Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work: And What You Can Do Instead


Don’t be discouraged by the title of this article. Resolutions come from introspection and the desire to improve, which is the foundation of making real and lasting change. Participating in the tradition at all is a step in the right direction, and a step ahead of those who don’t take the time to look at themselves critically. But there are many statistics out there about the likelihood of a resolution succeeding, and none of them are good. Ranging from about 80% according to some studies, up to 92% in others, New Year’s resolution failures seem almost inevitable. Here are few reasons you may be having difficulty with yours already, and what you can do to make a real change in your life by reevaluating the way you think.

1. DON’T: Make a Resolution Because It’s the New Year

While the symbolism of starting a new year in a new way may be appealing, there are a lot of reasons not to jump on the bandwagon and make a resolution January first. It’s a bleak time of year weather wise, and you won’t be seeing summer for months. That prospect alone can make it difficult to stick to your guns. But it’s also not a good idea to do something at the same time as every one else, or because you think this is the time of year you’re supposed to – that motivation is hollow, and won’t live for very long. It’s also a lot easier to let yourself fall of the wagon when you know you’re in good company; watching others let go of their resolutions and knowing how common it is can influence your will to continue.

DO: Ask Yourself What Was Stopping You Before

Chances are that before you made your resolutions this year you already had an idea of what you wanted to change. You need to address what was holding you back from making this decision last November, or July. If you wanted to lose weight, why didn’t you? Maybe you love your snacks too much to give them up and eat healthy. That’s okay, but remember that New Year’s doesn’t magically erase this problem for you. In fact, counting on big symbolic days to start your journey will only set you up for failure; because before you know it that bright and shiny day will be long gone and you will be left with normal, run of the mill days again. Will your excitement level be the same? Probably not, and for this reason you shouldn’t tie your goals to them. Instead, focus your commitment on the present moment. Consider what’s been holding you back for so long, and try your best to solve that issue one decision at a time.

2. DON’T: Let Your Optimism Overshadow the Work

Another reason people fail at their New Year’s resolutions is that they experience a disconnect between their commitment to a new lifestyle and the amount of work it takes to truly change ingrained habits. They are so excited to work on themselves that they forget it is just that: work! Progress requires knowledge, perseverance, and stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s a lot easier to say these things than it is to experience them, and being unprepared for the reality leads many people to just give up.

DO: Approach Change Realistically

Be prepared to be uncomfortable, to make difficult decisions, and to do things that don’t come naturally to you. Accept that it is okay, even normal, to fail along the way. The important thing is that your failure (big or small) doesn’t spell the end of your motivation. Give yourself permission to mess up, but promise yourself that it isn’t the end. You still want the things you want, and just because you didn’t accomplish it perfectly doesn’t mean that you can’t accomplish it at all.

3. DON’T: Make Ten Resolutions for Yourself

Weight loss, more sleep, cleanliness, more time with family and better success at work. It’s common for people to choose not one, but all of these things as their goals for the New Year. While these are great things to want, you have to consider the message you’re sending yourself about your current place in life. For one thing you’re creating a mountain of work for yourself, to be included amongst all the things you already do. But you’re also telling yourself that things are fundamentally not okay the way they are now, and won’t be until you check those things off your list. If you’re making resolutions from a negative perspective like this, you can’t make a positive, lasting change in your life. You’ll simply be overwhelmed!

DO: Focus on One Meaningful Journey

Instead of making a whole list of things to chase like a carrot on a stick this year, try to think of your self-improvement goals as one lifelong journey with yourself. Making one commitment to be better to yourself instead of ten smaller resolutions will allow you to focus your energy in a positive way and release the negativity of being dissatisfied with your whole life. You may make mistakes along the way, but it’s a work in progress and you aren’t finished yet! This mindset will help you to minimize your chances of procrastinating or outright quitting. It takes the pressure of failure off of you, while still allowing you many chances to find the right direction forward.

Above all, remember to have fun! Enjoy yourself and your journey in 2015. Best of luck!