It’s January — that time of the year when peoples’ motivation is highest to make changes — get thinner, fitter, earn more money, stop smoking, reduce drinking, rid themselves of toxic friends, and generally, just be happier — you get the picture.  All well-intended resolutions and goals, yet, by February, these are usually faltering, or faltered. There’s a reason they do – actually, three main reasons that I’ve seen over the years. Below I’ve outlined these resolution killers and what you can do about them.

1. Your resolutions aren’t about you.  

That’s right; they aren’t actually made out of a strong, burning intrinsic desire to make changes in your life. Instead, they’re driven by trends, fads, magazine covers, and peers. The problem with making changes that seem like the cool or in thing to do is they lack staying power and they fizzle out quickly. Trying to live up to a friend’s ideal or a societal standard doesn’t really serve you. Instead, be selfish and set goals and standards based on what you want. They should be highly individualized and all about you.  

2. You aren’t framing them positively. 

Negative language/self talk doesn’t work. If you tell yourself “don’t eat junk food” or “stop spending money frivolously”  you’re really just going to focus more on the very behavior you’re trying to rid yourself of rather than on the goals you’d like to achieve, i.e. eating healthy, saving money. Not too different than if I tell you “don’t think about what the White House would look like if it were actually blue.” So, make sure your self talk is positive and empowering, knowing that how you think about something can impact how you feel and subsequent behaviors and actions that you may or may not take.

3. Your resolutions aren’t specific enough.  

This might be one of the biggest barriers I see that gets between a person’s desire and their success. Vagueness, generalities, and goals that are weakly defined most likely won’t get you past January. Saying things such as “I want to get fit” or “I want to lose weight” do not provide a defined goal and it makes it easy to simply walk away from any pursuit. By contrast, being hyper-specific and detailed not only provides a path forward but also makes it harder to walk away – at least not without feeling guilty. So, if your goal is to get fit, you might create certain measures, i.e. strength, flexibility, time-spent on cardio without getting winded — and then schedule an event such as a road race. This gives you a specific date/event to work towards and ways to measure progress along the away. 

Finally, remember, every week, and every day, presents a new opportunity for change. There really isn’t anything magical about January 1. It truly is a marathon, not a sprint.

Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days by Jonathan Alpert.

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  • Jonathan Alpert

    Psychotherapist, executive performance coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. Twitter: @JonathanAlpert

    Jonathan Alpert is a psychotherapist, columnist, performance coach and author in Manhattan. As a psychotherapist, he has helped countless couples and individuals overcome a wide range of challenges and go on to achieve success. He discussed his results-oriented approach in his 2012 New York Times Opinion piece, “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already”, which continues to be debated and garner international attention. Alpert is frequently interviewed by major TV, print and digital media outlets and has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, FOX, and Good Morning America discussing current events, mental health, hard news stories, celebrities/politicians, as well as lifestyle and hot-button issues. He appears in the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job commenting on the financial crisis. With his unique insight into how people think and their motivations, Alpert helps clients develop and strengthen their brands. He has been a spokesperson for NutriBullet, Liberty Mutual insurance, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Jonathan’s 2012 book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days has been translated into six languages worldwide. Alpert continues to provide advice to the masses through his, Huffington Post, and Thrive columns. @JonathanAlpert