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5 Reasons You Can't Keep Your New Year's Resolutions (and How to Fix It)

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Happy New Year from T|W Tote!

Every year, people follow the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions, hoping that the turn of the new year will give them the drive they need to finally achieve their goals. And every year, many people fail. Why is it so difficult for some of us to stick to our guns and follow through?

Here are five reasons why you’re not accomplishing your resolutions and the simple steps you can take to change that in 2020.

1. Your goals aren’t realistic

Perhaps the number one New Year's resolution is to start going to the gym every day. That may be reasonable for people who already go to the gym, but not for a couch potato. 

A stack of dumbbells and a running shoe

And if your goal is to do something every day, as soon as you miss one day, you’ll start to give up. If you miss more than one day in a row, your will power will diminish significantly.

How to fix it:

Start smaller with your goals, and build up to them. If you want to create a habit of doing something every day, start with something that seems almost easy, and work your way up to the hard stuff. Eventually, as you take these small steps, this habit will become easy, and it won’t feel like work. 

For example, if your goal is to meal prep for the week (when you currently only order takeout), start by cooking once a week, then build yourself up slowly to seven days. Remember to pack your lunch the night before using your T|W lunch tote.

Man chopping a leafy green vegetable on a cutting board

It’ll be much less stressful, so you’ll be more inclined to do it. After all, it’s something small, so it’s no big deal, right?

If you want to start a workout habit, you can start with something fun like taking classes at the gym instead of figuring out the machines by yourself. BOOMBOX in Washington D.C. is a black-owned company that offers boxing classes. The classes are affordable and easy to maintain, so check them out if you're in the area. 

2. You’re trying too many things at once

Sometimes we’re eager to do everything at once, and the tradition of New Year's resolutions only makes this worse. We think January 1st is the time to start fixing everything in our lives, rather than taking the steps to change our lives any other day of the year. 

The words Time for Change written on a chalkboard

If you’ve found yourself with more than four or five goals this year, you might need to cut it down. This depends on the time frame of each of your goals, of course. You could do two or three projects per season. 

But most resolutions are about building habits, which are longer term. And it’s difficult to build multiple habits because your brain and body have to get used to it. It has to become natural, and doing too many unnatural things at once will be problematic for your brain. 

How to fix it:

Choose the most important goals you want to work on, no more than 4, and stick with those until you achieve them. 

You can buy a planner to keep yourself on track, and keep yourself from creating too many goals. The Arrivista Planner includes goal setting guides, sections for reflection, inspirational quotes, and more. 

3. You’re overwhelmed by the goal

One of the reasons we procrastinate is because something seems too difficult or daunting. Maybe you don’t want to write that important email or work on that project right now. That’s okay; it’s human nature.

But we have to do these things, and the best way to get through it is to make it simpler for our brains. 

How to fix it:

Break the goal down into smaller tasks or objectives, and take it step by step. If you wanted to build a habit of writing for an hour every day, you could start by writing for just 10 minutes every morning. 

Sign that says Success, with the word stress crossed out

10 minutes is a good amount of time to get started on something you don’t feel like doing. More often than not, you’ll get into the groove and be able to continue. All you need to do is start.

You can also try the pomodoro method, where you work for a certain amount of time (usually 25 minutes) and then take a 5 minute break. After 4 blocks of work, you get to take a longer break.

This method trains you to focus better and get more work done. I use the app Focus To-Do, which is available on Android, iOS, and Chrome.

4. You haven’t written it down or planned for it

Nothing exists unless it’s been written down. How can you start if you have no idea where?

Giant question mark in center of a labyrinth

How to fix it:

Create a schedule for you to work on your goals. Block out time on your calendar or create deadlines for yourself. Set reminders so you have no excuse. 

Act like you’ve drilled it into stone and write it down somewhere. Look at it frequently. 

Most importantly, set yourself up with success with a system that works for you. Use productivity apps like Trello or Google Calendar to keep yourself on track. 

5. You don’t have a real reason to commit

Do you want to run a marathon because you think you should, or because it’s something you’ve always dreamed of? Do you want to learn Mandarin because you think you might use it or because you want to vacation in China?

Thinking about these reasons is good practice for living your life with purpose. 

Scrabble tiles spelling out the word Vision

Maybe you need a motivator. Whether rewards or consequences motivate you, you may feel like there’s no point in moving forward unless there’s something special you get (or lose) at the end of it. 

How to fix it:

Dig deep and ask yourself several times why you want to achieve this goal. If your why isn’t strong enough, you won’t commit. Your reason why is what you’re going to tell yourself every time you feel like giving up. That’s what’s going to keep you pushing forward. 

If rewards motivate you, set a big reward for achieving your end goal, and smaller ones for little goals along the way. Celebrate at the end with a movie or dinner, or an outing with friends. 

Movie popcorn

If consequences are a better motivator for you, set something awful to happen if you lose. A common consequence is to write a check to a company or figure you hate and have a friend send it out if you don’t achieve your goal.


Bonus: You’re already kicking yourself about failing

Life happens. Unexpected events get in your way. Sometimes you get sick or traffic makes you an hour late. Understand that you can’t control everything.

If something gets in the way of your goals, remember that you can work through it or around it. And if you miss a day or two, you might think, “What’s the point? I’ve already failed.” But you never fail unless you give up. 

So don’t give up!

You can also check out Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself by Joe DiSpenza, to change your mindset and really learn how to make changes in your life. It's available as an audio book., so you can listen to it while you're cooking or on the treadmill. 

Human silhouette standing atop a mountain, arms raised


What are your New Year’s resolutions for 2020? Leave a comment with your biggest resolution for the year. You can even tell us how you’re going to plan it!

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