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  • Ulli Baxter

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work-And how you can achieve them

At the beginning of every year the majority of people set new goals for themselves, yet studies show that 80% of these resolutions and goals are generally given up by the end of February.

So why is that, and why do most of us we persist with this activity every year, despite our low achievement rate?


One of the basic human drives (based on Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs) is the desire to self- actualise, to explore our innate potential and to improve ourselves. This leads us to a continual journey of self-discovery, of driving ourselves to find out what are we capable of achieving. So, if we are driven to continually improve ourselves, why do we then so often fail to achieve the goals we set for ourselves?


Many of the resolution and goal setting processes are based on developing specific, concrete and immoveable goals which require us to constantly rely on our willpower, drive and determination to achieve these, and which don’t factor in any potential obstacles which may prevent us from achieving them.

If the Covid19 pandemic has taught us anything, is that you can set goals and plans in motion, but then things outside of your control can very quickly derail them! A popularly used process for goalsetting, the SMART model suggests that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound.


Mark Murphy in his book ‘Hard Goals: the Secret to Getting from where you are to where to want to be’, suggests that goals need to be HARD in order to be successful. Unlike the acronym they are not hard to achieve but instead are easier because they have a different and less intimidating focus. Murphy quotes successful entrepreneurs who use this approach when setting goals for themselves.

HARD goals are based on the following principles and should be:


Heartfelt. You need to have an emotional attachment to the goal. It needs to excite you and motivate you.

Animated. You need to be able to vividly picture yourself having achieved your goal.

Required. The goal needs to be important to you right now, how will it change your life?

Difficult. The goal needs to challenge you to step out of your comfort zone, to develop new skills and capabilities in order to achieve it.


When working with clients to help them achieve their health and wellbeing goals I start by getting them to imagine how their life will be when they have achieved their goals and how they will feel emotionally. I also encourage them to represent their goals on a Vision Board which they can focus on to help them stay motivated and engaged during the year.

When developing your goals for this year, some positive and empowering questions I would suggest that will help you to set meaningful and achievable goals are:


What is really important for me to focus on this coming year and how does it fit in with my core values?

How will these goals improve my life, and how will they make me feel when I have achieved them?

How clearly can I imagine myself achieving them?

What new habits, beliefs, and skills will I require to achieve these goals?

What limiting thoughts beliefs and mindsets will I need to release in order to achieve these goals?


These questions can be a very useful starting point or as a framework for setting some tangible goals. Of course it’s always helpful to share your goals with someone who can support you or also assist you to develop a positive vision and goals for the year ahead.


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