It's only weeks into 2016 and your New Year's resolutions are already on the fritz.
You're not alone. Only about eight percent of New Year's resolutions succeed and most go by the wayside within just weeks of the New Year. You had the best of intentions when you made those goals and felt pretty pumped up about them - so what happened?
Turns out that the success of New Year's resolutions, like any behavior change, is based on many factors. If you fail to consider any one of them, that puts those goals in harm's way.
Here's a little 7-step diagnostic to help you figure out why your resolutions aren't working - and tips to put you on the right track to an enjoyable and prosperous year.
1. It's not what you really want
Those goals you made - the ones you were so excited about on New Year's Eve? Well, maybe you didn't want them enough. At the heart of every transformation is the strong desire to change. To weather the inevitable challenges that come with trying to alter habits, you need to be armed with a high level of motivation. Without that motivation, you'll have a hard time harnessing the effort necessary to combat and rise above the challenges you face. Fast-forward a few weeks and all of a sudden, you've fallen back into your old, unhealthy ways. Dig deep and find what you are most strongly motivated to change, and pursue goals in that area.
2. You're not ready to change
Even with all the motivation in your world, you need to be ready to make a change. Wanting something badly isn't enough - you need to be willing to put in the effort and commit to a new habit. If not, you'll be stuck in neutral mode and end up going nowhere. So ask yourself if you're willing to make the sacrifices necessary to start and commit to a new behavior. If not, it's time to re-assess your goals and choose something that you're ready to tackle head-on.
3. Your confidence is low
We all have that inner naysayer that likes to tell us what we can't do. We might try to push that self-doubt down, but it will inevitably rear its ugly head if not addressed. Before embarking on any resolution to change, you need to ask yourself if you believe you can achieve your goals. If not, the odds are that you'll fail. And failure breeds failure, so it's best to avoid setting yourself up for a toxic chain of events. Instead, identify goals that you are very confident you can achieve. On a scale from 1-10, where 1 is the lowest and 10 is the highest, your confidence for a goal should be at least a 7. If you don't have that level of confidence, adjust the goals until you do. Just as failure breeds failure, so does success breed success. Set yourself up for actions that you think - no, scratch that - that you know you can achieve.
4. The goal was too ambitious
We are a quick fix society. We want change, and we want it now. The problem is that sustainable behavior change takes time. No matter what the salespeople of those supplements, weight loss programs or self-help guides tell you, you can't overhaul your habits and become a new person overnight. Successful, long-term change is the result of small, incremental steps. Although shooting for the stars is admirable, if it means that you give up because change is too daunting, then it has backfired. Rewind and rework those goals into something attainable. Goals might be small, or not even a behavior at all - thought processes like writing down reasons for eating healthy could serve as goals too. Achieving small goals will strengthen your confidence and enhance your ability to make even greater gains in the future.
5. The goal was an outcome, not a behavior
Perhaps it's all those cocktails, but often New Year's resolutions look something like this - I want to be 30 lbs lighter, fit, and more laid back in 2016. Sound good? As far as a resolution - no. These are what we call outcomes, not behavioral goals. They paint a picture of who we want to be but provide absolutely no information on the steps needed to get there. Goals need to be SMART - Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Time-bound. For every outcome you want to achieve, be as specific as you can in spelling out exactly what you'll do to get there. For example, to lose weight, you could write a goal that you'll go to the gym three nights per week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday) to attend a 1-hour spin class after work with your spouse. The more detailed you can get with outlining the behaviors you need to reach your desired outcome, the more you can keep your goals in check and measure success.
6. You never made a public commitment
Are you willing to shout your resolutions from a rooftop? No? Shyness is not an excuse, my friends. Making a public commitment is a first step in making you accountable to your goals. By putting yourself out there and announcing your intentions, you are translating what was once a general desire - to be healthier, happier, more productive, etc. - into something concrete and tangible. It also invites other people to help you refine those goals and keep you on track. If you haven't been willing to make a public commitment, it probably signals that you're not ready to take action, not motivated or not confident enough. Whatever the reason, it is a signal that you should stop, step back and reassess your resolutions. What goals are you willing to make public? Those are the ones that you should focus on pursuing in the future.
7. You have no social support
Nobody succeeds on their own. We're social animals, and we need support - not only in helping us keep on track but also in navigating the challenges we will inevitably encounter. If you're going at it alone, try seeking out others with similar goals who can serve as comrades, helping to talk through challenges and brainstorm strategies to overcome obstacles. A network of like-minded individuals can share tips to succeed, help you get back on your feet after a slip, and just offer support when you need it. If you haven't yet already, you might try reaching out to others seeking similar goals online, at work or through personal connections to make the path to a better future a little less lonely and a whole lot more fulfilling.