New Year? What New Year?

Why it’s so Hard for us to Keep our Resolutions

With another New Year under our belts, up to half (48 percent) of us made New Year’s resolutions. Only eight percent of us actually achieve the goals we set for ourselves. So why is it so hard for us to keep our commitment to our self-made promises?

There are really four main reasons why people aren’t able to achieve their annual goals,” says Joda Coolidge, health counselor. “From setting too many or just finding the time to work on them, most people fall into one of these common resolution traps.”

Resolution Pitfalls

Lofty Goals

People want to believe that as they enter a new year, habits will magically change overnight — but this just isn’t the case. Big arbitrary goals, like losing weight or saving money, don’t happen without lifestyle changes and people that don’t create real plans as to how they’re going to achieve that important goal will find themselves right back where they started this time next year.

The Laundry List of Change

The reality of most people’s lives is that they’re likely not going to be able to lose the weight, put the house in order, find a new job, and visit their grandmother all by the end of January. People need to be realistic about how long it can take to achieve certain goals.

Putting the Pieces of the Puzzle Together

If people truly want to stay fit and healthy, they need to look at what that means—the food we eat, how we exercise our bodies, things that cause stress—all of these are valuable pieces towards the goal of overall wellness but need to be addressed individually first.

Brain Drain Blame

New research on brain health proves bad habits are incredibly hard to break, especially when tackled all at once. Our pre-frontal cortex — the area of our brains that has developed most recently — is responsible for keeping us focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract problems.

So what does this mean? Should we just not make resolutions? “Absolutely not!” says Coolidge, who is also a Certified Positive Psychology Coach and Holistic Health Counselor. “The good news is that those of us who do make explicit resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain our goals than people who do not make explicit resolutions—the key word being explicit.”

Strategies to Stay on Track

One Goal at a Time – If losing 30 pounds is the most important goal then choose that as the only focus until it’s achieved. Other goals can be added on later, but for now let this be where 100% of your energy is focused.

Be Clear on Success – Is it just losing weight that is important or being healthier and having more energy overall? Success will be measured in a number of ways —pounds lost, miles run, energy levels, overall happiness —and all of them should be part of the success report card, not just the number on the scale.

Small Steps – Smaller goals that are more easily attainable can serve as ideal stepping stones towards a bigger goal and are essential for long-term success. They can even be as small as singular daily goals. It’s about changing behavior little by little to drive a new lifestyle. When people take on too much, they can be easily overwhelmed and give up.

Reward, Reward, Reward – Your brain loves rewards! And people need to give their brains a rest during the change process too. As small but important goals are achieved, they should be celebrated. These celebrations can be anything —a luxurious bubble bath, visiting a friend, a creative activity — whatever is personally rewarding but doesn’t take away from the goal.

Repeat to Create New Habits – Small new habits grow into big habits over time. Change takes time. By putting in the effort to repeat small habits that support the overall goal at hand, people can set themselves up for long-term success.

Buddy Up – Having a shared goal with a friend increases the probability of achieving it. An accountability partner helps people get out of bed on those cold mornings, encourages them through hard times, and is there to celebrate when success is reached.

Create a Joy List – What brings you joy? When working on changing habits it is so important to balance the challenge of change with the addition of joy in the journey. Add the things that make you smile into your weekly or daily routines. When we feel joy, we release dopamine into our bodies, which helps curb hunger and aids in weight loss.

Rally Your Resources – Consider all personal resources available. Create a team of supporters with a friend, a spouse, a nutritionist, and a life from page 11 coach, who are cheerleaders and not only rooting for your success but also vested in it. A happier, healthier person has a halo effect on everyone around them.

Keep a Gratitude Journal – When people are working hard on change, they can lose track of the little things that are going well. Each day, write down what has gone well and what you are grateful for. Positive psychology experts have shown that expressing gratitude can build stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, minimize loneliness, and build joy, optimism, and happiness — all essential qualities in achieving goals.

Picture Perfect – Create a vision board that illustrates the new version of you one year from today. How are you happier? How are you healthier? What positive changes have occurred? Post to board somewhere that’s visible to you every day.

“Moving towards real positive change is essential for people to create the well-being they desire and deserve in their lives,” added Coolidge. “The concerns are still the same — How can I stay on track with my goals? What can I do to make sure I’m successful come next January? —but the approach is changing. It’s becoming more holistic, more about overall wellness for the entire body, for now and in the future.”

Joda Coolidge has been passionate about well-being and wellness for over 30 years. After nearly two decades as a corporate marketing executive, Joda returned to her true love and founded Live Life Happy Coaching in Great Falls, Va. She can be reached at

Last Updated on July 20, 2015