Behaviour change is hard and ere are a few reasons why

January means it’s that time of year when people feel it’s a good time to make changes in their lives. Eating less, exercising more or trying something new and different however most of us don’t stick to these New Year resolutions. Some studies show that 23% of people fail within the first week and as little as 9% are achieved (19 Mind-Blowing New Year’s Resolution Statistics (2023) (
It’s safe to say behaviour change is difficult for everyone and it is something that does not occur easily not does it have to be over-complicated. It can be simple in theory but incredibly difficult to implement. Some common issues and barriers are outlined below.


We often expect change to happen quickly and we become demoralised and motivation sways when it doesn’t. Change, unfortunately doesn’t happen overnight and if it does then it is likely due to something outside of our control. When we do attempt to make a change like eating less or exercising more we underestimate the time it will take for the changes to be noticed. For example, after 2 months of altering your diet, if you’re lucky, you may lose approximately 3kg and the effect of this on your body composition will be minimal. In order to avoid getting demoralised set expectations lower than you anticipated originally. If you thought that after 3-6 months of dieting was going to make you look like you’re ready for a body-building competition then hit the reset button and have a look again.

Breaking Habits

One of the hardest things in behaviour change is to break habits. These are automatic behaviours that are learned over time and can be so difficult to change. Habits can be triggered from a smell, place, person or an object and are so automatic that we don’t even know they’re occurring. If you can identify a trigger then you can remove it or replace it with a healthier option. Instead of snacking on chocolate can you snack on an apple slice covered in peanut butter? You’re not restricting yourself of something sweet this way and you’re less likely to fall off the horse.

Support Network

Some barriers will show themselves as external factors which again make behaviour change more difficult. Different priorities, lack of resources or poor support networks are examples of this. Even though you shouldn’t rely on others to change your behaviour, if you’re surrounded by those who support you in your journey it can be easier. The important part here is to get as far away as possible from those who doubt your ability to change, discourage you or worse again ridicule your attempt to change.

Dealing with failure

Those who give up and throw their toys out of the pram will not change. If you accept and learn from failure and realise it’s part of the change then you’re more likely to be successful. I always try to encourage people not to skip something for consecutive days. Having an unhealthy meal or skipping an odd training session here and there  is normal – we’re human after all and sometimes we just can’t be ar*ed! If you fail once it’s expected and it may be outside of your control but failing twice in quick succession is a choice that you make.


Image from James Clears “Atomic Habits”

Self Control

Another challenge to behaviour change is our ability to resist temptation or overcome impulses. For example if you’re doing “Dry January” you have to resist the urge to have a drink during social situations when others are drinking around you. Self-control requires both physical and mental strength which is difficult to maintain over time. You will need to develop strategies such as planning, short and long-term goal as well as having a strong support network around you to keep you going.


In conclusion, behaviour change is a difficult process and it is not uncommon to fail in the long-term. It is possible and you can succeed by understanding and recognising challenges when they appear and dealing with failure when it happens.

Good luck with your journey,