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February 28, 2024
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Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and What To Do Instead With Healthy Aging Expert, Sally Duplantier

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and What To Do Instead With Healthy Aging Expert, Sally Duplantier
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By: Seraphina Quinn

As our calendars turn to January, it’s once again that time of the year to make your New Year’s resolutions, hoping this time you can finally develop that new exercise routine, quit smoking, lose weight, or make other positive changes in your life. However, sooner rather than later, those good intentions get cast aside as the reality of day-to-day life sets in.

Sally Duplantier, a healthy aging expert and founder of Zing, a health education company focused on helping people develop healthy habits related to diet, movement, sleep, and mindfulness, notes that New Year’s resolutions, though well-intentioned, often fail to generate real change. 

When asked why resolutions falter, Sally highlights three key reasons: Those committing to resolutions tend to depend too heavily on willpower that soon fizzles; they state broad ambitions rather than specific behaviors to change; and they lack an accountability system or community to help them succeed.

Drawing from her experience in helping clients cultivate healthy habits, Sally shares insights into why resolutions often fail

1. The Flawed Reliance on Sheer Willpower

Relying on willpower alone is often not enough to change behaviors. Even with the best intentions, willpower has its flaws and limitations that set us up for frustration.

Take dieting as an example. Sticking to healthy eating seems easy in the morning when our willpower reservoirs are full. Yet by evening, resisting temptations becomes significantly harder as those reservoirs run low throughout the day.

Studies have shown willpower allows us to enter a calmer state to make positive decisions. But it runs out, especially when we’re low on sleep, excessively stressed, or poorly nourished. So, expecting willpower alone to help us stick to New Year’s resolutions quickly sets us up for a harsh wake-up call.

2. Defining Goals Too Vaguely

The resolutions we set heading into the new year also often fail because of vagueness. Saying “I’ll eat fewer snacks” seems like a good goal, but fewer than what? Without defining exact criteria and measurable goals, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

Something like “I’ll limit myself to one fruit snack per day,” is much clearer and easier to follow! It also frames the change as adding a positive habit, which research shows is more sustainable. With clarity, visions manifest through manageable actions. If you want change, be specific. Vagueness is ambition’s worst enemy.

3. Lacking Accountability and Support  

Resolutions also often fail because they rely too heavily on self-motivation alone. Telling ourselves we will start the habit of walking every day is very different from actually meeting friends three times a week for 30-minute walks. As Sally notes, having a community of positive role models who support our goals makes change far easier to achieve and sustain. 

Likewise, having an accountability partner drastically increases follow-through. Knowing we will text our progress to someone else makes it much harder to justify breaking commitments to ourselves. With others walking beside us, the journey makes change less intimidating, and with every small win, what felt impossible alone becomes our new normal.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and What To Do Instead With Healthy Aging Expert, Sally Duplantier
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The Power of Habits and Community Support  

Through the Healthy Habits Network, Sally aims to help members build healthy routines together around diet, exercise, sleep, and mindfulness. Members connect in support groups and as “accountability buddies,” to encourage each other to achieve their goals.

“I’ll never forget one of our Healthy Habits members who had a resolution to incorporate more cardio into her mornings. She simply began by putting on her gym shoes first thing after waking. Just that one small change was the start. Over weeks, she added other supporting habits—limiting early emails, queuing up workout videos the night before, and even texting her buddy when she finished her routine.”

It was all small steps, but having that community partnership made every little win feel huge and kept her pumped up to build it into an automatic habit. “Guided by encouragement from her group, what felt impossible at first soon became her regular reality,” Sally mentions.

It Won’t Stick Without Intrinsic Motivation  

Of course, lasting change requires self-motivation. No program or buddy system matters if you aren’t invested. Sally says focusing on how new habits make you feel physically and emotionally is key. When you feel better, you stay committed.

So this January 1st, instead of vague resolutions, try picking one small habit and concrete plan to make it stick. Get an accountability partner to check in with. Focus on the positives if you slip up instead of getting discouraged. With time, lasting change is possible!

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