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Why New Year Resolutions Fail: Five ways to lead yourself in 2015

re·solve verb \ri-ˈzälv, -ˈzȯlv also -ˈzäv or -ˈzȯv\ :To make a definite and serious decision to do something.

Eat less. Exercise more. Get a new job. Start a savings plan. Ditch your partner…whatever lofty goal you decide to set for yourself, it is likely you will give up before the first month of 2015 comes to an end, if not sooner. Sadly, the statistics aren’t good. Although millions will start the year with the best intentions, only eight percent will achieve their new year’s resolutions.

How does one explain the fact that year after year, the vast majority who set resolutions succumb to the comfort of the status quo?

Perhaps one interpretation for the high “failure rate” is due to the self-imposed pressure of setting unmanageable expectations? Or, could it be that we are part of a society that sets the “success” bar unrealistically high?

Maybe the truth lies in the fact that many of us buy into what is perceived as “the norm”: job = security, money = happiness, having it all = success. As a result, we experience an inner dilemma as we seek to define what is really important to us, i.e. our values. These are based on our internal beliefs, which are often out of kilter with the outcomes we seek. Until we clarify are values, we continue spending energy endeavoring to confirm with ideals that either aren’t truly our own, or are completely unrealistic.

Turning our personal and professional desires into reality does require conviction, commitment and confidence. And as per the above definition, resolve infers action. However, when we set goals fuelled by impractical deadlines or someone else’s interpretation of success, it’s no wonder that we stop believing in setting goals and as a result, become despondent, disheartened and discouraged.
2015 does not have to start this way. Rather, a “lead yourself” approach that incorporates the following five ideas will give you the impetus you need to have your best year yet.

1. Appreciate the now

Living life riddled with regret drains your energy and achieves nothing. Accept that you cannot turn back the clock and strive to develop a sense of appreciation for the opportunities that are present in the now. Align your path with the things that are important to you today and consciously choose not to live in the past.

2. Be kind to yourself instead of driving yourself

One of my greatest ambitions was to run a marathon…a goal achieved by approximately one percent of people worldwide. When I realized that the driving force behind my running was rooted in punishment rather than pleasure, i.e. burning calories instead of becoming a fitter, healthier person, I could never fulfill my objective. I wasn’t enjoying the experience because my motivation was based on the negative rather than enjoying the process. By all means, challenge yourself to set a path for change, but do so in a gentle manner.

3. Simplify the process

No one has the luxury of more hours in a day than the next person.

Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. The more complex and regulated the process becomes, the less likely you are to make it happen. Instead of overwhelming yourself, think about what can be achieved by taking smaller practical steps. You will feel less daunted by the process by taking a steady, purposeful approach. Celebrate your success incrementally with every milestone reached.

 4. Embrace the fear of success

Based on the internal lens you use to view yourself, you attribute meaning to the terms “success” or “failure”. If you believe in your capabilities to manage and overcome whatever life throws at you, your will find success in your life…however you chose to define “success”.

If you find yourself intentionally stalling, recognize there is a possibility that you are experiencing the fear of success. Being on the precipice of achieving your goal can be uncomfortable. You may be tempted to sabotage your achievements because you find yourself in unfamiliar territory. The breakthrough moment happens when you recognize the power of the emotion and allow it to pass.

5. Improve yourself…no one else

When you aspire to attain a specific goal, be clear about whom you are aiming to please. What are your motives? Feeling the pressure to conform to another person’s or societal idea of what is right for you eventually leads to frustration and disappointment. Ask yourself: “what is my true intention behind setting “x” goal”. If you aren’t doing it for yourself, your well – being and level of personal integrity will be ultimately be compromised.

Always be mindful of your values. The more clarity you gain around your values and beliefs, the more effectively you can lead yourself to start the year with purposeful, achievable goals.


About the author

Born in Australia and now residing in Vancouver, Canada, Michelle Ray is a leadership expert, award-winning business keynote speaker and founder of the Lead Yourself First Institute. She is the author of Lead Yourself First! Indispensable Lessons in Business and in Life. (Changemakers Books, October 2014). For additional information please see

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