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5 Mistakes That Make You Quit Your New Year’s Resolutions

Joel Lee 16-12-2015

I used to be a quitter. Every day would be filled with false starts and high ambitions, and I might even make a lot of progress towards whatever goal I had in mind at the time, but ultimately I would always give up before reaching said goals.


The New Year Resolution season is upon us, and many of us are hoping that this year will be the year where everything turns around. You’re going to exercise every day. You’re going to lose 50 pounds. You’re going to launch that new business idea. But more likely than not, you’re just going to quit.

Here’s how I stopped being a quitter. It wasn’t easy, and it took a while to get to the point where I actually finished a project, but it was certainly worthwhile. Want to stop quitting? Avoid these killer mistakes.

1. You Have No Routine

The entire “New Year Resolution” phenomenon essentially boils down to habit-making, and habits are built over time. The opposite is true, too: bad habits are dismantled over time How To Kill Bad Habits With Bad Habits In The New Year Bad habits can't be all that bad if they can help you in some way. Beat them at their own game by pitting them against each other. Read More . Your job is to contribute a little bit each and every day until those habits are built (or dismantled).

Change Your Routine

The proper way to do this is to create a routine. And as counter-intuitive as it may sound, this is especially important if your resolution goals are creative 6 Lessons From Pixar That Will Set You Up For Success The secrets of storytelling tend to reflect the secrets of success in real life. You owe it to yourself to take one minute and consider how Pixar might make you more successful. Read More . Here are several free habit-changing apps 8+ Nifty Apps That Make Changing Habits Actually Fun Building and breaking habits is not always a fun process, but the following apps can help alleviate some of the struggle. They introduce some element that makes habit-changing more tolerable -- maybe even enjoyable! Read More that can help:

  • Habit Streak: Daily goal tracker that helps you maintain streaks over long periods of time. Available on Android.
  • Rewire: Another app for building streaks, but with a bit more flexibility than Habit Streak. Available on Android.
  • QuitNow!: Specifically for those trying to quit smoking. Available on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
  • Lose It!: Specifically for those trying to lose weight. Available on Android, iOS, and Web.
  • Pact: Specifically for those trying to build fitness and diet habits. It is unique as Pact will pay you if you keep your streaks, but cost you money if you don’t. Available on Android and iOS.

Routines can be a pain, but here’s the good news: habits can form or break in just 21 days Can You Break Or Start A Habit In Only 21 Days? The beginning of the year is always a good time to set new resolutions and break old habits, to make this year better than the last. I've recently wrote about a couple of good websites... Read More . All you have to do is hold out for three weeks and you’ll find it much easier to stay on track towards your goals.

However, this doesn’t mean you’ll be immune to giving up, so always stick to the routine. The routine is invaluable because it keeps you honest even when you feel like quitting.

2. You Aren’t Skilled Enough

If your New Year Resolution involves learning a new technical skill, then there’s a good chance that you’re going to feel overwhelmed by the learning curve at some point — and when that inevitably happens, you’re going to want to quit.

This is a huge issue for newbies who are trying to learn how to program, which tends to manifest as programmer’s block 5 Ways to Beat Programmer's Block Right Now Every programmer encounters an array of negative emotions over the course of their journey, and if left unchecked, these emotions can have a profound impact on progress -- even causing some to give up entirely. Read More . But really, it could happen for any skilled pursuit: photography, digital art, web design, or even woodworking. When your ability lags behind your vision, you become frustrated.



Fortunately, you can overcome this with a solid training plan How to Learn Any Skill with Your Own Solid Training Plan How will you achieve your goals? Dreaming and planning are just the start. You need the right mix of technological and psychological tools to carry out your self-training program. Read More . Instead of deciding to “learn 3D animation”, take some time and outline what your progression will look like. A goal-based vision board How to Create a Vision Board and Meet Your Big Goals You can call them as big rocks or big, hairy, audacious goals. Some call it a bucket list. Emptying that bucket calls for action. This is where a visual tool like Trello proves useful. Read More can be quite useful for this.

But at the end of the day, you’re frustrated because you simply aren’t skilled enough, and the only way around this is to keep learning, keep practicing, and keep sticking to your routine.

Need help with your training? Check out these photography YouTube channels Learning Photography: 5 YouTube Channels to Become a Pro There are hundreds of channels dedicated to photography lessons. The good ones are buried in the noise. We picked five of the best for you. Read More , these photography courses How to Improve Your Photography Overnight with is great for online learning. Of the 546 photography courses available, here are some of the best ones for sharpening your skills in just a few hours. Read More , these web design YouTube channels Want to Learn Web Design? 7 YouTube Channels to Get You Started YouTube has thousands of videos and channels for web design beginners. Here we look at some of the best ones for getting started. Read More , these digital art courses Learn Digital Art from Scratch With These 22 Lynda Courses With hundreds of online courses to choose from, is the fastest way to mastery of digital art. Here are a few courses to get you started. Read More , and last but not least, these woodworking YouTube channels 5 Woodworking YouTube Channels You Should Subscribe To Today Even if you're not a woodworker yourself, watching high-quality woodworking videos is a great way to learn about the craft, and who knows, you might even realize you want to make something yourself. Read More .


3. Your Goals Are Poorly Defined

Few things are as detrimental to progress than a poorly-defined goal 5 Critical Mistakes To Avoid When Setting Goals Goal setting is a great way to cut down on procrastination and boost productivity. If you don’t have goals, you don’t have direction. Without direction, it’s easy for you to feel lost and confused. Fortunately,... Read More . Here’s what a poorly-defined goal looks like:

  • “I want to lose weight”
  • “I will learn how to draw”
  • “I’m going to start an Etsy business”

Why are these bad? Because they’re lofty, big, long-term, vague, abstract, and lacking urgency. For example, at what point will I be able to say, “I now know how to draw”? At this point, this goal is no more than a concept or wish.

A properly-defined goal — also known as a S.M.A.R.T. goal — has all five of the following characteristics:

  1. Specific: The goal should clearly outline the action that you’re going to take rather than the end result that you want. “Learn to draw” is abstract, but “Practice drawing portraits” is specific.
  2. Measurable: The goal should be clear enough that you can say whether or not you’ve reached it. “Practice drawing portraits” is vague, but “Practice drawing portraits 7 times a week” is measurable.
  3. Achievable: The goal must be difficult enough to put you outside your comfort zone, but not so difficult as to be discouraging. “7 times a week” is tough, “Once a week” isn’t enough, but “3 times a week” is good.
  4. Relevant: The goal must be in line with the broader, longer-term goals you have in mind.
  5. Timely: The goal must be attainable in the short-term. If it takes too long, you’re likely to lose steam before you get there.

Here’s a short rule of thumb: a properly-defined goal is one that can be checked off from a to-do list within 24-72 hours. As such, to-do lists make excellent supplementary tools to the habit-forming goal trackers mentioned above.


The best part about S.M.A.R.T. goals is that they play a double role: not only are they better for tracking progress, but they act as micro habits that encourage behavioral momentum How to Use Micro Habits and Spark Massive Personal Change Creating new habits is hard. Habits are usually built over weeks or months of repetition, and motivation is the challenge. When the going gets tough, micro-habits can be a huge help. Read More . This is key to overcoming the tendency to quit.

4. You Have Too Many Goals

One big paradox is that highly ambitious and motivated people tend to have too many goals, resulting in paralysis as they struggle to commit. When you want too many things, you could end up in an endless cycle of quitting-and-restarting.

In other words, indecision can kill your progress overnight.

Fortunately, indecision is a curable disease. Once you understand the psychology of indecision How to Be More Decisive and Get More Done Decision making is stressful. It is also a skill which allows you to get better with practice. You should find it easier to make the right decisions with some of the tips outlined here. Read More and why you have so much trouble committing, it becomes easier to pick and choose which goals really matter to you — but the problem won’t solve itself.


There are only so many hours in a day, so if you really want to commit to a new goal, then you must sacrifice something else in its place: watch less Netflix, relinquish responsibilities at work, give up a personal hobby, etc.

But which goals should you pursue and which ones should you give up? That’s up to you. However, if you’re having trouble, here are a few apps that can help you make those tough decisions:

If you don’t want to give up anything, then you can compromise by postponing secondary goals instead. For example, instead of learning three new things at once, try spreading them out across the year 12 Productivity Habits To Finally Hack Your Life In The New Year A common resolution for most working people is to be more productive. In this article, we'll explore twelve bad habits that you can change -- one per month -- to drastically improve your workload productivity. Read More .

Whatever you do, just make sure that you don’t overdo it by working too hard 5 Signs That You're Working Too Hard (And How to Fix Them) Do you suffer from an insatiable desire to work? Here are some of the signs to recognize this ailment and how you can overcome it. Read More and sacrificing your health in the process.

5. You’re Afraid to Fail

The number one reason why creatives quit the pursuit of their dreams? Fear of failure. If you feel like you aren’t good enough or that your work sucks or that you could never be a good [insert goal here], then you know what I’m talking about.

Take this to heart: you are not alone!

Many TED Talks on creativity 4 Must-See TED Talks On Creativity, Inspiration & Passion Creativity. Inspiration. Passion. These are all concepts of which we are very much aware, but not many of us can precisely pinpoint their source. Where does creativity come from? What is it that causes a... Read More exist, but there’s one that we want to highlight. Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Your Elusive Creative Genius” presentation is a must-watch for anyone struggling with the fear of creative failure:

The fear of failure also extends beyond the creative. For example, many people stop going to the gym because they think they’ll never be able to achieve the weight, strength, or body definition that they truly want — and so they quit.

But fear is good. The ability to take calculated risks 7 Non-Geeky Skills Every Geek Should Have Pretty soon, skills that were once considered "geeky" will become the norm. Basic tech skills will be necessary for everyday life. However, we can't leave behind the important non-geeky skills of yesteryears. Read More is one thing that separates those who grow from those who stall. In fact, every successful entrepreneur knows How To Spark Personal Growth: 5 Tricks Of The Entrepreneur Not everyone has to be an entrepreneur, but everyone can learn something from the entrepreneur. By tapping into some of those entrepreneurial traits, you can radically alter your own life in an upward direction. Read More that staying within one’s comfort zone is the recipe for stagnation.

It all comes down to how we think. For most of us, lack of success means failure — but is that true? Perhaps there’s a better way to think about success and failure.

Will You Quit This Year, Too?

Quitting is easy. Trust me, I know. I’ve quit hundreds of projects, hobbies, and pursuits over the past decade and I have a lot of regrets because of that. But these are the lessons that have helped me outgrow that mentality, and I hope they help you, too.

How tough is your struggle with New Year Resolutions? Got any tips for success? What can we do to avoid the never-ending quit cycle? Tell us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Sitting young man looking by Kamenetskiy Konstantin via Shutterstock, Digital Art Practice by Diego Cervo via Shutterstock, New Year Resolutions by marekuliasz via Shutterstock, Business cartoon by Cartoon Resource via Shutterstock

Related topics: Habits, Motivation.

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