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Don’t Make these 5 Common New Year’s Resolution Mistakes

December 28, 2020

Reading Time: 11 minutes

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If you tune in to Episode 61 the week it goes live, then we’re just days away from saying BYE to 2020 and stepping into 2021.

If you’re tuning in and it’s already January or beyond, have no fear! Any day is a good day for a fresh start, and I think we’re all ready for some type of fresh start after the year we just had.

One of the most common methods for ringing in the New Year with a fresh start is to set New Year’s Resolutions – and that’s exactly what we’re talking about in this episode.

We’re going to dive into WHY New Year’s Resolutions fail and what we can do instead. I want to set you up for fresh start success – whatever that looks like for you in the coming year, so let’s bust through the blocks and set New Year’s Resolutions that actually stick.

Keep reading to find out:

  • Why most New Year’s Resolutions fail in less than a month

  • What you can do differently to set resolutions that stick

  • How to set multiple resolutions without getting overwhelmed and giving up

  • And the #1 secret to ensuring your success in the New Year


I’ve also got you covered if you haven’t had a chance to set your goals for the year ahead yet.

If I’m going to be perfectly honest, I didn’t sit down and chart out my goals for 2020 until around January 20th of 2020, and my year turned out fine – all things considered.

Even though I waited until well after we rang in 2020 to set my goals, I knew I had nothing to worry about because of my simple, 3-part system for getting it done and making things happen.

You can hear all about this simple technique for planning with purpose back in episode 59.

LISTEN NOW to EPISODE 59
Plan With Purpose: How to Plan Your Year with Intention Even in Times of Uncertainty

It’s never too late to set goals and create your intention for the year – and if you want a partner in the process, I’ve created a checklist bundle that walks you through step by step. This totally free planning checklist that includes how I Plan to Plan, with my exact supply list as well as the 29 questions I ask myself each year to start the year feeling confident and ready to take on the next 365 days.


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January 17th.

Studies have shown that most people give up on their New Year’s Resolutions by January 17th.

That’s barely 2 weeks into the New Year, and hardly long enough to make just about anything a habit.

This whole January 17th failure day has become such a thing that some online holiday calendars even note January 17th as Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day.

So how did we get here?

Well in 2020, the most common reason given for giving up was simply “don’t have the willpower.” Some blamed it on laziness or forgetting, and almost 25% of people who gave us blamed COVID. I feel you – 2020 was a doozy.

Instead of giving up by January 17th, we’re going to do things differently. In fact, we’re going to take a look at the 5 most common mistakes people make when setting – and trying to stick to – those New Year’s resolutions, and we’ll decide to do things differently.

Those 5 common mistakes we make in no particular order:

  • First: Our resolutions are too vague.

  • Second: We don’t have a plan for sticking to them.

  • Third: We have too many.

  • Fourth: We’re starting them all at the same time.

  • Fifth: We don’t have any accountability set up.

So let’s tackle each of these one by one.

we’re Too Vague

First – Our resolutions are too vague.

There’s a reason why SMART goals are so popular among the leadership and management set. It’s because they work.

Your resolutions – if you want them to stick – need to be SMART, too.

If you’re not familiar with SMART goals, SMART is an acronym for

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable

  • Relevant

  • Time bound

And it’s so appropriate that it leads off with specific.

A big reason why so many resolutions fail is because without clearly defining what exactly it means to stick to that resolution, there’s no way to really know if you’re keeping it.

Here’s what I mean:

If you set a resolution to eat healthier… what exactly does that mean?

Are you going to go keto or kick off the year by doing a Whole 30?

Are you going to eat 1 pizza a day instead of two?

Are you going to try broccoli for the first time? Make a daily smoothie?

See – simply saying that you’re going to “eat healthier” could mean any number of things – and because you haven’t clearly defined what exactly “eat healthier” means for you, it’s doubly hard to stick to it.

So – instead of “eat healthier” you could say,

“I’m going to cut back to 1 S’mores Pop Tart a week and include a fresh vegetable in at least 4 dinners each week.”

It’s specific and gives you a clear target to hit. It’s measurable because you’re using numbers: 1 pop tart per week, 4 dinners each week. It’s attainable – because the thought of giving up S’mores Pop Tarts cold turkey just sounds terrible. It’s relevant to your overarching drive to eat healthier and it’s time bound – again because you have a repeating target of 1 pop tart per week and 4 veggies a week.

Setting your resolutions like a SMART goal is your first key to success.

we have No Plan

Second – We don’t have a plan for making them happen.

It’s one thing to set a resolution – even a SMART goal for something you want to achieve in the new year, whether it’s losing 10 pounds or paying off your credit card debt once and for all. But without a plan, a roadmap and some milestones to reaching your destination, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Trust me – I’ve been there. I used to use this wonderful goal setting workbook that included a page each month for writing down things that you wanted to do daily, weekly and monthly. At the beginning of each month, I’d fill out the sheet with the daily and weekly habits I wanted to cultivate, and look optimistically at the empty checkboxes on the page. And then the days would go by… and I wasn’t making any progress. Weeks would pass… and then the month would be over – and I would maybe check a box here or there, but for the most part I decided that this goal setting workbook just didn’t work for me.

Of course – it didn’t dawn on me until much later that there’s more to creating a new habit – and sticking to a resolution than being specific and writing it down. I had to figure out how this habit actually fit into my life.

Once I took the habits I was trying to create from the checkbox page to my calendar, created space in my week for each one, and mapped out how I was going to complete those monthly projects – only then did I actually see progress.

Even when you go the extra mile to take your New Year’s resolution from vague to specific, the work isn’t done yet. You’ve got to create a plan for making it real. I like to take a cue from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and begin with the end in mind. What does success really look like, and how can I reverse engineer it? What are the major milestones along the way?

Let’s say you want to pay off all your debt once and for all in the New Year. Before you write that down and then let it collect dust on the page, write out the steps to making it happen. How much debt do you have to pay off? Do you want to create a snowball debt payment plan? How much can you afford to put toward your debt? If you have multiple credit cards, are you going to pay them off in a certain order? See what I mean? What does an actual plan look like for making your resolution happen?

Now – let’s say you’ve tackled mistakes one and two, your resolutions are specific and you’ve got a plan for each one. We’re still not out of the woods with this next mistake.

we have TOO MANY

Number three – we make too many resolutions.

I get it – at the beginning of the year, especially after we’ve just eaten lots of holiday food and watched Love Actually, the Holiday and 37 Hallmark Christmas movies, it’s easy to get caught up in the “new year, new me” vibe and aspire to make allll the changes and set alllll the resolutions.

I’m going to run 5 miles a day!

And I’m going to wake up at 5AM every day!

And I’m going to stop eating Pop Tarts!

And I’m going to give up caffeine!

And I’m going to put half of my income into savings!

And…. And… And… the list can go on and on.

When you have SO many resolutions, so much you want to change and improve – it can be real easy to get overwhelmed real quick. So I’d encourage you to think through – what do you want to remember the year for? Which resolutions mean the most to you? Which are most in line with your values? Maybe this looks like cutting some in order to focus on nailing just a few?

In the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown there’s this really great illustration of what it looks like when we put our energy toward too many projects at once. Spreading ourselves too thin ends up looking like tiny bits of progress in a lot of different directions. You’re not really getting anywhere worthwhile with anything.

But on the flipside, if you focus your energy on one specific thing. One project, one goal or endeavor – you’re able to make MAJOR progress in the direction of that goal.

Now – I’m not saying pick only ONE New Year’s Resolution, but if you find yourself with a list of resolutions the size of a Cheesecake Factory menu, you might want to do another pass and see what you can cut.

Now that you’ve pared down your list of specific resolutions, and each of them has a plan – there’s another pitfall to avoid.

We Start Them at the Same Time

Number four – you start them all at the same time.

This one kind of goes hand in hand with number three. You’ll make so much more progress by focusing on ONE or a few resolutions, instead of spreading yourself too thin. One way to keep the overwhelm at pay and to make real progress is to stagger your resolutions throughout the year.

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Lara Casey, the creator of the Cultivate What Matters PowerSheets goal setting workbook likes to say – There’s nothing magical about January 1st. And she’s absolutely right. Any day is a good day for a fresh start – and you can start one resolution on January 1st, make awesome progress and then add on another one in March. And then maybe you kick off another one in June.

By staggering your resolutions throughout the year, you keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, you increase your laser focus on getting one off the ground at a time, and you give each resolution the opportunity to stick before adding something else.

I think of it like the guy with the spinning plates on sticks at the circus. If he were to try to get all of the plates started at the same exact time – you know it would result in a great big crashing mess. But instead, he gets one plate spinning…. And then adds another. And then another… until he’s able to comfortably monitor each of the spinning plates – and it’s all because he gave each one attention and focus to get it started.

And finally… the last mistake we won’t be making this year without resolutions.

we don’t set up accountability

We won’t make the mistake of embarking on a meaningful resolution without accountability from someone we trust.

Your resolutions can be specific, SMART goals. You can create a plan for achieving each one. You can decide to laser focus on a few and stagger your start times throughout the year – but the final, most important piece of the puzzle is accountability.

Sure – studies have shown that writing down your goals makes you around 43% more likely to achieve them. But having an accountability partner and checking in with that partner regularly skyrockets your likelihood of achieving those goals all the way up to 95%.

And I don’t have to tell you that 95 is almost a hundred… so this one has got to be a no brainer for us in 2020.

Back in Episode 29, I shared six different ways that you can create accountability for reaching your goals.

LISTEN NOW to EPISODE 29
The #1 Ingredient You Need for Success in Life, Work and Wellness + 6 Ways to Get It

You can find an accountability partner – whether it’s your spouse, partner, a friend, coworker, a business bestie or someone else.

You could work with a mentor, learn from them and their experience and ask your mentor to help you stay accountable to your resolutions.

You could work with a coach to set goals, create a plan and set up regular check-ins.

And accountability doesn’t have to just look like one-on-one support. You could also find accountability within a membership group or organization, by participating in a group coaching program or within a mastermind group.

If you’re serious about sticking to your resolutions, you don’t want to skip this critical step. Accountability is key to making big things happen. Remember – by checking in regularly with an accountability partner, you’re 95% more likely to achieve your goals and stick to your resolutions. It’s a no brainer, and I know you can do it.


So there you have it – the 5 common mistakes we make when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions and how to tackle each one so you’re not in the crowd of givers uppers on January 17th complaining about willpower or laziness.

You’re going to be specific, make a plan, focus on a few, stagger your start dates, and find an accountability partner.

JUMP START YOUR FRESH START

And if you want to jump start your resolutions with the help of a coach, I’m here for you. I’m super excited to share that there are two ways to work with me to launch your resolutions for the new year.

Book a POWER HOUR Coaching Session

I’ve opened up a limited number of spots on my coaching calendar in January and February for one-on-one POWER HOUR coaching sessions. You, me and one hour to dive in and tackle your biggest time management challenge, or create that plan you need to stick to your resolutions and smash your goals in the new year. Plus, you’ll get unlimited accountability access to me for two full weeks after our power hour for when you need extra support and a sounding board. There are less than 10 of these power hour spots available, so be sure to book your power hour before all of the spots fill up. 

Apply for Fresh Start Coaching – 8 Weeks of 1:1 Support

If you’re looking for more than just a power hour to start your year with your best foot forward, I’ve also opened up an even more limited number of exclusive 8 week, one-on-one Fresh Start coaching spots to guide you as you embark on your best year ever. If you’re dreaming of a new year that feels calm and prepared instead of chaotic and crazy, then this 8 week, one-on-one program is exactly what you’re looking for. Click here to apply for one of only three available spots. Fresh Start Coaching kicks off on January 5, so if you’re at all curious – apply before those three spots fill up.

I should also mention that this is our last chance to work together until at least June of 2021. I’m heading into maternity leave in March and am looking forward to spending some quality time with my family as we welcome our new little one and grow into being a family of four. So if you’re on the fence, c’mon – jump off and let’s do this together.


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