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The Eight Biggest New Year’s Resolutions Mistakes (and How to Overcome Them)

Written By: Matt Mignona

The Eight Biggest New Year’s Resolutions Mistakes (and How to Overcome Them)

woman writing out her goals for the new year

New Year is one of the most exciting days on the calendar. It is a time to look ahead to exciting new things. It is a time to set new goals and make new resolutions for ourselves. The New Year is a wonderful time to evaluate who we are and who we want to be. Making New Year's resolutions can be a powerful tool of change and improvement in our lives. Unfortunately, however, many of us have felt the defeat of making a New Year's resolution and then failing within the first few weeks. And once we have failed enough, we begin to stop caring; we tell ourselves that New Year's resolutions are overrated. But maybe we are just approaching them all wrong. The truth is that setting a goal and then accomplishing that goal is one of the greatest feelings EVER. And, with a little thought, we can avoid the common mistakes that keep people from persevering to the end. Here are some tips to help you identify and overcome the eight most common errors of making New Year's resolutions.

1. Set enormous goals for yourself. Sure, I understand that this sounds counterintuitive. Don't we all want easy goals? That way, they are attainable and we can accomplish them without feeling frustrated. Right? Well, not exactly. The truth is that we make resolutions to push ourselves - we want to be able to say that we did what we thought would be impossible a year before. If the accomplishment is small, the rewards will be small as well. So make resolutions that scare you and make you feel vulnerable, resolutions that sound unattainable to you at first! Nothing compares with the feeling of looking back and realizing that you did the impossible. 

2. Write down your goals. It is easy to think that we will just remember everything we want to accomplish without writing it down. But, to put it bluntly, that is a big fat lie. Not only do we forget when we don't write things down; we are far less motivated to actually get cracking. So find your journal and a pen. Write down all your messy thoughts, impossible dreams, hopes, and fears. From there, move on to something more concrete. Write down specific goals (enormous ones, remember?). Write down what actions will help you in accomplishing these goals. This simple trick goes a long way in keeping you on track. 

3. Break up your resolutions into bite-sized pieces. If you think that you can reach your end goal in one fell swoop, you are certainly in for some disappointment. You will end up overwhelmed and frustrated. Of course, we want to make goals that are so huge that they scare us a little bit. But we also need to learn how to take things one step at a time. So, instead of tackling your massive resolution as one huge project, create a list of smaller practical steps that will lead you to your goal. Once again, make sure your list is written down! This will ensure that you have milestones along the journey, which you can use to remember how far you have come since you began.

4. Get an accountability partner. When you do not tell anyone about your brand new resolutions, you have no one to keep you accountable when you are feeling lazy. And you have no one to cheer you on when you are so exhausted that you want to quit. The truth is that we all need both accountability and encouragement when we are tackling an enormous project. And the more people you have on your team, the better. Tell a trusted group of friends about your resolutions, and meet up with them regularly to discuss how you are doing. Believe me, this makes a bigger difference than you know. 

5. Check your attitude. There are all kinds of attitudes with which we can approach new goals. And, believe me, not all of them are helpful. The problem is that when we have an unhelpful attitude, we often do not realize it. So we do not even try to make adjustments. One example might be an attitude of pessimism. When we make huge goals, we might go into it thinking, "I can never accomplish this. Why am I even trying?" We may fear failing: "I will be so ashamed if I don't make it. I couldn't bear that." Finally, we might feel prideful. "I am so amazing! I am going to reach my goals no problem!" Both of these attitudes are detrimental to actually sticking to your goals. Instead, approach your goals optimistically and with an attitude of perseverance. This will be difficult. But, if you work hard, there is every reason to believe that you will succeed. 

6. Make a plan before you jump in. Lack of planning is one of the number one ways to kill your efforts. When you forget to plan, you are swamped with all kinds of ideas and projects, and soon you drown. So much for your resolutions! Planning does take a little effort, but it saves a lot of time and trouble in the end. Make a detailed (but flexible!) plan to succeed. Start small. Give yourself deadlines to get specific projects done. Get your friends on board, and let them plan with you. For instance, if you are trying to get in shape, you may want to plan for 10 minutes of exercise every day for the first week of the new year. And make sure other people know about it! This will help you realize that small steps will take you a long way.

7. Remember that one-time failure does not mean ultimate defeat. I have to be honest with you. You will fail. There will be days, or even weeks when you mess up. You may even mess up big time. But that doesn't mean that you should quit. Everyone fails. Sometimes failure will actually help you learn and grow even more in the long run. Accept failure as an opportunity to learn. Use your failure as a stepping stone to success. 

8. Write down and celebrate your victories. Of course, you don't want to be too easy on yourself. However, if you constantly beat yourself down, you will discourage yourself in no time at all. You (and your group of friends) need to keep remembering your accomplishments. Celebration doesn't mean that you spoil yourself and stop working hard. It does mean that, as you continue your journey, you rejoice in how far you've gone. So journal about victories (even small ones) and feel free to treat yourself when you reach milestones. You should get excited about your resolutions. Celebration provides huge motivation for you to keep striving toward your goal! 


I know this may seem like a lot all at once, and that's the way it should be. Making New Year's resolutions the right way should feel a little overwhelming at first. That way, we won't take them lightly. Thankfully, there are several resources that you can use to help you make and meet your goals. A simple goal setting worksheet is a great way get you started. Or, you can use this worksheet to help you identify the best parts of your life, adjust your mindset, and increase your quality of life! To track your lifestyle habits, download this easy health challenge sheet. Finally, take a look at the Happier Mind Journal to help you go farther than ever on your journey to success! 


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