, a different age and has been through different pressures over the years. Their house has never been rented, though yours was rented for years by Uni students and has some more wear and tear. Their house has slightly different soil, so the landscaping needs are not the same as yours. Their house was built by a different builder that faces North, while yours faces South. Theirs has had some movement and salt damp, while yours, only a street away has had none.
Have you ever looked at or bought a house, only to realise how many cover-up jobs were done prior to the sale? It looks great on the surface, however, when we take a closer look, the cracks start to show, the stains on the carpet come through and the floorboards start to squeak.
When we look underneath the surface, we find out that while we have enjoyed many years getting to know our neighbour, we notice that among our similarities, we have many differences that mean we need a different approach to our renovation.
When we speak with the builder, the expert, they notice some crucial details and explain how, by using different methods, different products and a different approach that suits our house more, we can get a better result, more quickly, with less hassle, more efficiently and effectively.
Way too many of us ask for advice from strangers on the internet, advice from friends that while they are great at their job and have wonderful values, they have no real experience or knowledge suited to giving qualified advice in the health and fitness area.
We cannot simply follow what others are doing because they look good on the surface or can run 10k’s. As discussed, we are completely different, have different lifestyle needs, are starting from a different place and have different health requirements.
There are just so many analogies and stories to explain this scenario. I’m so grateful for those in my life that have given me qualified advice over the years. My tech expert, my website developer, my graphics expert, my accountant, my lawyer, my hairdresser, our vet, my expert builder, my marketing guru, and the list just goes on.
Over the years, how many people have you sought qualified advice from? I know I cannot possibly achieve, not only my goals, but many of the necessary requirements in life without expert help, so it’s always surprised me that when achieving health and fitness goals or looking at preventative health, so many of us go it alone or get unqualified advice.
Finding an expert and professional in any area is always highly recommended and more often than not, we find that while there is an investment, it pays off tenfold in many ways.
Some of us need an expert to start, some for a short time after we start and some gain such momentum and benefit, it’s a longer-term prospect because of the value received. We need to make sure we get qualified advice and that the advice is specifically suited to us, our lifestyle, our health and our goals.
Will you go it alone, google it or follow someone else or do what you’ve done each year and failed, with your New Year’s Resolutions or will you dip your toe in the pool of those who want results and get the help to achieve them?
6. You’ve gone all or nothing
Some of us do very well with an all or nothing approach, though many of us do not. Even knowing this, many of us approach a health and fitness goal with an all or nothing attitude, especially at New Years. All or nothing can significantly contribute to failing our New Year’s Resolutions.
When we change too many things at once we can make life incredibly difficult for ourselves. We get excited about our goals and what we want to achieve and we go to the gym, do our training, go on a diet and push ourselves through.
We change all of these areas at once and then find it far too challenging in a whole host of scenarios like:
- When a friends birthday comes up on the weekend
- It’s tiring and difficult to get out of bed to train some mornings
- We miss the food that we have taken out of our day-to-day
- We start getting sick with the new changes
- We start getting bored
- The motivation wears off
In short, we start finding reasons why we don’t enjoy what we are doing, we don’t know how to handle feeling this uncomfortable and we slowly give up. We have created an environment suited to us failing our New Year’s Resolutions.
A missed session here, an extra drink while out there, a late-night here, some extra life stress there. Soon we have a recipe for failure.
The greatest results are always born from persistent consistency and an intent or dream with committed action will always end well. Even the tiniest of steps going in the right direction each day will win over massive leaps that are few and far between.
7. Not knowing your ‘why’
Do you know your why? Again aesthetics are not usually enough for many of us to keep going when the going gets tough. Near enough often becomes good enough when life gets in the way and fatigue sets in.
If our why is only as big as looking better, being fitter or fitting into a smaller size, very often, we will invariably give up when it gets close enough for our minds to validate that close enough is good enough.
Our mind is looking to keep us comfortable and safe, so any opportunity to help us give up when we feel like it, it will find it for us.
We need to understand our why. Everyone has a different why that is important to them and understanding this is what will very often help you dig deep on the days you don’t want to get out of bed early in the middle of winter or when life truly does get busy.
You need to be crystal clear on your priorities in order to keep your life going in the direction you want.
Having a deep enough ‘why’ and understanding your ‘why’ are essential to ensuring you don’t become one of the statistics of the New Year’s Resolution fail trend.
Of course, I could continue for pages and pages! There is a myriad of reasons that many of us find ourselves in a similar position to last year and will continue to do so until we get the support, guidance, education and accountability we need.
If you have addressed the above questions, either by yourself or with your trainer, then you are in a much better standing than many of us that start a new gym or fitness program without some of the understanding and preparation that is needed to build consistent, long term and sustainable habits.
Here’s to ensuring our New Year’s Resolutions and to making the changes that change our life in 2022.
Remember, the size of our steps do not reflect the height of our dreams.