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Why your New Year’s Resolutions will fail

How to plan for success + tips on how to make lasting changes @Nutrition_with_Lillia

Eat healthily. Exercise more. Lose weight. Reduce stress.

How often have you said this to yourself as the New Year rolls on?

We are notoriously bad at setting goals and sticking to them. While our resolutions come with positive intentions, they can often lack accountability
Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to make changes last!

Why set goals?

We humans are susceptible to the optimism bias, meaning we overestimate the chance of a positive experience. This bias can cause us to turn a blind eye to important information that can make or break our success.         

92% of people who set New Year’s resolutions fail. Within a few days to weeks the euphoria fades and reality sets in around how much hard work is required to achieve their goals. Change can be challenging, and sometimes it can feel easier to fall back on old habits.

Using SMART Goals in Health and Wellness

SMART Goals are a framework you can use to help keep you focused on doing the right things! The letters in SMART stand for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound, there is a handy template at the end of this post.

Although originally created for businesses, SMART is very useful for setting health and wellness goals because it encourages you to get into detailed thinking about what you want to achieve.

The Three Ws of Goal Setting

Start with the simple question: what are you looking to achieve? Evidence shows that defining your “what” affects wellbeing because it’s related to need satisfaction. 
We tend to pursue goals that help us satisfy our needs leading to positive psychological outcomes. 

Once the ‘what’ is in place, understanding why is important to establish context and enable a sense of control. Evidence shows that when your motivation is more autonomous you experience greater satisfaction, less tension, and higher likelihood to continue with changes.

A timeframe for reaching each goal is essential for compliance. Deadlines help people overcome procrastination. In addition, publicly committing to a deadline is a powerful motivator and much more effective than a self-imposed deadline.

Try speaking to a friend and agreeing on reasonable deadlines together. Goals can also be broken down into smaller milestones, each with their own deadlines, to make them more manageable and attainable.

  • 70% of people who sent weekly updates to a friend reported successful goal achievement, compared to 35 percent of those who kept their goals to themselves, without writing them down.

Process vs outcome

Research shows that focusing on the processes required to achieve the outcome leads to greater success. 

For example, imagine your goal is to lose 15 lbs. This is the outcome and there are different ways it can be achieved. The approach will include a combination of exercise, nutrition, and maybe supplements, however you would start by focusing on one behaviour: such as walking at least 30 minutes each day. Then the task is to ingrain this behaviour within a month. By framing the outcome in terms of specific behaviour changes, you have a clear action plan on how to reach your goal.

  • Creating an action plan for accomplishing your goal increases confidence for carrying out your plan and increased likelihood of achieving better end results.

Mastery vs. Performance

Framing goals in terms of performance puts the importance on ability, which can set you up for feelings of failure. In contrast, focus on learning a new skill or further developing an existing skill.

Returning to the example of the goal to lose 15 lbs. Choosing mastery over performance means focusing on your progress when it comes to making healthy meals over the number on the scale. That way, if you lose less weight than you had hoped you are less likely to consider it a failure, and more likely to celebrate your growth in cooking skills and how this contributes to achieving the long term goal.

  • By focusing on the process rather than the end result, the goal is broken into smaller pieces making it more achievable.

Approach vs. Avoidance

Approach goals focus on the behaviours you want to change, while avoidance goals focus on behaviours to stop. Let’s look at these two strategies with the weight loss goal in mind:

Approach goal = Incorporate more vegetables into every meal. Their Nutritional Therapist could provide meal plan templates and ideas on how to work veggies into omelettes, replace salty snacks with crunchy vegetables, and replace low GI starchy foods with something like cauliflower rice for an added hit of veggie power.

Avoidance goal = Stop eating all refined sugar. This is cold-turkey goal is more difficult to follow, and could lead to cheating / non-compliance, followed by feelings of failure. Indeed, research shows that people following avoidance goals tend to evaluate themselves more negatively on measures of self-esteem, optimism, and depression. 

• Focus on things that you can increase or start including rather than excluding.


These questions are to get you thinking about your goal in a positive way! Use the below to map out the changes you want to make. This can also be filled out and brought to a consultation.

  1. What is your goal?
  2. Out of 10, how important is this goal to you?
  3. Why is it important?
  4. If you achieved your goal, how would that make you feel?
  5. If you achieved your goal, how would your life improve?
  6. Think about the last time you achieved a significant goal in your life. How did you do it? What approach did you take? Did you develop any habits or skills to achieve it?
  7. What would happen if you did NOT achieve your goal?
  8. Are there people in your life that you would need support from to achieve your goal?
  9. Is there anything else you need to support you in achieving your goal?

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