How to Succeed with Resolutions in Spite of Formidable Failure Rates

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In success, one of the most important things is understanding how to succeed with resolutions. Otherwise, why would we bother with them, right?

How to succeed with resolutions

You’ve done it before and you will likely repeat history. Or, will you? Those silly resolutions. But, in the past, when you have gotten all excited about them, you have failed (or forgotten) at resolution-keeping. So, what is going to make this year different? And, is that even possible?

We have gone through some of the reasons why resolutions fail by virtue of discussing goals and resolutions in the beginning of this series. While resolutions can give us purpose, being the general overview of what we want to accomplish in life, they can still fall short. It isn’t the desire for improvement that falls short, but other factors. That is what we are going to discuss today. That, and ways that we can improve our success rate in spite of the formidable failure rate.

The Formidable Part of That Failure Rate

What do we mean by formidable? It is a creative way of saying that there are high rates of resolution failure, especial New Year resolutions.

The difference between New Year Resolutions and New Year’s Resolutions is grammatical. The first emphasizes the event and timing while the second is possessive, with the New Year sort of owning the resolutions.

Back to the topic of the failure rate…

This has been going on for years, decades, probably centuries. An example is New Years resolution gym statistics which showed a 73% failure rate back at the end of 2012. Around the same time (2013) there was an article in Forbes that quotes the University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology New Year Resolutions findings that only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s Resolutions.

Yes, that is scary, but there is no reason why we cannot learn ways to achieve success, right? This would especially be the case with how to set New Year’s resolutions and keep them.

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Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

I’m not one to blame it on something else. As I tell my kids, there are no excuses, but there may be explanations. Those explanations help us to understand how to do it better in the future.

My goal with my resolutions is to succeed (and to understand how!)
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So, let’s not blame the resolutions. Even if the resolutions are not possible, it comes back to the person who came up with the resolution, eh? So a better question may be Why do people fail with resolutions?

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Avoiding the Formidable Failure with Resolutions

Benefits of Resolutions

One of the benefits of composing resolutions, recording them, and reviewing them, is that they can become effective motivation tools for us. When we review what we have composed, we may feel like we have a purpose in life and it may help us keep going, especially toward that goal.

Sometimes we don't make resolutions because of fear of failure.
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One area we would like to spend more time on is the discussion of Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory which helps us to understand the impact of different aspects of our life and our approach to life, helping us to understand our resolutions…

Challenges of Resolutions

As we mentioned before, the problem is not with the resolution, but with our approach to the process. Sometimes, challenges appear and we fail to attain what we intended with the resolution. Sometimes, those resolutions do not become our life’s reality. Likely, that happens more times than it doesn’t happen, especially according to the statistics.

It is not uncommon to make New Year resolutions have them not stick and not become reality, let alone lasting until the next year.

With the 8% success rate mentioned above, it is obvious that you are not the only one experiencing this challenge.

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Steps to Becoming Successful With Resolutions

How about coming up with 10 Steps to Success. Or, 10 strategies that will help us reach success with our resolutions.

Strategy 1: Analyze Why Resolutions Fail

By understanding the psychology of New Year’s resolutions and in particular why people don’t keep resolutions, we can reverse-engineer what we have learned and go for success.

We have done that for you, in the labeling of the strategies, taking the reason we have ascertained and reversing it into a positive step forward for our resolution-defining process. Now, let’s get started.

Strategy 2: Assess the Process (and Decide on Acceptance)

As discussed in previous articles (and future articles) in this resolution challenge series, there is a sort of funnel process with the resolutions.

We start with the general resolution, like an overview or summary of the change that we want to see in our lives. It is thought to be on a personal level, with sub-topics that may be career, health, travel, or any other category.

We we drill down from there, we get to goals. Goals are different from resolutions because they have a measurable component. There is some sort of metric in the goal. In other words, there is a way of knowing when the goal has been reached.

Drilling down further, from the goal, are the tasks that help us reach the goal. It is like project management, with the definition of our project (resolution) and the objective of our project (goal) and then our tasks that lead to the project completion.

It isn’t a lack of willpower. It isn’t a lack of character. There are other reasons why resolutions may not reach the successful end that was intended.

Don’t let anyone confuse you, saying that resolutions should include the specifics. That is relegated to the goals.

Of course, it is up to you whether you want to accept this definition of the process (and resolutions, goals, and tasks) but that is how these series of articles define it… keeping it simple.

The tasks and the entire process should include a way to measure progress, as would a project management plan. But we will save some of the discussion of the specifics for future articles 🙂

Strategy 3: Keep it Balanced

In other words, don’t do too much. This goes for your resolution, too. Don’t define a resolution that has you overpacked, like an overstacked pack animal. If you picture a horse or donkey with packages on its back to a point where it feels like kneeling down instead of moving forward, you get the idea.

Your first thought would be… poor animal.

Well, put yourself in that animal’s place. Are you overloading yourself with the resolutions? Or, even with one resolution, are you putting expectations so high that you feel like kneeling down rather than moving forward?

Yeah, time to lighten that load!

Don't overload yourself

Strategy 4: Define Your Time Constraints

You may want to lose 50 pounds and look incredible in your bikini or boyshort swimming trunks tomorrow, but is that timing reasonable? Can you really lose 50 pounds, without surgery, in one day?

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So many times we think about what we want and write resolutions according to those wants. But, we don’t think about how long it takes to accomplish the goals, and tasks related to the goals, that get us there.

Remember, the goals have the measurable aspects, like the 50 pounds. The resolutions can be more general, like improve my body. The goal is where we get more specific on how we will make that improvement, in terms of metrics. So, keep it general. Keep it attainable when that resolution is converted to a goal.

Strategy 5: Remember the Limits of Your Brain

Know your brain when making resolutions

Your brain is not meant to handle all of the thoughts of the entire globe. Neither should it be expected to handle resolutions that go beyond its capacity. A couple strategies back we mentioned not overloading yourself with too many resolutions or resolutions that would result in goals that are too much.

Since we are talking about general changes in our lives, when we talk about resolutions, keep in mind that you can only handle so much, when it comes to changes. Without overloading yourself, think about impacts on other people, your family, your community.

It isn’t just your brain. You could fill in that spot with other aspects, but realize that you are not alone in this world. So, while you have figured out a way to not overload yourself and to keep time constraints in mind, also manage to keep other constraints in mind, as well.

Before you move on to the next strategy, ask yourself if all possible limitations or constraints have been considered and addressed. Hey, we believe that the sky is the limit, but you wouldn’t tip over the basket holding the baby to get there, would you? In the same way, take care of your brain and don’t overload it, or other aspects of your life, either, ok?

Strategy 6: Prioritize (and Trim) Your Resolutions

Have you decided to have multiple resolutions? Good for you. It is noble to want to make so many positive changes and improvements in your life.

But, in keeping with the last few strategies, and efforts to keep it simple, balanced, and not over-done, ask yourself if it is too many resolutions.

There is no shame in shaving off a resolution or two. So, if you have three resolutions, here is a suggested approach to trimming:

  1. Write down all three resolutions.
  2. Consider them and cross off the one that you can do without this year.
  3. Now, repeat that last step, crossing off another resolution that you can do without this year.
  4. Focus on that final resolution, as the primary resolution that you will reach this year. That will be the one for which you will draw up your goal(s) and eventual tasks to reach that/those goal(s).
  5. Keep the note where you wrote all three resolutions. Maybe even re-write the other two resolutions and put it in your desk. If for some reason you succeed with your primary resolution, before the end of the year, there is no reason why you can’t start up with one of the other resolutions. Or, focus on them next year.

Strategy 7: Understand How Habits Fit Into the Picture

How habits fit in the picture

In Strategy Two we talked about understanding the process. While it starts with the general resolution, funneling down to the metric-based goal, and then the tasks, habits are an almost invisible part of that same process.

It is true that you could technically reach success with your resolutions without changing habits, it is not likely. Completing the tasks that lead to the goals also builds on habits that are formed as a part of that process.

Many times, it takes about a month, or at least a month, to form positive habits. That is good and bad. It takes a concerted effort to modify habits (whether creating them or changing a bad habit). The hard thing is that, well, it is a hard process. The good thing is that it is indeed possible.

But, it may take some sticky note reminders to remind yourself to continue repeating the task(s) that contributes to forming these positive habits.

Remind yourself that nothing is instant, especially if it is truly a desired outcome, a positive outcome. Change happens slowly, in small increments. But, remember that those habits are the bits that contribute to that success.

Don’t forget to reward yourself for making those small steps forward and creating positive habits.

Another positive note about habits… to encourage you? The habits are going to be more solid, like building a house with brick, than one task that accomplishes something. So, if you set aside time, daily, to do something that is considered exercise, even five minutes, and are able to accomplish that daily, you are building a strong foundation toward that change for a healthier you. Compare that to a challenge to clean out the garage, which may be one task on a Saturday. Which one is likely to have more lasting effects?

Strategy 8: Know the Differences (Clarity, Specificty, and Focus)

Tug of war with yourself

“I’m going to lose weight this year” might be one of the most common resolutions on anyone’s list.

Is this a resolution that finds itself on your list?

This is actually not a bad resolution, from the aspect that resolutions can be more general and it is the resulting goals that include the specifics and metrics (like how many pounds).

Understanding the difference between resolutions and goals can sometimes be confusing. Hey, even in researching for this challenge series, I have found other writers sort of talking out of both sides of their mouths. I’m sure that is not the intention but I have read where some have said that the difference between resolutions and goals is the metric (like what we have shared with you) and then turned around and condemned resolutions because they didn’t include metrics.


It’s like having a tug of war with various aspects of ourselves. We are not sure which end is up, or our head feels like it might spin right off our body.

So, if you are reading somewhere that your resolutions are too vague, be wary. It may be that your resolutions are just fine. Remember, they are summaries of where you want to make changes in your life.

You reviewed the process in Strategy Two. Now, it is about maintenance as you go through the resolution process, going for resolution success. You understand the process, but be sure that you understand the differences between resolutions, goals, and tasks (which include creating habits). This is an ongoing process, ensuring that we know the differences.

By understanding the differences, you can help avoid that tug of war and ensure that you are on target with your resolutions and not too vague with your goals.

Strategy 9: Regularly Review Your Resolutions, Goals, and Tasks

How to Become Very Successful

Now that we understand the process (Strategy Two) and how to maintain it (Strategy Eight), let’s be sure we are focusing on the resolutions enough that we reach them.

If you want to keep it simple, review the resolution daily. Or, at least weekly. This helps us to keep it in the forefront of our mind so that it is not forgotten (at the very least).

Some suggestions include:

  • Write it on a sticky note on your computer monitor.
  • Include an image of the text version of your resolution on your desktop picture or computer wallpaper, as a reminder.
  • Have a daily task of reviewing your successes and tasks, which includes your resolution.

It is easy to become distracted with our responsibilities and daily tasks. That is good, from the sense that we need to be responsible and get things done. But, we want to be sure that we haven’t sacrificed our resolution(s).

Now, there is nothing wrong with reviewing the goal(s) instead of the resolution, if that is more helpful. Just be sure to review what you hope to accomplish so that you keep it in mind and reach that success.

Strategy 10: Accept that It is More Than Meets the Eye

There is always more than meets the eye.

Remember, like we mentioned in Strategy Nine, that there are always things that can distract us from reaching our success with our resolution(s).

You need to want it. You need to focus on it (Strategy Nine). You need to remember that it is easy to forget it. That is not a reason to discard it. So, if you have a goal that involves habit-forming tasks, performed on a daily basis, and you miss a day, don’t give up on yourself. Instead, realize that this is more than meets the eye, pick up where you left off, and continue toward success.

Remember to forgive yourself. Life happens.

Summary of What We Have Covered

  1. Analyze Why Resolutions Fail
  2. Assess the Process (and Decide on Acceptance)
  3. Keep it Balanced
  4. Define Your Time Constraints
  5. Remember the Limits of Your Brain
  6. Prioritize (and Trim) Your Resolutions
  7. Understand How Habits Fit Into the Picture
  8. Know the Differences (Clarity, Specificty, and Focus)
  9. Regularly Review Your Resolutions, Goals, and Tasks
  10. Accept that It is More Than Meets the Eye

Positive Persistence Future Goals

We have plans to incorporate a sort of Life Success TV with this site and its sister sites that focus on interviews. But, not sure that that has become a resolution for this year… yet.

It is true that there is a formidable failure rate when it comes to resolutions. In general, it is not like the earth is brimming with success stories. But, we have the opportunity to take the steps necessary to ensure our success. One step includes signing up for the Positive Persistence Positivity Notes (newsletter). And, be sure to stay tuned for the rest of our 30 articles on goals and resolutions!