Why we can’t make our New Year’s resolutions and how to choose the right one

In just a few days, it will be 2022, and for many, that means this is the week to solidify New Year’s resolutions. But why is it so difficult to come up with a solution?

According to sports and performance psychologist Dr. Haley Perlus, there are a number of common pitfalls that people run into when trying to find a good New Year’s resolution.

Whether it’s choosing an unrealistic goal or going into it with inner failure, there are ways to combat these issues and keep an eye on the prize.

Perlus told in a phone interview: “Any New Year’s resolution that works is something you’re excited about. “And you believe it – because if you’re doing it for someone else, it’s not going to work.”


The first big mistake, Perlus says, is to make the solution too big of a change or the goal too big.

“We bite more than we can chew,” she says.

“The best New Year rituals and resolutions will be those at your current level, or higher, of capabilities.”

She defines these oversized goals as goals that are far from the usual rituals.

“Losing 15 pounds, exercising five days a week, running a marathon, […] going to bed at nine every night, waking up at 6 a.m. every morning when you normally get up at seven — those are not the goals I set for the new year,” she said.

If you want to set a proper resolution, it should be smaller and more attainable, she advises.

“Every morning, I would start drinking a glass of water,” she suggests. “If I woke up at 6:30, I would wake up at 6:20 now and […] without even forcing myself to get up and move, I would start setting the alarm at 6:20 instead of 6:30 and play some motivational music and then see where you go.

“These are daily rituals. Make sure that […] you add vegetables to each meal instead of changing the whole meal altogether. “

This is not to say that if you put all your heart into one big specific goal, like running a marathon, you should throw it away.

But working toward that goal will then require specific, incremental changes, such as a 15-minute walk a day, to turn that big goal into achievable chunks.


Others make the mistake of getting caught up in the excitement of a solution, says Perlus, and the initial motivation quickly fades.

“Everybody wants it to be January 1st – new year, new motivation, everyone working together. So I want to do that. But then when you actually get to work, you lack commitment.”

Offering a solution just to say you did will likely not lead to successful implementation of that solution. Instead, use the new year as an impetus to make a change or project that you really want for yourself.

Thinking about how the resolution makes you feel is one way to see if you really want to do it.

“There is excitement with anxiety, and confidence with anxiety,” she says. “Anxiety is a high level of negative stress where you feel overwhelmed and when you have doubts. If you’re worried about your New Year’s revolutions, I’d say don’t book them.

“If you’re feeling anxious, sort them out.”


One major pitfall that isn’t talked about much, says Perlus, is making decisions half-heartedly, thinking that failure is inevitable.

“We know that people fail to deal with their New Year,” she said. “So if I fail, it’s no big deal because everyone else does too. Almost like this social proof aspect of it. I’m fine. It doesn’t mean I’m a failure because everyone fails at New Year’s resolutions.”

Just to be clear, you’re not a failure if you don’t tackle the New Year – but going into resolution in anticipation that you won’t keep it up is not the way to tackle success.

Perlus says she’s failed her New Year’s resolutions before, and no one is perfect. In the past, she has made decisions to be more active on social media, but has failed.

“That’s what I’m doing for myself,” she said. One problem she has is trying to work on too many platforms at once, while now she focuses more closely on one or two.


What you have to do, Perlus says, is flip the script over.

When we set goals, we think about what we want to achieve and plan what we will do in the future to achieve the goal. But when the time for action comes, it’s easy to come up with a list of reasons why today isn’t a good time.

“What you need to do to help solve your New Year’s problem is come up with a story that counters it,” says Perlus.

“For example, ‘I want to exercise after work, but I’m too tired.’ That is a very normal thing. You need to come up with a story that will then counter that. So the new story would be, ‘it’s true that I’ve been sitting in front of the computer all day, resting physically. My body is not tired. My feelings are. So let me move my body and rest my emotions. ‘ So you’re literally turning a ‘but’ into ‘the truth is.’

Perlus’s experience working with athletes on their mental toughness has helped her work alone.

“I am my biggest customer,” she said. “I am always trying to learn and grow. And every day I find myself […] thinking ‘what if,’ or ‘maybe I can’t,’ or that ‘but’ story. So I’m constantly using my own strategies to help me. ”

It’s hard to think of positive goals for the future during this ongoing pandemic, she admits. But focusing on the inspiration of those who are achieving, or reflecting on the accomplishments you’ve made in the past despite the hardships, can help re-center you.

“Instead of focusing on all the ways and all the reasons and all the times you failed, focus on all the times you have been successful and draw from it, and then you will achieve it. success very quickly,” she suggested.

“So instead of setting a goal that you’ll be on time for every meeting for the rest of the year, maybe you can just make sure you’re on time today. And now you just had a success and then guess what? You can use it. You did it – now you can. And then you use that to push you to be on time tomorrow. ”


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