How Not to Fail at Your Resolutions this Year


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Happy New Year, friends!

Statistics show that roughly 80 percent of new year resolutions fail by the second week of February.

Most of us choose new year resolutions we know are difficult. Usually we have attempted them previously, or have ruminated over making these changes or adopting these new habits before.

Many of us have also had the experience of accomplishing something difficult, or overcoming a challenge previously and know how satisfying it feels to be able to say, and celebrate, that we did it.

If we know it feels amazing to accomplish something challenging, and we recognize change is difficult — regardless of how much we want to make it — how come so many of our attempts at achieving our new year resolutions don’t succeed?

I came across a quote a few months ago, and I think it sheds some light on this quandary:

“Difficulty is desirable… but it is not always desired.”— Angela Duckworth

Essentially, this is an alliterative, clever and more succinct way of saying while we know anything worth having, earning or being won’t come easy and will require a certain amount of effort and sacrifice on our part, we struggle with fully embracing the “work” required to achieve whatever that difficult thing is.

Here’s where I’ve found our resolutions often go awry:

  • We have unrealistic expectations of the process for achieving the resolution.
  • We were not specific enough about the resolution.
  • We were not mentally prepared to begin working toward the resolution.
  • We have overcommitted ourselves with this resolution, thus underdelivering on the outcome.
  • We have too many competing “priorities,” many of which might be directly at odds with the resolution — this may include our careers… YIKES.
  • One or more of the above.

Insert the importance of knowing your “why” and the power of deep reflection. In working toward any goal — personal or professional — know your driving motivations and be deeply honest with yourself about where you are willing and able to adjust and sacrifice to make the difficult become as attainable as it is desirable.

If you’re off track with your 2020 resolutions, all is not lost. I invite you to use whatever day it is you’re reading this post as “New Year: Part Two.”

Here are some tips to take on your goals for 2020 like a pro:

  • Make the mental shift of setting an intention vs. a resolution: Language matters. We “resolve” issues, and you are not an issue to be fixed. With an intention, you allow yourself to set sight on a pursuit and take aim at a plan. Much more empowering, am I right?
  • Write down your intention: Ah, the power of putting pen to paper. Write your intention down and keep it visible at all times. I’ve made mine the wallpaper on my phone, and I write it at the top of my weekly layout in my paper planner.
  • Focus on your habits: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are goals achieved over night. Focus your attention on the things you do every day. This will give you great insight into whether your daily habits are working for or against you in meeting a goal.
  • Pair and track your habits: Pair a new, more helpful habit with something you are accustomed to doing each day. If your intention is to move more in 2020, try doing squats or stretching as you brush your teeth in the morning before work. Track the days you successfully link those habits.
  • Embrace accountability: Whether you find an accountability buddy, hire a wellness coach or participate in a company-wide goal challenge, accountability is critical to successfully adapting to our habits and creating new ones.
Angelica Harris
Originally a native of Buffalo, NY, Angelica "Angie" Harris (She, Her, Hers) is a certified health and wellness coach and serves as the assistant director of wellness. Angie received her B.A. in sociology from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and her M.A. in higher education administration from the University of Maryland, College Park. Angie currently serves as the Wellness Specialist for the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. She is passionate about using her skillset to facilitate reflection, provide empowerment, and inspire action with her students and clients. as well as using her experience creating and building successful and thriving wellness programs and interventions to help other colleges and universities do the same.

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