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Why Are New Year's Resolutions So Hard to Keep? What You Need to Know When You Become a Life Coach

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No matter what the goal, making changes in life can be challenging, particularly when they relate to a career change or long-term habits. These aren’t choices that can simply be made once and forgotten, but commitments that need to be maintained over time.

New Year’s resolutions are not always effective, either: upwards of 80% of people fail in their resolution by the second week in February (Mulvey, 2017). It’s a discouraging statistic, but as a life coach you’ll be able to play an important role in helping people make their resolutions a reality. In order to do that, though, it’s important to understand just why these resolutions can be so hard to keep.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

There are many reasons why someone might not be successful in keeping to their New Year’s resolution. Sometimes, the goals involved may not be clear or specific enough. It may not be enough for someone to make a resolution to exercise more, for example, if they haven’t thought about when they’ll find time to do it, or what form that exercise might take. Some goals might also be unrealistic or unachievable.

When you become a life coach, you can encourage clients to set realistic and attainable resolutions, so that they do not become discouraged by failing to follow through on overambitious ones. Another big factor in their success, however, is their motivation for wanting to change.

Having the Right Motivation Can Make a Difference

According to the self-concordance model, goal motives can generally be categorized as either autonomous or controlled. An autonomous motive is one that is based on personal interest, enjoyment, or perceived importance, while a controlled motive is one that is driven by internal or external pressures, or by a need for social approval. This difference is crucial to understand, because studies have actually shown a positive correlation between autonomous goal motivation and progress in achieving New Year’s resolutions (Koestner, Lekes, Powers & Chicoine, 2002). Not only that, but pursuing goals based on autonomous motivations can also result in increased positive affect and an enhanced interest in future goal pursuit (Ntoumanis et al., 2013).

This means that by encouraging clients to commit to resolutions that align with their own personal interests and passions, rather than doing what they think is expected of them or what they feel pressured to do, graduates of life coaching school can improve their client’s chances of success, raise their mood, and increase their chances of pursuing their ambitions even further in the future.

Resolutions driven by autonomous goal motivation are more successful and more satisfying for clients

Resolutions driven by autonomous goal motivation are more successful and more satisfying for clients

Other Strategies for Helping Clients Achieve Their Goals When You Become a Life Coach

Experts recommend aiming small when making New Year’s resolutions (Hamilton, 2017; Miller, 2018). Rather than choosing lofty, long-term goals, clients should aim to build the habits that will help them reach those goals. Getting in shape by the end of the year, for example, might be an overwhelming goal, but doing two push-ups every morning is likely not. The key is for clients to know not only what they will do, but also when they will do it, whether that is tied to a specific time (“I will deposit $100 into my savings every payday”) or a particular trigger (“Whenever I buy myself a treat, I’ll put an extra $20 into my savings”).

Although New Year’s resolutions have a high failure rate, it has been shown that people who make resolutions are ten times more likely to make a positive change than those who want to change but do not make a resolution. This means that with the right goals, and the right support, these resolutions can be a useful tool for positive change.

Small and achievable resolutions can help change a client’s behaviour in the long term

Small and achievable resolutions can help change a client’s behaviour in the long term

Are you interested in becoming a life coach?

Contact Rhodes Wellness College today for more information about our programs.



Armstrong, M. (2018, Jan 2). The Most Common New Year’s Resolutions for 2018. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/chart/12386/the-most-common-new-years-resolutions-for-2018/

Hamilton, A. (2017, Dec 27.) New Year’s resolution too hard to keep? This one behavior trick makes all your resolutions stick. Retrieved from https://mic.com/articles/186734/new-years-resolution-too-hard-to-keep-this-one-behavior-trick-makes-all-your-resolutions-stick#.7fVPCq6EA

Koestner R, Lekes N, Powers TA. Chicoine E. (2002) Attaining personal goals: Self-concordance plus implementation intentions equals success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 83:231–244.

Miller, J. (2018.) How to Make (and Keep) a New Year’s Resolution. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/guides/smarterliving/resolution-ideas

Mulvey, K. (2017, January 3). 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February—here’s how to keep yours. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/new-years-resolutions-courses-2016-12

Ntoumanis, N., Healy, L. C., Sedikides, C., Duda, J., Stewart, B., Smith, A., & Bond, J. (2013). When the going gets tough: the “why” of goal striving matters. Journal of personality, 82(3), 225-36. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4288988/

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