The Reason Why You Don’t Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Another New Year has been and gone. Another opportunity to wipe the slate ‘clean’ and start over. You’re feeling inspired and compelled to follow through and have things end differently this time. But hoping for a different outcome while going about the same process is the definition of insanity.

This is the drill: you tell yourself you’ll stick to your goals; no more living on autopilot. This year won’t be like last year (or the year before, or the one before that). So you dutifully put pen to paper to write your goals for the next 12 months, and your efforts to achieve them subsequently wane with each passing one.

And what are we writing? Health and fitness is the top priority for more than half (54%) of all New Year resolution-setting Australians, says finder.com.au, with money the second concern (12%), and then career (8%), relationships (8%) and travel (6%). So, you might write down that you want to move your butt and lose some weight; mingle with new and interesting people outside of your school and uni crew; travel more; make and invest loads more money; and absolutely kill it in your career. While you’re planning all this, you might as well add in that you want to buy all organic, volunteer and do a painting course, right?

Well, sure, put down all of the things, because you’re probably not going to achieve them. In fact, the same study found almost two thirds of us didn’t come good on our New Year promises last year, whether we gave up at the three-month mark, or later in the year. Why? According to Danielle LaPorte (Canadian author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur), promises, expectations and benchmarks focused on tangible outcomes do the opposite of what we intend them to do – they set us up for failure.


Are New Year’s resolutions like making a wish?

Danielle says we have the idea of New Year goals completely flipped on its head: “We go after the stuff we want to have, get, accomplish, and experience outside of ourselves. And we hope, yearn and pray that we’ll be fulfilled when we get there. It’s backwards. It’s outside in. And it’s running us in circles.” She instead offers a different approach; what she calls The Desire Map.

Aims, strategies, bucket lists and objectives may play a very important part of your life, keeping you accountable and moving forward, but when you glance over your New Year goals, what are you ultimately hoping to achieve? When you master those resolutions, what will be the end result?

Danielle says – without question – it will be a feeling or a desire. Maybe how you want to feel throughout your year is confident, happy, grateful, peaceful, powerful or attractive. If you’re basing your goals on a feeling, you’re not micromanaging your actions – and every time you achieve that feeling from something you do, it bolsters your determination to keep it up, instead of you constantly feeling guilty about all the things you’re not doing.

This year, turn your goal setting system inside out – you already know where the usual path leads.

# 1 Start with the desire

Channel your inner Dalai Lama and ask yourself how you want to feel. Nail it in a word or two, and jot down your top five.

# 2 Think about how you’d actually achieve that feeling

Once you’re clear on your desires and they feel good in your bones, then consider what you can practically do over the next 12 months to inch yourself closer to each of those desires.

# 3 Make your goals for each desire realistic

No more of these grand declarations, which you know sound wonderful in theory, but just aren’t going to happen. Write a maximum of three under each desire.

# 4 Save yourself the sabotage

Change takes times. Enjoy the ride – both the ups and downs – and make confident choices according to what really matters to you.

# 5 Be dynamic about it; you and your life aren’t static

You can change your desires and your goals. Come July, you may feel differently about the year ahead and what you want to achieve. If that’s the case, start over and start fresh. There’s no need to wait until 2017.

Leah Davies is a purpose-filled writer, human rights activist and coach for budding wordsmiths, who is driven to cultivate change through stories. She uses her experience as a journalist and international development worker at her conscious communications consultancy, Paper Planes Connect, to support the socially conscious to platform their voice and create change, both big and small.