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5 Reasons Why You’re Not Reaching Your New Year’s Goals (and how to fix it!)

New year, new goals — for so many of us, the beginning of a new year signifies a desire to change our lives for the better. You’ve probably already jotted down a few top priorities to keep in mind. But what if you’re afraid that these goals will never come to fruition?

It goes without saying that positive change can happen in our lives at any time, not just at the beginning of the year. But honestly, nothing motivates me more than a fresh start and a new beginning. I thrive on crisp Monday mornings, burst with ideas in anticipation of a brand new projects, and write my neatest on the first pages of notebooks. So it goes without saying that the New Year kicks me into gear like nothing else.

The past few days, with a brand new decade in mind, I’ve been in full planning mode.

Read on for a FREE printable goal setting worksheet for all your new year’s goals.

A lifestyle change in 2020

At a glance, 2019 was a pretty decent year for me. I graduated college, I got my first ‘proper’ job. I travelled to beautiful destinations, and followed through with my resolution to go vegetarian for the full year (and counting!) I achieved many of the goals I had set out to achieve. My to-do list was almost always checked off.

But as winter settled in and the days got darker, something changed. I let go of some of the good habits and productive mindsets that had kept me healthy and motivated. I had very little time to exercise, so I went without. My journal spreads lay empty week after week. I found myself struggling to go about my day, struggling to be disciplined and stick to my schedule. It began to take its toll on every aspect of my life: I just wasn’t myself.

In the new year, I’m wiping the slate clean. It’s not as simple as just saying that, of course. A real lifestyle change requires patience, effort and continuous focus and determination. It often comes with setbacks, and that’s okay. The main thing is, in 2020 I’m opening myself up to more opportunities, focusing on my health and wellbeing, and diving back into the work I truly love doing: writing. No new me in 2020: this year I’m going back to what feels most like myself.

Whether you, like me, feel that you need a major lifestyle change at the moment, or if you just have one or two things you’d like to improve to add to your bundle of good things in life, setting goals for the new year is a powerful way to begin.

young woman setting goals for the new year - girl with laptop and green bobble hat

Does anyone even make new year’s resolutions anymore?

New Year’s Resolutions have a bad rep lately. We all know the meme: #NewYearNewMe. The phrase alone conjures up a series of impossible expectations that are destined to fail, leaving you back on your couch feeling worse about yourself by the second week, tops. And doesn’t everyone know it’s wise to avoid the gym in January, returning only when the new joiners have packed up their gear?

Everyone seems to know that New Year’s Resolutions fail. So why do we continue to make them?

Well, it all comes down to that new year energy I mentioned at the beginning. A fresh start offers a chance at redemption and transformation. Also, after a long and indulgent Christmas break, it’s easy to feel enthusiastic about a happier, healthier, better version of yourself.

This can turn dangerous, of course. Many seemingly positive goals and resolutions are made for the wrong reasons. Toxic diet culture, for example, leads millions into pledging to lose weight in the new year. Happiness, confidence and even romantic love are blindly promised at the end point — but this is often not the case.

Our sense of self-worth should not depend on any one goal, least of all one associated with our physical appearance — even if years of media conditioning and social pressure may try to convince us otherwise.

So why are goals and resolutions still relevant?

Many goals and resolutions we set ourselves are things we genuinely want to achieve. They come from a gut feeling of knowing we can do something — even if we only entertain this certainty for a split second. They’re the big ‘what if’ kind of dreams that keep us up at night. They’re the things we’ve always secretly wanted but were afraid to admit. We know they would make a positive contribution to our quality of life, our sense of adventure, our mental and physical health.

They’re the things we know we truly want and deserve.

Here’s the thing: we deserve to give ourselves a chance to achieve these goals. But that won’t happen unless we establish the necessary foundations needed to achieve them.

So if we really do want to achieve our goals but we keep failing, where exactly are we going wrong?


5 Reasons Why You’re Not Sticking to Your New Year’s Goals and Resolutions

and how to fix it in 2020!

1. Your goals are too extreme

It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘new year, new me’ spirit and want to immediately change every single aspect of your life. Too many resolutions kill your chance of real change. They will overwhelm you, backing you into a corner. Before you know it, you’ll be retreating back into the comfort of keeping things as they are.

With that in mind, instead of listing off 20 things you want to change in the new year, why not focus on a few key priorities instead? You can go about this several different ways. You could choose a small number of general goals, or you could group them into areas of life you want to focus on. Here’s what both options would look like:

Example of 2020 Goals - Two Ways to Set Realistic and Achievable Goals for the New Year

I used the general categories health, career, relationships and money, but feel free to mix these up to suit your needs!

Also, remember to be fairly realistic. You can only achieve so much in one year. Goals that aren’t specific enough are harder to achieve than those with a clear cut path. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Your goals don’t feel urgent

We rarely consider why we want to make resolutions in the first place. It could be a classic case of peer pressure: because everyone else is promising to change something, we feel that we have to do it too. Or maybe it comes from external sources: feeling pressured by family and friends, comparing ourselves to images on social media.

With all this external pressure, thinking about what this change would actually mean for you might be the last thing on your mind. But then, how do you know your goal is something you truly want?

Unless you’re driven from the very beginning, chances are you’ll give up before you even get started. Therefore, you need to really care about achieving each goal you set yourself. Wanting alone isn’t enough: you need a powerful reason why you want to achieve it.

In the past, I didn’t give my resolutions much thought. I’d jot down whatever came to mind, not stopping to think about whether I actually wanted those things in my life. So naturally, I didn’t feel driven to work on them.

Now, every time I make a goal or a resolution, I ask myself: why do you want this?

It sounds so simple, but it’s a complete game changer. By pausing to reflect on your reasoning, you’ll realise whether or not a goal is actually worth your time and attention.

So ask yourself:

⭑ Why do I want to achieve this goal?

⭑ How would achieving this goal make me feel?

⭑ What positive changes will I see in my life when I reach this goal?

Use the answers to propel you forward whenever your progress seems slow or your goal feels unattainable. With the why power as your driving force, it’s much easier to follow through.

goal planning planner for 2020 - setting effective goals and new year's resolutions 2020

2020 diary kindly gifted by Papier

3. Your goals are not actionable

The thing about New Year’s Resolutions is that they even when they come from a place of good intention, they often involve little thought about the follow-through.

It’s easy to use your holiday bonus to buy a gym membership, but a lot harder to plot out a workout plan. Even harder still is the commitment to follow through and show up at the gym in your trainers after work every day. So, when the going gets tough, your fitness resolution is often the easiest habit to ditch.

Writing down a goal will not magically make it come to life — we all know this. No matter how much we want something, chances are we need to take steps toward achieving it.

So, immediately after you think about your why, you have to think about the how. How are you going to achieve your goal?

Remember the old saying: Rome wasn’t built in a day. So in order to reach that massive goal you’ve been dreaming of, you need to lay down the brickwork.

Break down your goal into manageable steps. Map out the journey from this moment to the finish line, plotting all the major milestones along the way.

Write down three things you can action right now, or at least in the next few days. Make sure these are realistic and fit your schedule. The sooner you get started, the quicker you’ll build up momentum.

Remember: every goal needs to be actionable. Having a clear idea of what you’ll need to do will change your perspective, turning something scary and unattainable into something you can easily achieve.

All you need to do is outline the steps you need to take, and start taking them now.

4. Your goals have no deadlines

I don’t know about you, but without a deadline I rarely feel motivated to get things done. In college, I always pulled an all nighter the night before handing in an assignment. Honestly, the pressure of a deadline always motivates me to do my best work. Deadlines give me laser focus.

On the other hand, if the timeline is unclear, I rarely get anything done. My productivity dips, I get distracted, and I often focus on entirely different projects.

With personal goals and resolutions, we set our own deadlines. If we don’t, we run the risk of getting stranded in the vague ‘someday’ zone — the zone where nothing ever gets done.

When setting goals, keep in mind how long it will take you to achieve them. Be realistic: Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that. If you set a massive goal and give yourself a week to achieve it, you’ll quickly get discouraged.

Once you have broken your goal into actionable steps, you need to back those steps up with deadlines. Challenge yourself to stick to these deadlines as seriously as you would a deadline at work or college. You owe it to yourself to treat your goals seriously.

2020 goal setting - productive setup with laptop, planner and candle

2020 diary kindly gifted by Papier

5. You feel like a total beginner

Sometimes, a goal or resolution feels so new to us that we don’t know where to start. And not knowing where to start often leads to giving up before giving it a fair shot.

Let’s be honest: building new habits and learning new skills from scratch is hard! You’re basically challenging yourself to get out of your comfort zone and do something that ventures outside of your day-to-day life. It doesn’t just come naturally. You might have no idea how to start writing a novel, or start powerlifting at the gym. You might have no idea how to build an effective study routine, let alone stick to it. And that’s okay.

It’s natural to feel a little lost at any new beginning. What counts is whether you act on this feeling, take a leap of faith, and keep showing up. That way, you’ll start learning, progressing, and continuously improving until you ace whatever it is you’re working to achieve.

In my very first post on this blog, I talked about how fear of failure kept me from taking action on a particular goal I set out to achieve last year. I talked about how taking action is the only way you’ll actually learn and grow. Planning will only get you so far; getting out and starting is what truly counts. If you’re afraid to start taking action on a project you’ve been putting off for too long, why not give it a read?

Sometimes, all you need to get stuck into a new habit is to just try. Just one week of regular workouts. One week of language classes. One driving lesson. That’s al it takes to overcome the initial fear of failure. Trust me, once you get out there and start, you’ll never look back.

To sum it all up…

Hopefully by now you have an idea of the type of goals you want to set for the year, and you’re feeling motivated to:

⭑ Forget about endless lists of resolutions and set a few priorities for the year ahead that will really bring about positive change in your life.

⭑ Think about the ‘why’ power: the reasons why these goals are important.

⭑ Break your goals down into actionable steps that you can start working on right now.

⭑ Set deadlines to keep yourself accountable throughout the year.

⭑ Conquer your fear of failure and take action now.

With these five steps in mind, you’re ready to achieve anything you put your mind to in 2020.

FREE goal setting worksheet for 2020

You can download my FREE effective goal setting worksheet by clicking on the image below. You can print it out and put it in your journal or up on your wall. That way, you’ll always be reminded of your top priorities for the new year.

Free effective goal setting worksheet for all your new year's resolutions - what now nat

What Now Nat | Effective Goal Setting Worksheet 2020Download

If you need more inspiration to make your 2020 goals a reality…

If you’re looking for more inspiration, I have a couple of resources for you to check out:

Get Your Life Together: my productivity and positive affirmation Pinterest board

Bullet Journal: my collection of bullet journalling pin inspo

Going Vegetarian: My Ultimate Guide to Giving Up Meat for the New Year

(and my vegetarian meal ideas Pinterest board!)

And here’s my personal one day reset routine to get a handle on your life and get ready for a new week:


So there you have it! My top tips for goal setting that will have you acing your new year’s resolutions in no time. I hope you all have a wonderful year ahead, and reach each and every goal you can dream of.

Let me know your top goals for 2020 in the comments below, or over on Instagram! Let’s motivate and lift each other up this new year — there’s room in this new decade for all of us to grow.

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