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Many New Year's resolutions just don't work, as most of us who've made ones over the years know—and there's a key reason why.

December 26, 2014

Here's a non-shocker: Thirty percent of people failed to accomplish last year's fitness goals and 38% only partially accomplished them, per the Blue Goji Consumer Health & Fitness Index, which polled more than 2,600 respondents. New Year's resolutions just don't work, as most of us who've made ones over the years know—and there's a key reason why.

Having big hopes and dreams is good and all, but when it comes to actually making them happen it helps to think small—and consider your past. Specifically: You first need to nail down the obstacles getting in the way of what you want, according to psychologist Gabriele Oettingen, PhD, of New York University, who was recently interviewed by Science of Us. She recommends asking yourself, What is it in me that holds me back from experiencing that wish, that outcome?

"Very often," she says, "it's an emotion, it's those same old habits…." Once you've pinpointed the snags, you need to come up with an if/then strategy. As in: If X thing gets in my way, then I'll do Y thing to deal with it.

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The top reasons in the Blue Goji poll for bailing on fitness resolutions included not having enough time to exercise and exercise being "too boring." I can completely relate to the first; despite my best intentions I often bail on my p.m. workouts because I've got too much to do or I'm wiped out. And so, inspired by Oettingen's tactic, I'm thinking that I need to get going on a morning exercise plan—aka that time of day before I'm hit by a trillion tasks.

And if I wake up and I'm too zonked? Well, then, I can head that off by having stuff handy that will rev me up, like keeping a vial of peppermint essential oil on my nightstand I can sniff to feel more alert, sleeping in workout clothes (one less thing to do!), or convincing my husband to be my human alarm clock and push me out of bed, if he has to (hopefully, it will not come to that).

This is the year I'm not making a single fitness resolution. Instead, I'm doing some bite-size fitness revolutions and turning around the things that keep me down.

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