Falling Off The Wagon: What To Do When You Fail At Your New Year’s Resolutions

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It’s New Year’s Eve – and that means New Year’s Resolutions. We all know that feeling of excitement, anticipation, and resolve when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st. The world is brand new, and there are all sorts of possibilities for self-improvement and growth on the horizon. We are inspired, motivated, and so, so excited to finally change something in our lives. 

It could be something big, it could be something small, maybe this year will be filled with a combination of all of these things. You likely feel like there is a blank slate in front of you – a new chapter. Or, maybe on January 1st it feels like a whole new life.

And, maybe it will be.

But then, life gets in the way. That motivation can quickly wear off, and our best intentions for ourselves can fall by the wayside. As a result, we’re left feeling disappointed in ourselves and maybe even…like a failure.

So, what do you do if you find yourself failing at your New Year’s Resolutions?

Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered.

A few things to think about when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions.

Were they realistic in the first place?

Maybe like I have done, you didn’t take certain limitations into account (like health issues).

It could be that you’re in the midst of an extraordinarily busy season – which would need to be taken into account when making your resolutions.

This leaves me to ask again – were your resolutions even realistic?

Have you truly fallen off the wagon?

There are many, many times when I do make progress – but I fail to see it. Because I didn’t get as far as I’d like, or didn’t do something as well as I had planned I fail to recognize that I did do something.

Before you give yourself a checkmark in the “failure” category, take a moment to see if progress was actually made (even if it was imperfect progress).

Pro-tip: Imperfect progress is the very best kind!

One of my favorite phrases to use inside my ongoing coaching program, Accomplished Lifestyle, is “progress is progress.”

Write that one down, you’ll thank me later.

Do a mindset reset

It’s helpful to learn from the past (What happened? Where did I fail?), it’s not helpful to let the past limit your future.

I’ll repeat that.

It’s not helpful to let your past limit your future.

So, in your mind first, move forward. When your mind has moved forward your actions can follow.

Every action you take and every inaction you take start with a decision you make in your mind first.

Therefore, do a mindset reset.

After working through these three things, you’ll be ready to move forward.

What to do when you fail at your New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

Have the right mindset

It can be easy to wallow in self-pity after experiencing a major failure, but that self-doubt isn’t going to help anyone. Instead, it’s important to learn how to pick yourself up and move on. One way to implement this is to adopt what Mel Robbins calls the “5-Second Rule.” This involves taking five seconds after a failure or disappointment to recognize your feelings, then pushing them aside and moving on with your day. The “5-Second Rule” can help you break out of negative thought loops and give you the push you need to take action and get back track with your resolutions.

Start small

One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting New Year’s Resolutions is trying to accomplish way too much, way too soon. Fixing this is a big step towards sticking to those resolutions. Instead of aiming for lofty goals, start with small, attainable ones. For example, if your goal is to get healthy, break that down into manageable steps like drinking more water each day or taking a 10-minute walk after dinner every night. When you focus on the smaller wins first, you’ll be able to build momentum and eventually reach your larger goals.

Be flexible in your New Year’s Resolutions

Another mistake people often make when setting New Year’s Resolutions is being too rigid with their plans. It’s important to remember that life happens. Whether it’s a surprise project at work or an unexpected illness, events in our lives can force us to place our best intentions aside and focus on merely surviving. This doesn’t mean you should give up altogether. Instead of beating yourself up about falling behind in your goals, try to give yourself some grace. Be flexible with your timeline and your expectations so that you don’t feel overwhelmed or guilty if things don’t go as planned.

Celebrate your wins

Don’t forget to cheer yourself on by celebrating the victories! Remember that whole progress is progress thing? Even if it’s something small like drinking more water or eating one more serving of vegetables each day, pat yourself on the back for making progress towards your goals. This will help you stay motivated and working towards your targeted result.

Keep your ultimate goal in mind

A key element of staying motivated is to remember the reasons behind your goal. Reflecting on your intentions can propel you forward with renewed determination. Writing down your goals is a great way to begin this process—it helps ideas become tangible, reminders for whenever you need a little extra push. Seeing our goals written out gives us a visual nudge of what we are working towards.

Also, be clear in what your goal actually is.

Your initial goal might be to lose weight. But your real goal actually might be is to feel comfortable in your own skin. It could be to feel more comfortable to take part in things you have felt limited in due to your weight.

See the difference?

By the way, I can so relate to the wanting to lose weight goal. This was mine at one time. And so, I lost the weight that had been plaguing me for so long. You can read about how I did that HERE if you wish.

Be SMART about your goals and resolutions

The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based. Many successful people use this to set realistic goals that are easy to track and create measurable progress. For example, if you want to lose weight this year, don’t just say “I want to lose weight.” Instead, make your goal more specific by trying something like “I want to lose 10 pounds by June 1st by cutting sugar out of my diet.” Or maybe, “I am going to exercise 3 days a week.” By being specific about your goal, you can easily measure your progress along the way and hold yourself accountable. If you’re struggling with striving towards your goals, it may be time to reflect on them and make sure that they are SMART. You can then revise your resolutions if needed.

Break your New Year’s Resolutions down

Sometimes, the resolutions we set for yourself can quickly become intimidating. You can easily feel overwhelmed, unsure of how to move forward. If you’re finding that your goal is too broad or too complicated, try breaking it down into smaller milestones. These tinier goals are able to be achieved in shorter bursts of time, keeping you motivated as you check off each mini-goal along your journey towards success. Having a goal that is too intimidating can stop you from even trying in the first place. Instead, take it one step at a time—you got this!

Create an environment of support

Another essential part of staying motivated is surrounding yourself with people who will motivate you and encourage you when things get tough. They don’t have to be working towards the same goals as you—they just need to be upbeat and supportive of where you’re headed. Having someone in your corner who understands what you’re trying to achieve can help keep discouragement at bay when things inevitably don’t go to plan. Try finding an accountability buddy or joining a support group. Both can be invaluable sources of motivation throughout 2023!

And of course, try to limit your exposure to those who will sabotage your efforts (because you likely have these kinds of people in your life). Oftentimes these people don’t even realize they are doing this. Either let them know they are not helping you – or do what you can to limit the time you’re around them.

Now that we’ve discussed what to do when we fail, let’s talk more about some strategies to avoid falling flat your our face in the first place.

As hard as it may be to accept sometimes, failure is a part of life. While we can’t always avoid it, we may be able to set ourselves up for success. It’s not as intimidating as it might sound—all it takes is a few simple steps.

Know thyself

First and foremost, it is essential that you understand yourself. The first step towards achieving your goals and avoiding failure is getting to know yourself; your strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, values, and more. Knowing yourself will help you understand how you should maneuver and the most efficient way to move towards your goals.

Set realistic goals

Once you have a better understanding of yourself, setting realistic goals becomes easier because you have a grasp on what works best for you. Whether you’re setting goals for the first time or you’re deciding if you need to alter the goals you have already set for yourself, you should take some time to look back and reflect on what will bring you best results. This will help you avoid running out of steam straight out of the gate. After all, you’ll know that the goals you’ve chosen work for you.

Develop good habits and routines

Habits are very powerful tools when used correctly. They can help form new pathways in our brains and lead us closer to success over time in small, manageable steps. Consistency is key! Establishing a routine can also aid you in improving productivity since it provides structure to your days. This structure makes it easier to focus on the tasks at hand without feeling overwhelmed or distracted by the other things going on around you. Eventually, these good habits will become second nature.

Failing at your New Year’s Resolutions can be disheartening. But you can be encouraged knowing that those feelings don’t have to be permanent.

By improving your mindset first, you’ll be primed and ready to take action. Keep in mind, not all of those actions will take you forward. Backslips are to be expected. It’s what you do with yourself when those backflips happen that matter.

Failure doesn’t have to be a stopping point – it can just be a stop along the way.

Whatever your New Year’s Resolutions may be this year, don’t be afraid to work hard and strive for success. And then, don’t be too discouraged to pick yourself up and try again when needed.

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