Here’s Why Over 90% of People Fail to Achieve Their Resolutions

It’s officially the time of year when life has kicked back into full gear. The holidays are long gone yet summer vacations are months away, every day is “crazy busy!” and unfortunately the chances are roughly 91%1 that whatever New Year’s Resolutions you set for yourself have failed…again.

The worst part is you are most likely blaming yourself:

“I just don’t have the willpower to eat a healthier diet.”

“I don’t have the energy or the motivation to exercise regularly.”

“There aren’t enough hours in the day to learn new skills…my job is crazy enough.”

“Meditating every morning requires too much discipline.”

“I’m just not the kind of person who achieves difficult goals.”

But the good news is it’s not your fault.

You have not given up on your New Year’s Resolutions because you are a weak or lazy person who lacks motivation, willpower, and discipline. The system is rigged, and it feeds off your failure in order to survive.

Luckily all you have to do is stop following the system society has provided and introduce a different system into your life specifically designed to help you achieve your goals. The key is to stop chasing after the next shiny object and start playing the long game.

It’s time to stop playing checkers and start playing chess.

The Myth of the “Get Healthy Quick” Scheme

We’ve all been up late on a Friday night hypnotized by the glistening human specimens pushing themselves “To the extreme!” in infomercials for programs such as P90X, Insanity, or the latest miracle contraption as we mindlessly murder the (third) bag of Doritos draped across our chest.


Maybe it was the self-loathing, the upbeat motivational music, or perhaps it was the promise of rock-hard abs in as little as 60 days that got you to drop $100 or more on whatever program or tool was advertised….only to let it remain unopened because opening it will inevitably lead to failure, more self-loathing, and another late night date with the next infomercial (and another bag of Doritos).

We’re all guilty of buying a diet book, exercise program, online learning course, or workout app that went unused, or at best that we tried for a few days or a few weeks before going back to our old habits.

We wanted to believe that this one single purchase combined with “a little bit more discipline” would finally allow us to achieve our goals.

Yet we fail year after year hitting the reset button every January expecting to get different results despite repeating the same behaviors over and over.


As much as we’d like to place the blame elsewhere, the problem is not the tools, the apps, the diet books, or the exercise programs. P90X is the most successful home workout program of all time for a reason – because it’s awesome.

The problem is we’ve never been taught how to set goals properly.

Take a look at the top 5 New Year’s Resolutions of 20171:

  1. Lose Weight 21.4%
  2. Self improvements 12.3%
  3. Make better financial decisions 8.5%
  4. Quit smoking 7.1%
  5. Do more exciting things 6.3%

And here is a list of the most popular resolutions based on over 150 million Google searches from January through October of 20162:

  1. Get Healthy
  2. Get Organized
  3. Live Life to the Fullest
  4. Learn New Hobbies
  5. Spend Less & Save More

It’s no surprise that 91% of people fail to achieve their resolutions – These aren’t goals! They are vague ideas at best, mirages at the end of an invisible finish line with no clear definition.

But luckily for the diet & fitness industries, you only need an extremely small percentage of success stories to provide sexy “before & after” photos in order to get the vast majority of people to assume the program will work for them too.

You know what generates billions of dollars? Total life transformation in 90 days.

You know what doesn’t generate billions of dollars?

Gradual lifestyle change.

It doesn’t stop at diet & exercise programs. The Internet feeds off your desire to transform your life, lose weight, eat better, and become more productive, happier, healthier, or wealthier. And it no longer takes 60-90 days. Thanks to the blogosphere, you can now literally transform your entire life in one day!

Here is a collection of some of my favorite headlines:

How To Change Your Life In Just One Day

How to Change Your Life Around In a Matter of Hours (Because a day is too long)

45 Ways to be Happier Instantly

50 Small Ways to Increase Your Happiness

60 Small Ways to Improve Your Life In the Next 100 Days

The Psychological Trick You Can Learn in 10 Minutes That Will Change Your Life

Want to Become a Multi-Millioniare? Do These 15 Things Immediately

Let’s be honest…when was the last time you read a 1000 word “listicle” and were truly inspired to change your life by doing all 60 actions on that list? Probably never.

These articles are good for nothing more than five minutes of mindless distraction while you sit on the toilet.

Luckily for the authors of these posts, they don’t have to post the success rate of the readers who implemented their ideas. All they require is traffic. And like sexy infomercials and rock-hard abs, it’s hard not to click on a link promising that there are “20 different ways to lose weight while you sleep.”

If your intention is to make meaningful progress towards the most important goals in your life, it’s time to stop setting vague resolutions hoping that the next all-or-nothing program, shake weight, or 5-minute toilet read will change your life.

It’s time to learn how to set goals that you can achieve using a simple-to-follow and repeatable system.

Designing Your Roadmap to Success

I guarantee one thing: You are not going to completely change your entire life in 90 days. Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year but drastically underestimate what they can achieve in a decade3.

Before setting your first goal, be okay knowing that it may take 90 days just to have clarity about what your goal truly looks like and develop the confidence that you have what it takes to achieve it. And once you have clearly defined what you want to accomplish, it’s going to take time to build the daily habits necessary to consistently take action.

The number one fallacy that most people make when making resolutions or setting goals is making them exceedingly vague. If you want to achieve your goals, you must BE SPECIFIC.

Don’t vow to yourself that you are going to “get healthy” this year, think about a more specific way you could become a healthier person. Here are a few examples:

Lose weight

Sleep 8 hours every night

Eat a healthier diet

Take up a hobby to decrease stress

Work less hours every week

Once you have narrowed down where you’d like to focus your energy to “get healthy,” the next step is to turn this into a concrete macro goal statement by asking yourself the following questions:

Is my goal something I can track and measure on a regular basis?

If the way you want to get healthier this year is to “lose weight,” that’s an okay start. But simply wanting to lose weight still isn’t a macro goal. Committing to losing 20 pounds, however, is the beginning of a much more specific goal that is MEASURABLE. If you can’t track your goal on a regular basis you have no way of knowing whether or not your actions and behaviors are leading you closer to success or failure.

What you measure, you can improve upon.

Is your goal actionable and achievable?

Unfortunately “getting healthy” is not an ACTIONABLE goal. If someone told you, “I want you to get healthy right now!” what would you even do, and where would you even start? But if you instead resolve to lose weight and you’ve defined the amount as 20 pounds, now you can begin to brainstorm the possible actions necessary to succeed.

Now let’s say instead your goal is to lose 100 pounds instead of 20…is that as achievable? Make sure you have set a goal that is ACHIEVABLE, but also make sure it forces you to step outside your comfort zone because that’s where the magic happens.


Is this goal relevant to my life right now?

If your goal is to lose 20 pounds but you are about to have your first child and you are working 60 hours a week in a sedentary job, perhaps losing 20 pounds isn’t a realistic goal that is RELEVANT to your life right now. Rather than setting yourself up for failure, perhaps you need to modify your goal based on your current life circumstances. You could instead set a goal of doubling your daily step count from 3500 to 7000 steps per day. That may or may not lead to weight loss anyway, but it’s more relevant to your current circumstances and is much more achievable.

Design relevant goals based on your current circumstances and set yourself up for success, never for failure.

Does my goal have a deadline?

So you’re committed to losing 20 pounds in order to “get healthy” this year…fantastic! But how much time have you given yourself to achieve this goal? If your goal is to lose 20 pounds someday, good luck with that. Or maybe you’re more realistic and the plan is to start…tomorrow?

definition of tomorrow o 1117394

Instead of thinking losing 20 pounds is something you will get to eventually, set a concrete deadline. Saying, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds in the next 6 months” is a TIME-SENSITIVE goal that will motivate you to begin taking immediate action.

Don’t think deadlines make a difference? I don’t care how much you procrastinate, how lazy you are, or how little motivation or willpower you think you possess. If your house is a mess, the best productivity strategy to get yourself to clean it is to invite your mother-in-law over for dinner. I guarantee creating that time-sensitive deadline will get your butt in gear. Now apply this mindset to your specific goal.

Once you have taken the steps to get from “I want to get healthy” to “I want to lose 20 pounds in the next 6 months,” it’s time to ask yourself the most important question of all that will be the difference between your success or failure.

The Importance of Defining Your ‘Why’

Whatever goal you set isn’t going to be easy if it pushes you outside your comfort zone. Losing 20 pounds isn’t an easy goal to achieve for most people. If it were then we wouldn’t be in the midst of the largest obesity epidemic we’ve seen in modern history. Your life will be filled with distractions every single day that pull you away from your goal. Simply wanting to lose weight isn’t enough to stop you from devouring the box of donuts your colleagues bring in every Friday morning (I love you guys at Unsolved, but seriously you’re killing me).

photo 1454255779048 55ecd78837d4

Image courtesy of Bethany Newman,

If you intend to become a member of the elite group of the less than 10% of people who follow through with their goals, you better have a very clear understanding of WHY achieving your goal is important to you.

This is an incredibly simple (but not easy) process where all you do is continually ask yourself ‘Why is achieving my goal important to me?’ as if you were a five year old.

Why is losing weight important to you?

Because I’d look better and my clothes would fit me again.

Great…so why is that important?

Because if I looked better and my clothes fit I’d have more confidence in myself (and my spouse might also find me more attractive).

Great…so why is that important?

Having more confidence in myself would help me do better creative work and energize me again in a career where I feel stuck and unmotivated.

Great…so why is that important? (Sensing a pattern here?)

Doing better work and having passion for my career again could lead to a promotion or a new job that pays a lot more.

Great…so why is that important?

Landing a new job that I’m passionate about that also pays more would allow me to better support my family and be a more energetic and positive role model for my young kids.

I don’t know about you, but I could care less about losing 20 pounds for the sake of looking better. I all but guarantee, however, that if losing weight led to landing a new job that I was passionate about and transformed me into a more supportive, attentive, and positive role model for my young children, it would be a helluva lot easier to politely decline the Friday morning donuts. Looking better and having clothes that fit me would just be an added bonus but no longer the destination.

The 5-Step Framework That Makes Success Inevitable

You have clearly defined your macro goal and you know why achieving it is so important to you. It’s time to get busy!

….Not so fast.

Before jumping into the deep end and taking action, if you truly want to succeed where you’ve failed so many times in the past, there are several more equally important steps after defining your macro goal. Remember, you’re no longer setting vague goals and crossing your fingers hoping they magically come true – you are building a system that will make success inevitable.

The system that I’ve used for the last decade that ensures I achieve every goal I set is the 5-step GO FAR framework originally conceived by Christopher Rush, the first quadriplegic with muscular dystrophy to become a licensed scuba diver.

Losing 20 pounds doesn’t sound so overwhelming anymore compared to the thought of rendering your limbs useless, weighing yourself down, and then being thrown into the ocean does it?

If you’re interested in developing laser-sharp focus and taking real action towards the most important goals in your life, having complete clarity on what needs to get done, having 100% confidence that you are doing what’s necessary, and knowing how to take action consistently, then I invite you to learn more about my Focus Yourself program.



3 This quote is most often attributed to Bill Gates but is also widely attributed to Tony Robbins as well.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”