Failed Your New Year's Resolutions? Here's How to Get Back on Track

Feb 14, 2014Reading Time: 6 min

Personal development is a hobby for many, and for most, it’s a challenge. Forty percent of people made New Year’s resolutions in 2014 and only 8 percent have succeeded with them. A study from the University of Scranton suggests that 92 percent of people who made resolutions have already failed.

And we’re only 44 days in.

Why do so many fail? The most common reason is because people make vague goals. They don’t get down to the specifics and tangibles; they don’t sit down and write a concrete criterion for how to achieve the end goal. The second reason is overambition; instead of having small, doable resolutions they set unrealistic expectations. And when the inevitable lapse occurs, it’s just one more failure to add to the books.

For me, the most effective tactic was to tell my friends and family of the changes I intend to make, thereby making me accountable. It was a reminder that if I chose to give up, people would think my resolve is weak and my word means nothing. A pretty dire alternative.

So you failed. Don’t feel bad—it’s happened to millions of Americans already. But as they say, it’s never too late to start over. Let’s go over some of the most popular ones and attempt to conjure new hope.  

Resolution No. 1: Get in Shape

What exactly does ‘get in shape’ mean? Lose 20 pounds? Pack on some muscle? Eat better? This was the most popular resolution in 2014, but it violates the first rule of setting effective resolutions—being too vague.

You had the motivation. You pictured yourself like Rocky running up to the Liberty Bell in a feat of glory. But when it came time to actually do it, you became flummoxed. Instead of saying, “I’m going to lose weight,” say you’re going to work out four times a week. Instead of saying, “I’m going to eat better,” say you’re going to cut fast food completely. Instead of saying, “I’m going to get shredded,” say you’re going to get the P90X3 from Beachbody and devote yourself religiously to it. Cut out the vagary and focus on the means instead of the end.

Resolution No. 2: Spend Less and Save More

At first glance, this resolution seems simple. You cut impulse spending, excessive eating out, and avoid the mocha frap every morning. You have the idea in your head that you’re going to “do better” with finances, but how do you do it? Once again, it violates the rule of eschewing vagary.

There are many ways to spend less than you earn, but there are three key practices I find especially useful. I spend an inordinate percentage of my income on the weekends because I feel like I’ve earned it. And damn it, I have. But in the end, it’s a big source of my financial woes. To combat this, I set up a workweek and weekend budget. I only allocate a certain amount (a smaller amount) every 24 hours on the weekdays, and on the weekend, I reward myself with a little more wiggle room but still remain loyal to my budget. Remember, it’s easy to forget unless you write down your budget in stone.  

In addition to this, every Sunday I reward myself if I’ve succeeded by placing $40 into my ‘Don’t Touch Box’. Studies have shown it’s easier to splurge when you pay with a credit card, and easier to respect your budget when you pay with bills. Over time, my little ‘Don’t Touch Box’ (grown-up piggy bank) has grown in size, making it exciting to add a little more weight to it each weekend.

It’s also worth it to spend a little time researching where to cut down on “fixed” expenses. This one takes a little more work, but you should remember you work for your money so you should work for your saving as well. Choose three bills to focus on. Do some research to see how you can make them less costly, whether it’s your phone bill, energy bill, or even your rent. Yes, time is indeed money, and money is indeed time, but if you’re seriously fed up with failing your resolutions, take this advice.  

Resolution No. 3: Cleaner Living

Quitting smoking is on the top ten list for New Year’s resolutions. In all honesty, I smoke occasionally, and I’ve quit around 20 times. Some say people acquire addiction because of a chemical reliance on it. In my experience, that hasn’t been the case. For me, it’s just what you do after you eat a meal; it’s the thing I do when you’re walking home from work. It’s an obsessive-compulsive disorder coupled with the nicotine-relaxation aspect of it. It’s not like resolving to change your grooming habits and cleaning up flawlessly with Luxury Barber, which I highly recommend (check out their high-tech kits—they’re incredible). It takes equal doses of discipline and self-honesty.  

First, you should know to the core why you’re quitting. Believing in your reasons gives you a better edge. Whether it’s for yourself, your girlfriend, or strictly for health reasons, you can do it if you respect your reasons. Secondly, you should know it’s going to suck and be prepared. Anticipating the gruel will make it easier. This guide is one of the simplest and most comprehensive no-bull approaches I’ve seen online.

Resolution No. 4: Enjoying Life More

Consequently, once you implement these changes into your life, you should see a noticeable difference in the amount of stress you have. Obviously, it’s impossible to completely cut stress out of your life. Stress is a natural result and coping mechanism, so remembering to make your goals realistic will make them easier. It is entirely possible, however, to eliminate unnecessary stress from your life, and it’s something everybody should do.

To begin, you must identify the stressors. Is it difficult people? Is it disorganization? Is it procrastination? Cutting the blur from the reason you feel the way you do will make it simpler for you to tailor a list of new practices. Is it lack of vacation time? For most Americans, it is. It’s very common to have fear of missing work for personal time, but it’s one of the best things you can do. Science shows that spending your cash on an experience instead of buying useless crap provides higher satisfaction. As well, if you plan to follow resolution No. 2, you should scour vacation packages deals before you plan your trip.

So don’t be ashamed you’ve failed your resolutions. It happens to the best of us. Just pre-plan and focus on your strategies as opposed to a vague goal. Good luck!