New Year’s Resolution Failure Rate is Woefully High. Use These 11 Tips to Beat The Odds.


new year's resolution failure rate is woefully highEight percent. Only eight percent of people successfully achieve their New Year’s resolution. So, that’s depressing.

You have a greater chance of dying from cardiovascular disease than achieving your resolution; a whopping 33 percent for women and 25 for men. Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.

Heck, let’s keep going and see what else is more likely to happen than you achieving your resolution.

You have a one in seven chance of getting arthritis (that sucks). One in five Americans will get skin cancer (those odds suck worse). If you got your driver’s license at 16 you’re likely to experience your first crash at 34. (Ha! That wasn’t my case: I was in a T-bone collision when I was 13; I was extracted from the mangled metal with the jaws of life and was left with a broken nose and ankle, bloody urine, and lots of stitches. In my early 20s a guy ran a red light and smashed into my car sending us spinning into oncoming traffic before crashing over a curb.)

But back to the resolution success rate of an abysmal eight percent. As you saw, you’re more likely to experience some rather unsavory events and diagnoses than achieving your goal. To make this time different – you know, successful – here are 11 tips. Keep in mind: they work great for any goal you have, not just resolutions.

And because most resolutions have a health and fitness theme, we’ll look at these tips through fitness-focused lenses.

1) Don’t repeat past failures.

If most of your New Year’s resolutions never came to fruition (as statistics indicate is likely true), pay attention. Look back at those failed attempts and understand why you failed. Maybe you didn’t have a plan; maybe you gave up when things got difficult; maybe you tried doing too much from the beginning.

In the words of Henry Ford, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Learn from those failures and use that priceless knowledge to your advantage; do things differently this time.

2) Prepare for your weaknesses.

In past attempts, what obstacles were the most difficult to overcome? Identify your weaknesses, and come up with a plan of action to combat them. Don’t expect to have enough willpower to defeat every challenge – you must have a plan to employ when those situations arise.

Prepare beforehand for how you will respond to common, inevitable weaknesses. Confucius said it well: “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”

Identify weaknesses, and prepare for their arrival.

3) Have a clear, simple plan of action.

Don’t overwhelm yourself with dozens of items on your to-do list that will lead to your goal. In fact, don’t have a to-do list at all. Instead, come up with a brief, concise must-do list that has only the few, non-negotiable actions mandatory for reaching your goal. This gives you focus and a clear path forward.

4) You won’t have the time, nor will you be able to find it.

Events and priorities will tug at you from every direction, making time a precious commodity. There will be long stretches when you won’t have time to do the things required to achieve your goal. You must choose to make time. Carve out 30 minutes in the morning; prepare what you can in advance; improvise if you must; whittle down your must-do list even further (you’d be surprised at how helpful this can be). Do what you have to do to make time for your goal.

make time
You won’t have time. You must make time.

5) Focus on achieving small wins.

Big goals (like deadlifting twice your bodyweight, or losing 30 pounds) are tremendous milestones. But don’t forget about the small mandatory wins you must achieve first. Before you lose 30 pounds you must first lose five. Before deadlifting twice your bodyweight you must first make pulling one-and-a-half times your bodyweight a warm-up weight. Before you eat mostly real, minimally processed food for all meals you must first do so for one meal, consistently. Before you achieve your first unassisted pull-up you must put in the necessary work consistently, for weeks or even months.

Don’t overlook the small wins you can dominate on a daily basis. Start racking them up consistently, and be damn proud of them. It’s easy to obsess over the big, juicy goal, but don’t neglect to be proud of what you achieve along the way.

6) Find a way to make the process enjoyable.

If you’re not enjoying the journey toward your goal, something is wrong. Find a way to make at least part of it fun. If you hate the process, the reward won’t be as sweet. The effort itself should be part of the reward, because it’s where you’ll spend the majority of your time and energy. In fitness, commit to making each workout its own reward, and not just about losing fat or getting stronger.

7) Do at least one thing every single day – no exceptions.

Repetition is important for forging habits and staying focused. Have a calendar to X off every day when you put into action at least one thing that leads you closer to your goal. It doesn’t have to be anything tremendous – anything from your plan of action created in tip three will suffice. Those Xs will add up greatly over the course of weeks and months.

8) Don’t be tempted by promises of quick-fixes.

We are the most impatient species on the planet. Thanks to credit cards, microwaves, and instantly-lose-your-gut gimmicks we’re told we can get what we want immediately. Marketers know we’d pay and do anything for immediate results. Don’t give into the bullshit. It’ll take you down a path that ends with failure and frustration, and a lighter wallet.

Time and effort are mandatory ingredients in your New Year’s resolution recipe.

9) Forget about passion – have a purpose.

Passion is a feeling that sends warm fuzzies and motivation coursing through your veins; it’s what makes us “feel” like taking action. (“I’m amped up. I’m ready to hit the gym!”) But passion is unreliable, overrated, and finite. Purpose is what sustains you in the absence of motivation and passion. It’s a mission that must be completed. (“This isn’t just about getting leaner or stronger; this is about becoming the best version of myself. I don’t feel like working out today, but I’m going to do something anyway.”)

10) There are enough damsels in distress. Be your own damn heroine.

Achieving great things isn’t easy. (Need I remind you of the eight percent resolution success rate?) No one will rescue you when things get tough (and they will get tough) and you consider abandoning your goal. Working your butt off to achieve something on your own will always mean more than having it handed to you. Be your own heroine. Run toward the challenge. Embrace it.

11) Don’t expect perfection.

You’ll have terrible days when nothing goes right and you won’t do anything that leads you to your goal; even heroines have unproductive days and lose battles. It may feel like you took three tremendous steps backward and fell on your ass. It happens. Accept it, get back up, and start again; this is the only response you can have if you want to reach your goal.

May those 11 tips guide you to success with your New Year’s resolution, or any goal you set. And may you be cardiovascular disease, skin cancer, arthritis, and car wreck free.

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