Top 5 reasons why most New Year’s Resolutions fail

By:  David Lee, Life / Health / Executive Coach

Happy New Years everyone!  As always at the beginning of a new year comes the new year resolutions.  Without question the number one resolutions that are made are health related ones.  Wanting to lose weight, exercise more, or eat better. 

I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for 30 years and have seen the trends year after year.  Without fail, January is always the most difficult month to work out as the gyms are always packed (obviously pre-covid times).  Some of the health clubs that I worked for would sell as many as 80 percent of all of their memberships in the month of January alone!  As someone who regularly uses the gym, I would always be annoyed at how busy the gyms are and how I would have to wait to use all of the equipment.  However, I would always be patient and tell myself not to worry, as all of the new people in the gym will be gone by February.  Unfortunately for those new people, I am never wrong.

However, resolutions are not limited to just health and fitness.  Many other popular resolutions are made including improving finances, relationships, mental health, quitting bad habits, and finally finishing stubborn to do lists that never get done.  Regardless of what the resolutions are, the disappointing reality is that the clear majority of them tend to not stick.  The percentage of resolutions that stick long term are at best less than 10 percent.  From my experience I would even say less than 5 percent.

Why do most people fail?  In short, it’s mindset.  With everything you accomplish in life, 80% is psychology, and 20% is strategy and execution.  So how do we make sure that you don’t fall victim to this stat, and how can you become the top 5 percent that succeed?  Below are my top 5 points I want to highlight to ensure that you don’t fail, all associated with making sure you have the right psychology.

1. Having Finite vs Infinite goals

Going back to health, a finite goal for many people would be to for example lose 10 lbs.  The problem with finite goals is they all have a finish line.  If a finite goal is to clean out your closets, then they work.  However, for finite goals like losing 10 lbs, the problem is if you are successful in reaching them you will do whatever it takes to reach it no matter how horrible you think it is.  Then once you cross this created finish line, you will go back to your old ways and not only gain the 10 lbs back, but sometimes even more.  Nobody who runs a marathon and crosses the finish line decides to then run another 5 miles!

Many finite goals are also unsustainable, doing extreme things to meet this short term goal, but is not realistic to keep up on a regular basis. 

Many finite goals are also not ideal goals to be aiming for.  If losing 10 lbs is your goal, and you achieved it by doing things damaging to your health like starving yourself, depriving yourself of proper nutrition, trying fad diets that can be damaging to your body, and overexercising creating too much oxidative stress, then even if you achieve them, you are actual worse off for doing so.

A great infinite goal would be for example to be the healthiest version of yourself possible.  If this is your goal, there is no finish line, and your approach and mindset is very different.  The natural side effect of this goal is losing a lot of excess body fat, likely even more than the 10 lbs most people aim for.

Always have a goal of growth in any area of your life.  If your mindset is CANI (Constant And Never ending Improvement), then you will always challenge yourself, and always improve which will leave you ultimately more fulfilled in life.

2. Not properly utilizing Pain and Pleasure

All human behavior is based on this concept of Pain or Pleasure.  To give you an example, if I tell you that I want you to cluck like a chicken, most of you would tell me where to go, and refuse to do it.  If I put a gun to your head and said cluck like a chicken or I’ll shoot you, all of you would do it!  I have inflicted extreme pain which has caused you to do as I say.

On the flip side of that, if I said cluck like a chicken, and if you do so I’ll give you a million dollars, all of you would be clucking your hearts out!  I have now introduced extreme pleasure which highly motivated you to do as I say.  The reason why most of us don’t change our behavior, is because we neither have enough pain, nor enough pleasure to move.  Most of us sit in this luke warm middle where nothing gets done.  It’s neither painful enough or pleasurable enough to do anything about it.  We must force ourselves out of luke warm and create leverage on ourselves more towards pain and pleasure.

The problem when we look at our resolutions is we associate pain and pleasure with the wrong things.  For example, one of my favorite foods used to be pizza.  I loved pizza and would be a connoisseur of all of the pizza joints.  Once I realized how bad pizza really was for my health, I tried to give it up.  This was challenging because I associated pizza with pleasure, and not eating it with pain as it would deprive me of all the joy I had eating it.  Pizza did cause me a lot of pain as it would make me bloated, inflamed, fat, and rob me of my energy and vitality.  However, the moment of pleasure while I was eating it overrode all of the long term pain with it, so I kept eating it and couldn’t give it up.

It wasn’t until I flipped the pain and pleasure that I could freely give up pizza.  I now associate eating pizza with pain for all of the reason listed above, and associate pleasure with not eating pizza, and instead eating healthy whole foods that gave me so much energy, vitality, and making me feel truly satiated.  Make what you want to change so painful if you don’t, and picture all of the amazing joy you would have if you could make that change.  Today, I truly dislike pizza and rarely eat it.  Not just for a month or however long of a finite goal I have created to cut it out.  Pizza gives me nothing but pain and it wasn’t until I shifted my mind to see it that way could I make a lasting change.

3. Not turning your Shoulds into Musts

This also ties into the pain vs pleasure principle.  Most people say they should do something, and as long as your resolution stays in the should category, that’s exactly where it will remain.  No one ever acts on something they should do.  It’s only until they make their shoulds a must, is when change actually happens.

If you had to pay rent, and you were short on cash this month, you MUST make more money otherwise you would be homeless.  If your landlord wasn’t strict on collecting rent, then you likely wouldn’t pay the rent as you only SHOULD pay your rent as there would be no negative consequences if you didn’t.

Whatever your resolution is, make it a must!  No more negotiating with yourself.  Do it no matter what and take massive and immediate action to ensure that it happens.

4. Not being flexible

I’m never super militant about anything.  For example, If I’m at a pizza party, I’m going to have some pizza, and not feel guilty about it, or hate myself for it.  I’m also not going to throw in the towel, tell myself “crap I blew it” and just binge on pizza all the time now because I failed at not being able to stay away from pizza.  Does this sound familiar to you?  Yes we’ve all been there!  Don’t try to be perfect with your plan or super rigid with it.  We are all humans, we are far from perfect, so stop holding yourself to an impossible standard.  If you messed up, shrug it off, and keep moving forward.  Continue to grow, continue to improve, and stick to your infinite sustainable goals.

5. Not getting accountability

OK, here’s my sales pitch.  The best way to keep yourself accountable to your resolutions and make sure they stick long term is to hire a coach.  If you’re having a hard time finding a great one I know just the guy😊.  But for real, if you’re dead serious about meeting your resolutions and have truly turned your shoulds into musts, commit to it, put your money where your mouth is, and invest in making sure this happens.  Sure you can have friends and family keep you accountable, but they won’t be spending the time with you that I will, they won’t have the tenacity that I have, and they won’t have the training or expertise that I also bring to the table.  You will not fail on my watch, and hiring me will be the best investment you will ever make!  If I wasn’t so confident about it, I genuinely wouldn’t be suggesting it.


I personally never make new years resolutions.  Why?  Because if I need to make a change, I don’t wait for the calendar year to go up by a digit to do so.  Let me ask you one quick question before I go.  How long does it take to make a change?  The real answer is in an instant.  It may take you 10 years to get to that instant, but the actual change happens that quickly.

Why can I make a change that quickly now when before it would take me several years to do so?  It’s because I have gone through extensive training for myself to learn how to do so, and I now take many of my clients through the same training, some of which is described in this article.

Don’t let another year, and another failed resolution pass you by.  Your life is too short and too important to do so.  Read the article over several times, shift your mindset, get accountability, and take massive and immediate action!

If you have any questions, feel free to put them in the comment section below.

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