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Why Do New Year Resolutions Fail?

Plus 6 things you can do differently this year to be successful

Why do our New Year Resolutions fail

Every year we celebrate the end of the old and the welcoming of the new. The whole “New Year new me” mentality gives many people a sense of optimism for the future and the hope of change for the better. Unfortunately, a recent 2020 study shows that only about 20%-40% of people are successful in pursuing their goals at the end of the year.

One of the biggest reasons cited for failure to achieve one’s resolution goals is that their goals were unrealistic to begin with. If I am a recently divorced single mom, it might not be realistic for me to try and learn the saxophone, get a full-time job, and go from being obese to running a marathon all by July. I would be better off focusing on my relationship with my child and getting involved with some healthy activities I can do with kids.

Another common reason resolutions don’t work out is that people fail to create a system to keep track of their goals or log progress. They might write it in their notebook once, then forget about it in a few weeks.

Lastly, many people fail at their resolutions because they have too many goals they are working on in too many different categories. Like I said before, you can’t master the saxophone and go from the couch to a marathon all in the same few months. Each goal requires time to put into it for you to be successful. If you allocate too much time to goals, your daily habits and routines will fall apart. Leading you to burn out and drop off quickly.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

It’s one thing to want something; it’s a different thing to work toward achieving it. You can dream about going to grad school, but if you never research degrees or apply, you will never go. It’s the same with fat loss. You can want it, but if you never work towards improving your metabolism, increasing your activity, and changing your diet, then you will never see the results you want, no matter how badly you want them.

Follow along with these critical tips on how actually to plan for success with your resolutions!

Tip 1. Start with a good target

You need to understand what you are working towards and truly dial it in. A big part of this comes from knowing yourself and not letting others dictate what you should do to make you feel complete with how you are living your life.

Here are some books from Amazon with affiliate links that I would recommend you read if you want to get to know yourself better this year. All these books are ones I have personally read and recommend to anyone who is seeking self-improvement!

  1. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
  2. Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday (as well as his other books)
  3. What Got Your Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith
  4. Mindset: New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
  5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People- Stephen Covey

I read a lot, and I know that not everyone has time to read. If you are busy but still want to get wisdom from these books, most of those affiliate links on Amazon should include an Audiobook version for you!

Tip 2. Creating a good SMART goal

A SMART goal is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For you to make a successful long-term outcome goal, you will need to make your goal SMART. See Figure 1.

Figure 1


Your goal needs to state precisely what you are trying to accomplish. The who, what, where, and why.


How will you evaluate the success of your goal? If your goal is related to your health, you can monitor data points like blood work numbers improving, your weight on the scale, your body fat percentage, body circumference measurements, or even your health scores from smart fit wearable devices.


Is this goal possible? Working with a professional like our clinic’s medical provider and nutritionist can help you understand if your goal is possible.


How does this goal tie in with your overall mission and goals in life? Do you know why you are pursuing this goal? Does it matter to you in the grand scheme of things? Is your why strong enough to carry you through the hard times?


Set a target date for your goal with the help of a professional. Include deadlines, different dates for mini goals leading up to them, and the frequency of targets achieved.

You never want to have a general generic goal. These are unclear and will increase your likelihood of failure. You always want to build your goals around SMART goals. A general goal might sound like “I want to lose weight”. Whereas a SMART goal might sound like, “I want to lose 3 inches on my waist and 10% body fat by my wedding in July. Because I want to look and feel my best on my wedding day. I will be using MD Diet to track/ measure my progress.”

Tip 3. Know the difference between your outcome goal and your process goal

The outcome goal is what you want to achieve. This is your SMART goal that will manifest at the end of the journey. Your process goals are the things you do daily, weekly, and monthly to make your outcome goal happen.

Essentially, your process goals are the habits you need to create in order for your SMART goal to work out. See Figure 2.

Figure 2

To use our SMART goal example we wrote above, we might want to try having some process goals such as:

  • Sleep 7-9 hours every night to support my energy and recovery
  • Drink 64 oz. of water every day for my health and energy
  • Eat a serving of protein with every meal and snack daily
  • Every day eat 2-3 servings of vegetables
  • Get 150 minutes of cardio weekly
  • Do resistance training 2x a week
  • Take my daily medications and vitamins
  • See my doctor/ nutritionist monthly for follow-ups and modifications to keep me on track, so I stay motivated and don’t get bored
  • See the medical assistants at MD Diet weekly for accountability and always come with a list of questions for them, so I am prepared

For help with sticking with your process goals, AKA habits, I highly recommend the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. This is another Amazon associate link, but you can get the audiobook or kindle version if you prefer!

Tip 4. Focus on the process, not the outcome

Vision boards are great, but if you spend all your time dreaming and wishing and not enough time taking action, then you will not be set up for success. See Figure 3. If you can fall in love with the process, you will appreciate the habits it takes to achieve your goal.

This doesn’t just help you achieve your goal. It also helps you learn to love doing the things that got you to your goal. What if you could learn to enjoy cooking at home and exercise? What if getting enough sleep was just part of your routine and who you are?

One of the easiest ways to fall in love with the process is to create some rituals and rewards around them. That might mean watching your favorite show or listening to something you enjoy while doing cardio. Maybe you buy a really cute apron and set up your kitchen in a way that inspires you, so it becomes a place you enjoy spending time. A relaxing bubble bath is a great way to encourage your brain to wind down and get off your screens before bed.

Figure 3

FOCUS ON THE PROCESS. Day in and day out. One day you will wake up and realize you are moving towards your goal with ease and that you will be able to get excited about new goals after that.

Tip 5. Modify when needed

Figuring out what you want, setting SMART goals, and creating process goals that support your outcome goal are all really easy to write down. The reality of the application is often quite different.

Life gets in the way, and unexpected things and messes get in the way of perfection. In fact, there is a famous saying that goes, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” Meaning if we try to do it all perfectly all the time, we will never get much done at all. 

Take Figure 4 as an example. The textbook example is always nice and neat, with everything orderly and clean. However, the reality of things is chaotic and messy. If you put 3 bowls of food in front of 3 puppies, it will be total madness that ensues. We need to be ok with this and understand how each of our own unique challenges and messes will affect us.

Figure 4

To help stay on track during the ups and downs. I like to use the dial method! That is a technique that allows you to slow down or ramp up the intensity depending on the different variables in your life. See Figure 5 as a reminder that there will always need to be adjustments along the way as you work toward success.

Figure 5

This is one reason why we have our patients at the clinic come in weekly for a 15 minute check-in with the medical assistants. This is not required, but we do see that our clients who do this are more successful in achieving their goals.

One thing you can do to help you modify each week is to stay on track. Is to keep track of your daily process goals. This way you can track your rate of success. To see change, you need to be at 80% compliance or above on your weekly goals. If you see yourself failing at these process goals for more than 2 weeks at a time. You can log the reasons why you were unsuccessful, and come up with a plan of action to resolve it next week.

Take for example drinking water. This is one of the easiest habits to change in the sense that it is free, painless, and takes no time to do. Yet so many people struggle with this one. If you struggle with drinking water on week 1, you can journal why you did not achieve the goal. You might write down that you don’t enjoy the taste of water, you keep forgetting, or you get too busy at your desk to get up and get a drink. After that, you can come up with a plan of action to eliminate those excuses. You could start squeezing lemon into your water for flavor, set timers to remind you to drink water, or even get a bigger water jug to keep at your desk.

When you start identifying your issues or barriers to success. Then you can start creating plans and structure around those problems so that you can be more successful with your daily process goals.

Sometimes our issues or barriers are not something we can overcome this week or month. These types of issues should result in your modifying your goals and plan. (Remember the REALISTIC part of SMART.

Tip 6. Get help

Lastly, you should absolutely have help! It has been proven again and again that the people who achieve their health goals have support. This can be a lot of things, like:

  • A supportive spouse or roommate who is in agreement with what groceries will be kept at the house to support your health goals
  • A friend who can help you stay accountable and will participate in these habits with you. Maybe you carpool to the gym or help each other with meal prep. It can also be as simple as having a friend who checks in with you regularly to make sure you are on track.
  • A supportive group of people going through the same thing as you. At MD Diet, we have an online community of people who are all in the same boat. They can ask questions and receive support from others who are further along than they are. It also helps the more experienced members to stay on track when they become role models.
  • A team of professionals like the MD Diet medical provider can help you with medical weight loss as well as our nutritionists and medical assistants who will support you with your diet and regular check-ins.

To sum it up

  1. Resolutions fail for 3 main reasons. These being 1. Unrealistic goals 2. No plan or system 3. People get spread too thin with too many goals at once.
  2. You need to start by understanding who you are and the motivation behind your goals.
  3. SMART goals are the ideal outcome goal. Create a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
  4. Create daily process goals/ habits to support your long-term outcome SMART goal.
  5. Fall in love with the routine and the process instead of fixating on the end result.
  6. Modify when you need to. You can change things up without quitting.
  7. Seek as much help and support as you can from your friends, loved ones, family, and professionals.

We hope you got a lot out of this article! We would love to see you at our clinic so we can be that support person for you and help you develop some solid resolutions and goals for the new year! Our clinic provides medical weight loss solutions making it easier than ever to overcome the barriers that have been holding you back from achieving success. Call us today to get started! 801-293-3100