According to a study, only 9-12% of us are likely to keep our New Year’s resolutions.
The problem isn’t simply lack of self-discipline and motivation, but in how we actually create and manage our resolutions throughout the year.
In this article, I will give you the top five reasons New Year’s resolutions fail (and what you should do to fix them).
1) You want an instant life makeover
One of the main reasons New Year’s resolutions fail is that we want total life transformation…and we want it ASAP!
We want to become fit, smart, and rich in an instant—as if the new year has a magic wand.
If you treat resolutions and goals this way, I’m sorry, you’re bound to fail terribly.
For many reasons!
First, you’ll be exhausted even before you start. Sure, on the surface you’re full of passion and determination (and that’s actually great), but your system is getting overwhelmed without you knowing it.
You’re like a kid who’s high after eating too much sugar. You’ll eventually crash…and the crash will be hard.
Second, you’re likely to make excuses for not doing one resolution. You’ll say “well, at least I did the other items in the list”, and it will end badly. You’ll do a little bit of everything, but you won’t be able to keep one consistently.
- Love yourself for who you are right now. Ask yourself why you want to get rid of the old version of yourself so much. Look, you’re fine…and you’re doing just fine right now. You don’t have to change so much so you can finally be proud of yourself. Any added life changes is just a bonus.
- Do one thing at a time. Go ahead and make a long list (we’re allowed to be ambitious after all), but only do one or two things at a time. Once it becomes a habit (say you’ve been doing it daily for one month straight), that’s the only time you should add another goal or resolution.
2) You get discouraged way too fast
We hate it when we disappoint ourselves. And so we quit when we see any sign of “defeat”.
We constantly want to prove to ourselves (and to others) that we’re a much better person, that we have self-discipline, that we’re not “losers”…and so if we “fail” even once or twice, we get discouraged.
We go “Welp, I tried” then throw away everything and go back to the old ways.
This is probably the reason why 23% quit their resolutions by the end of the first week.
We would stop trying because we’d rather not see ourselves “fail” again and again. But here’s the thing: successful people on average have 14 slip-ups in the first two years, so if you fail once or twice…or —come on—even 50 times, that’s okay. As long as you keep going.
- Be realistic. No one person in this world can just switch on or switch off a habit. No one! You will have many failed attempts—it’s a guarantee— and it’s part of the process.
- Focus on your wins. The way to not be discouraged too fast is by focusing on the times you kept your resolutions rather than the times you broke them. The first month is the toughest, and it’s the time that you should be your own cheerleader.
- Forgive and recommit daily. If you failed yesterday because you drank one beer even if you resolve not to drink a single drop of alcohol this year, you have to forgive yourself and promise you’ll try again. Do this while you’re in the shower or on your commute to work. Forgive and recommit. This is the only way to go.
3) You think you can do it on your own
You might go “Well, of course! Besides, why should I bother other people?”
And this is probably why you keep failing at your resolutions.
We need allies. We need partners-in-crime. We need an audience to show off how much we’ve accomplished. We need other people’s energy!
If we just keep our resolutions to ourselves, it will take a lot more willpower to maintain them. Why? Because we won’t be disappointing anyone but ourselves for breaking them anyway.
And here’s another reason why you should share your resolutions: people might be able to help you directly. For example, if you share your career goals and resolutions to your boss, they might make it easier for you to commit to them.
Sure, some people can pull off resolutions alone, but it’s much easier (and enjoyable) when done with others.
- Find a “resolutions buddy”. If your goal is to get fit this year, find someone who’s into that too so you can work on your goals together. Both of you can enroll in a gym or start a new diet. You’re more likely to keep your resolutions if you know it could affect another person.
- Broadcast it. Go post your progress on your IG or blog, share your record on a forum or app. Do this for accountability. Shout to the world your progress because there will be days when you feel demotivated, and when that happens, sometimes the fact of just being able to post about it will keep you going.
4) You’re too busy
If you want to make life changes— big or small, you have to set time for it. Period.
You don’t want the year to end with you saying “I got busy” when you ask yourself why you’re not able to keep your resolutions. Not again.
Yes, even the resolutions that involve quitting (i.e. “I will quit smoking”) requires it. You need to constantly remind yourself of your resolutions—even just 5 minutes a day. You also need to read books about them, log to your habit tracker, etc…so yes, resolutions require time.
So go set time for it. Every single day.
Look, life and work will always, always, always “get in the way” if you want to make excuses.
But if Barack Obama has time to read books and listen to music even if he’s a very busy guy, you’re not too busy with your resolutions.
And let’s be real here, how many hours do you spend on social media? Nuff said.
- Make your resolutions top priority. At least for the first month. Trust me, you can still do well at your job or anything that keeps you busy…because you’re actually NOT busy, you’re just used to your old habits. That’s all. By making your resolutions your top priority, you’re making space for it in your life.
- Incorporate your resolution to your other habits. Creating a new habit can feel less daunting if you put it together with your other habits. For example, if you want to meditate 15 minutes a day, include it in your morning routine. It will likely stick. The trick is to make it seem easy so you won’t ever say you’re too busy to do it.
5) You get distracted by unexpected life changes
Many things can happen in a year.
Don’t believe me?
Try to recall the past year and I’m sure you can see that even though it felt kinda uneventful, it actually was. Your life at the start of 2022 is probably very different from the one at the end of the year—from your friends, career, love life…to who you are.
This year, you might have to move to another continent for work. Or you might lose someone you love (let’s hope not). Or you might win a million bucks.
Anything can happen!
And when our conditions and priorities shift—especially if they seem urgent—we ditch our resolutions. Or we start to de-prioritize them. We think “I’ll get back to you once this is done”, or “There’s no point in doing this anymore.”
Most of the time though, we won’t even notice this happening. We get too focused on the urgent and exciting stuff. We just go through life as if we never made a vow to ourselves in the first week of the year.
- Prepare for life changes. Your life will change, and this is a fact. So prepare for it. We already know that there will be trips and events and milestones that will affect our resolutions. So you should know how to “change-proof” your resolutions. Subscribe to a habit tracker app and turn your notifications on. You should also set time every week to assess your resolutions and life goals.
- Give yourself time to transition. To avoid overwhelm, allow yourself to de-prioritize your goals for at least one or two weeks. But after that, forgive and recommit.
I hope that by knowing these five common reasons New Year’s Resolutions fail, you’ll be able to make necessary adjustments to your list.
And remember, while you keep pushing yourself to become a better version of you, you have to do it with self-love and compassion. Forgiving yourself for slip-ups, praising yourself for your wins, and trusting in yourself fully can actually do wonders!
May this year be finally the year you succeed at keeping your resolutions.