1. It’s too broad.
It’s easy to say something vague like, “I want to get in shape this year,” but if you think about it a bit, that’s not really a single thing. Getting “in shape” means making better food choices, spending some time in the gym, and maybe even kicking a bad habit or two. Broad resolutions fail because it eventually gets overwhelming trying to juggle all the components.
Try this: Start with a broad resolution, then thing about what that entails, pick one aspect, then try to break it down further. Once you’ve nailed out a sub-component of your master plan, you can work on expanding out.
2. You’re sabotaging yourself.
Oh, you planned on being more productive in 2015? Bet hanging out online is helping with that. Whether it’s defaulting back to old habits or just harboring a self-defeating mentality, it’s easy to get off on the wrong foot when you’ve barely gotten going.
Try this: Take some time to think about the possible roadblocks as you’re setting out to achieve your resolution. Being consciously aware of how you’re holding yourself back is half the battle.
3. It’s too hard.
Sometimes it’s easy to underestimate how hard a challenge can be. After all, if it were easy for you, you’d have done it by now. Did you resolve to run a half marathon even though you’re still too lazy to get off the couch and grab the remote? You never want to sell yourself short, but you’re apt to give up altogether if the carrot at the end of the stick ultimately seems too far away.
Try this: Set mini goals along the way. If you want to run a half-marathon, fine, but set up smaller goals (running a mile without stopping, doing a 5K, breaking through a personal best) so you can feel a sense of accomplishment as you go along.
4. It’s too long term.
Normally, long-term thinking is a great thing. But when setting resolutions that don’t have to be achieved until the calendar flips over to 2016, your mind is likely to overestimate the amount of time you have left and underestimate the time it’ll take to achieve your goals. Procrastination is the natural result, and you might find yourself quickly running out of time to start.
Try this: Approach this similar to #3 and set intermediate goals. By always having a short-term deadline staring you in the face, you know you have to get that butt in gear ASAP.
5. You don’t really want it.
Sometimes we come up with resolutions—especially when someone puts you on the spot by asking—that sound good in theory but aren’t things we care about. Maybe volunteering more at the animal shelter sounds really impressive, but you’re allergic to dogs and aren’t really an animal person to begin with. These types of resolutions don’t stand a chance because any resolution takes effort, and you’re not going to be interested in putting in effort into something you don’t want. Worse still would be a situation where you picked a resolution because you thought it would impress someone else.
Try this: Distill the real idea behind your resolution (“prioritizing others” instead of “volunteering at xyz location”). This will be broad at first, but you can then refocus it into something that more suits your style. Maybe the animal shelter was a bad fit, but you might like working with kids better. Or you could just make your significant other a priority and take time out to do the things they enjoy, even if it’s not what you like to do.
6. You never made one.
Ah the old cliché: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. If you let the new year start without a resolution in mind, you’re just accepting the status quo. The good news is that it’s still January, and there’s time to turn it all around.
Try this: While it doesn’t have to be an explicit resolution, at least take some time to reflect on the past year and what you could improve on. No one’s perfect, so it shouldn’t be hard to identify a couple areas to work on. Come up with some actionable goals using the other tips above and you’ll be waltzing into 2016 a better person.