Why Most Diets Fail And New Year Resolutions Don’t Stick

Do you know this famous quote by Mark Twain:

It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times.

Well, substitute any other positive change – losing 10 pounds, organizing your closet, getting out of debt – for the “quit smoking” and this one-liner will still hold true for most of us.

How come so many of us set out in all earnest to “start fresh” on Monday only to find ourselves back to where we started by Wednesday?

How come 3 out of 4 people break their New Year’s resolutions by the end of the first week and most of the rest – by February?

Finally, what about those cases when a person actually makes every attempt to stick to the resolution, yet sees no results after weeks or even months of hard work and earnest effort?

There’s no shortage of articles that claim to show you 5, 7 or 10 reasons why your dieting efforts fail and you can’t stick to the plan. Some good points are made for sure. Still, reading the articles, understanding the points, agreeing with them and even acting on them makes no difference to the number of people who fail to succeed.

Now, I have some news for you on that. The bad news is that in fact there are not 5 or 10, but about twenty thousand, that’s 20,000, reasons why people fail at changing their behavior. Now, let me explain – 20,000 is the average number of choices we make daily. Most of these choices are made subconsciously, saving us from overwhelm, paralysis by analysis and mental exhaustion.

The problem, of course, is that since we’re not aware of most of the choices we make, we don’t see the true causes of our successes and failures alike.

Here’s a quick example. Let’s say that one of your core beliefs, instilled in you years ago when you were a young child, is that hobbies are for enjoyment and work is for money. Now, as an adult, many years later, you are completely miserable at work.

Now imagine you decide to make a positive change and start looking for a more rewarding job. You commit to a certain number of hours each day for work search and follow all the rules for learning new skills, applying for jobs and getting along with coworkers. Yet somehow, with each new job, you end up no happier than you were before.

The reason this happens is because many of the decisions you make about your job search – where to look, what type of job to look for and with what kind of employer, etc – are made subconsciously based on your deep-rooted belief in the nature of work (that it’s not meant to be fun).

Without understanding the true connection between your belief (job is not fun) and the outcome (being miserable for 8 hours a day for 20-30 years), you might blame your bad luck, job market, young upstarts, incapable HR administrators, society at large and numerous other factors you CANNOT control.

Ok, now for the good news. While 20,000 reasons sound overwhelming, they can all be boiled down to one. There’s really only one, yes 1 reason, people fail at achieving their goals. The one and only reason is that you do NOT change your behavior. And by behavior I mean anything you do, say or THINK (consciously or subconsciously).

So now, to continue with the job search example, the only thing you have to do to find the dream job is to change your behavior, your belief in the nature of work – that it can and even should be fun.

Yes, it requires hard work, but the result is a deep and lasting change that will help you finally achieve your goals.

So back to the original question – why most diets fail and New Year resolutions don’t stick. You realize that following the “5 easy steps to a more organized house” or attempting another “3-day miracle diet that will help you lose these stubborn pounds” is a band-aid solution. If you follow the advice, you might get the results, but they won’t last.

If, on the other hand, you take time and effort to analyze your beliefs and perceptions, your behavior, you will get results that last a life-time.


  1. […] are a million reasons why we fail on our resolutions. You can click here to see some of them. But there is just one reason why we succeed. That reason is […]

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