6 Steps to Overcome the Failure Mechanism of New Year‘s Resolutions

Personal Development
Chasing Carrot

It is an old ritual – on the 1st day of the year you reflect on what you didn’t achieved last year, and you make a stern commitment to do it this time; this is the year you will keep your promise. However, 2 to 4 weeks after that stern resolution all your drive is gone, and you shake your head in despair, knowing that you just don’t have what it takes to make the changes you desire so much.

Does that sound familiar? Well, no matter how successful you are, nearly all of us had that experience. And most of us are continuing to fall into the same trap again on Jan, 1st.

But why is it happening that way? Why are you with your stern resolutions attracting your failure?


Yes – you are attracting your failure through your resolutions. If you want to stop doing it, read on.

The 5 main reasons why New Year‘s resolutions fail

  1. They are a reflection of failure: You reflect your last year. You notice all the things you wanted to change and haven’t managed to change. You’ll especially notice the things you hadn’t changed for years and had already in your last New Year‘s resolution. These you’ll label as failure and feel bad about your lack of motivation, willpower and perseverance.

  2. Not following through is an option: You state your New Year‘s resolution to change the things you want to change this time, but your subconscious knows from the experience of the last year that New Year‘s resolutions are not important enough for you to establish a real commitment. So what’s the difference between a resolution and a commitment? It is all about making a real decision. A resolution is a statement of preference. So a New Year‘s resolution of “I will make this happen” really means “I want this to happen. It would be nice, but I don’t want to work too hard for it and if I don’t make it, then I’ll be ok with that too.” What you are really doing with this is protecting yourself from pain. Not achieving your goals equals pain and therefore, your subconscious helps you by realizing that your New Year‘s resolutions are only statements of preference and not real decisions. So you leave not achieving your goals as an option for you, to escape the possible pain of not making it. The problem is that through this focus on pain protection, you are attracting the pain you want to protect yourself from in the first place. Why? Simply, because all energy follows focus, and if you are constantly afraid, that you might fail, then you’ll increase your chances of failure.

  3. They are a triggered failure mechanism: If you’ve done New Year‘s resolution for a while and had your share of failings through them, chances are that your subconscious has built up a neuro-connection that triggers a failure mechanism with you making New Year‘s resolution. Yes, you could guarantee your own failures through the act of stating your resolution. That’s why it’s good to break that pattern and stop repeating it. Don’t make New Year‘s resolutions this time if you’ve failed in the past.

  4. The believed effort of time and energy overwhelms you every year: Let’s face it, you haven’t followed through last year, simply because you thought that the end result would be nice, but doing the necessary steps would be a real pain. Very often we blow up the believed effort of time and energy to such an extent in our minds, that we never make the first step. It is too much hassle for us. But very often change doesn’t need these big investments of time and energy. All it needs are simple steps repeated. If you want to learn to play a new instrument, you don’t have to spend hours per day. Playing for 10 minutes or just making a commitment to just sit in front of your piano and opening your lecture notes is all it takes to get you started.

  5. They are not backed up by a plan: Trust me your initial motivation will only keep you up for about 14 to 30 days. Statistically most of the New Year‘s resolutions are broken or abandoned at that time. That means that from February to December you’ll live your life with a broken promise. No wonder that you’re miserable most of the time. Well, if motivation is not enough to make it, you need to create a plan, that will allow you to follow through, pick you up if you’ve fallen of the wagon and allow you to grow into forming a habit. Not having a plan that includes life getting in your way, and you failing to follow through on some days is a surefire way to losing in the end big time.

The Success Mechanism or How to Make Change Happen in 2010

Here is how to make change happen in 2010:

  1. Don’t make a New Year‘s resolution at all: Break the failure pattern. Don’t repeat the ritual. Don’t do it on the same date, time, location or what else reminds you of the last time you did it. Change those external stimuli.

  2. Decide and don’t leave not making it as an option: As long as not following through is an option, then you haven’t made a real decision and chances are you are failing in 2010 again. Don’t let that happen. Decide for yourself that not making it is no option and that not making the necessary (maybe daily) steps is not an option.

  3. Define the costs of not making it: Up until now you’ve sugar-coated the real costs of not following through. Simply because your subconscious wants to avoid pain doesn’t mean that it is necessary. Yes, you can use pain to overcome an even bigger pain in the future. But if you don’t realize the long-term pain, your subconscious will only focus on short-term pleasure and short-term pain. Yes, that chocolate will give you short-term pleasure and will help you overcome the immediate short-term pain. But it will add to the long-term pain of staying overweight. So get clear, how much it will cost you (financially, emotionally, physically, in your relationship, etc.) in the long run if you don’t change.

  4. Define Your Criteria of Change: Do you really know what the desired change would look like? Or do you have just a vague idea about it. Well, vague isn’t good enough if you want to get concrete results. Define how the desired change would look like. Could you measure it in some way? How would you feel if you get there? Make it crystal clear to you.

  5. Define your “Why”-Factor: You need to define your motives to bring you through the process. But don’t stop with yourself. Why are you making it for yourself and for others as well? Who would also benefit from it beside you? Including other peoples benefits could bring in a huge boost of energy for you.

  6. Make an action plan & prepare yourself for failure:

    • Your action plan should start fairly simple. Remember that you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with a big start. Start with some simple steps each day. Maybe spend 10 minutes each day to form a new habit. Take a look at my article The Homeopathic Principle of Change.
    • Your action plan should also include the idea of pleasure. How can you make the experience itself as pleasurable as possible? Including that is a powerful mechanism, because once you learned to enjoy the steps, following through becomes easy and automatic. You should also visualize yourself smiling and enjoying the steps before you do them. Smile also while you do the steps. This will link the production of certain hormones with the steps. After several days this neuro-connection will make you do the steps automatically (you’re now pleasure driven) and you have much more energy to start changing other things as well.
    • Envision obstacles that might come up and create a plan on how to tackle them. What would happen, if you don’t have the perfect environment or if work stress increases? How could you still maintain your steps? How could you make sure you get back on the wagon, once you’ve fallen off it? Well, you think that would be negative thinking, but not preparing for temporary struggle means guaranteeing ultimate failure. Believe me, there will come a time, when you don’t want to do the exercise, there will come a time, when life gets in your way, and there will be days, when you don’t follow through. It’s not a question whether that happens, but what you do when it happens. Be prepared. Really write down, what you can do to get you back up on the wagon once you’ve fallen off it.

Once you’ve written all of this down, you only need to start with a smile. Don’t forget that you want to enjoy the things you do in 2010.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

10 comments… add one

  • This is really a superb post, a few people are doing this kind of thing right now for obvious reasons but I hope this one gets the attention it deserves! Really useful! I’m in the middle of my year-end journey, digging a bit deeper than usual this year for various reasons, 2010 will be a big one for me – so thanks for some perspective on it!

    .-= ´s last blog ..Goals, part 1 (MSNW Contest post #1) =-.

    • Patrick

      Tobias, I hope these principles will catapult you and your projects into a splendid 2010. Have an awesome time.

  • Patrick, I especially like your suggestion to imagine how to deal with obstacles that could prevent me from my daily goal . It is all too easy to just throw up my hands and put it off until tomorrow. If I have a plan already, then that is half the battle. I am working on some resolutions now. The first one is to increase my creation of art journal sketches and paintings consistently over the next two months. Now that makes me smile! Thank you for a timely and encouraging post.

    • Patrick

      Beth, I hope your art project will become highly successful in 2010. And keep on smiling while envisioning its success – it makes the necessary steps so much easier – even the ones that might not be easy at first for an artist.

      Have a great 2010.

  • Hi Patrick,

    Thank you for the thought provoking article. I am a prodigious goal setter, part of the reason why I embrace minimalism is so that I have the resources to put toward my goals.

    I like how you mentioned creating a plan. As a project manager, I’ve decided this year to create project plans for each of my major goals including milestones etc. This process doesn’t work for every type of goal but it is good for things like losing weight, creating a book or product, etc.

    I also like to use Structural tension charts a la Robert Fritz which help me identify what my milestones and tasks are. Basically, you put your major goal at the top of the page, your current reality at the bottom and you work your way from the top of the page, down, identifying each preceding step to complete the goal, then assign dates to things.

    Sometimes we have to treat our own lives like a business and the success or failure of Charley Enterprises, for example, depends on meeting our goals. I realize that puts tremendous pressure on the person, and in fact, flies in the face of many minimalist trends, but for me, I understand the corporate environement very well and it helps to draw the analogy to my own life.

    I can appreciate your advice to not set goals but my stubborness is winning out here and am going to work toward some significant stretch goals this year.

    Happy Holidays to you,

    -Charley

    .-= ´s last blog ..Charley’s Annual Review =-.

    • Patrick

      Charley, since both of us have a business background that involves project planning and managing using tools that come from such a background (aka Structural Tension Charts or Reversed Planning Methods) come handy for Personal Development also. Once you’ve seen there power in a team effort like a business project all you have to understand is that Personal Development is also a team effort – you’re inner team. And like in the real world, your inner parts don’t always agree and internal communication and organization is just as necessary in your personal life as it is in a corporate world. Therefore I really like the idea of treating your life like a business – aka Patrick Inc. or Patrick Enterprise.

      Oh and don’t get me wrong – I am all pro goal setting – but New Years resolution are 99.9% of the time not goals (which have a decision and a plan to achieve it behind them) but merely statements of preference – hence they are lacking the power and determination of a true goal.

      <

      p>Have a great holiday too with your family (give your triplets lots of love from me too, I really liked your updates on their life) and a fantastic year 2010 with your life, your family and both of your blogs.

      BTW I highly recommend Charleys blogs You, simplified and Scribe for the tribe (which is his now more personal blog)

  • Hey Patrick,

    That’s a very useful and comprehensive list of tips for doing creating lasting resolutions that have the power to be followed through.

    I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thanks for all your posts this year, it’s been a pleasure discovering your blog and I’m looking forward to more of the same in 2010! All the best.

    .-= ´s last blog ..For 2010 – 10 Unusual Places To Get Inspired For The New Year =-.

    • Patrick

      Amid, thank you very much, it’s for people like you that I enjoy doing it so much.

      I have set my own goals (not resolutions) to make 2010 an even better year for UYM and for my readers too. Expect not only the same or better quality of information but also new products coming out in 2010 too. I’ll keep you updated here.

      Have an awesome 2010.

  • Happy New Year to you Patrick, I hope you had a great one.

    This is possibly the best post I have read on the new years resolutions train, when you said ‘Don’t make a New Year‘s resolution at all’ that said it all. I think resolutions should be made throughout the year and not on one day, when traditionally we fail at keeping the resolutions.

    Have a brilliant 2010 Patrick

    .-= ´s last blog ..Cultivating Your Idea Field for 2010 =-.

    • Patrick

      Steven, thanks very much. I totally agree that probably New Year is the worst time to define your goals. It should be a natural ongoing process throughout the year.

      I wish you an awesome 2010 with your fantastic blog.

Leave a Comment