Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and Strategies for Success


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As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, people around the world enthusiastically set resolutions for the upcoming year with the best intentions. Whether it’s to lose weight, quit smoking, or learn a new skill, these resolutions are often fueled by a sense of optimism and a desire for positive change.  However, the sad truth is that a significant number of these resolutions are abandoned within weeks. According to the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University, researchers suggest that the success rate for New Year resolutions is only around 9%. Bad habits don’t go away easily, and replacing them with good habits is even more difficult. In this post, we will delve into the reasons behind the failure of New Year’s resolutions and explore effective strategies to ensure success.

The Pitfalls of New Year’s Resolutions

Unrealistic Expectations

One of the primary reasons New Year’s resolutions fail is the tendency to set unrealistic expectations. Many individuals, swept up in the excitement of a fresh start, set overly ambitious goals without considering the practicality of achieving them. For instance, vowing to lose a substantial amount of weight in a short period may lead to frustration and disappointment when progress is slower than anticipated.

Solution: Set Realistic and Attainable Goals

Instead of aiming for drastic changes, set smaller, achievable goals. Break down larger objectives into manageable steps.  These small changes will allow for a sense of accomplishment along the way. For weight loss, consider setting a goal of losing a few pounds each month rather than fixating on a specific total by the end of the year.  Checking in on a regular basis rather than one time for a big goal will create better chances of success in the long term

Lack of Specificity

Vague resolutions like “exercise more” or “eat healthier” lack the specificity needed for effective goal-setting. Without clear, actionable steps, it’s challenging to track progress and stay motivated.

Solution: Define Clear and Concrete Objectives

The best way to define new goals is to be specific about what you want to achieve. Instead of a broad resolution like “get fit,” set specific goals.  Define the type of exercise, frequency, and duration. For example, commit to jogging for 30 minutes three times a week. This clarity not only guides your actions but also allows for better monitoring of your journey and personal goals.

Too Many Resolutions

Attempting to overhaul multiple aspects of one’s life simultaneously can be overwhelming. A lot of people divide attention among numerous outcome goals.  This often results in diluted effort and frustration.

Solution: Focus on a Few Key Resolutions

Prioritize your goals and focus on a select few that align with your highest priorities.  Remember, small steps add up to a complete journey as you increase the time frame. This focused approach allows for better concentration and dedication to each resolution, increasing the likelihood of success.

Lack of Planning

Without a detailed plan, resolutions can easily become aspirations rather than achievable objectives.  This is why many resolutions fail in the first week. The absence of a roadmap makes it challenging to navigate the journey to success.

Solution: Develop a Strategic Plan

Create a step-by-step plan outlining the actions required to reach your goals. Identify potential obstacles and devise strategies to overcome them. Breaking down the process into manageable tasks gives you a clear vision, and direction, making it easier to stay on course with your ultimate goal.

Absence of a Support System

Embarking on a resolution journey alone can be isolating. Without a support system, individuals may find it challenging to stay motivated, especially during difficult times.

Solution: Seek Accountability and Encouragement

Share your resolutions with good friends, family, or a supportive community. Having individuals who understand your goals provides a built-in accountability system. Regular check-ins and encouragement from others can significantly boost motivation.

Negative Mindset

A pessimistic outlook or fear of failure can cast a shadow over the pursuit of resolutions. Negative thoughts can undermine self-confidence and motivation.

Solution: Foster a Positive Mindset

Adopt a positive mindset and view setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth. Celebrate small victories, and acknowledge progress along the way. Cultivating optimism creates a more resilient foundation for achieving long-term success.

Lack of Intrinsic Motivation

Resolutions driven by external pressure or societal expectations are often short-lived. When the initial excitement fades, individuals may struggle to find the motivation to persevere.

Solution: Connect Resolutions to Personal Values

Ensure your resolutions align with your personal values and desires. Identify the intrinsic motivation behind each goal, focusing on the positive impact it will have on your life. This deep connection provides a lasting source of inspiration.


In our fast-paced society, patience is often in short supply. Unrealistic expectations and impatience can lead to frustration and, ultimately, the abandonment of resolutions.

Solution: Embrace the Journey

Understand that real change takes time. Instead of fixating on the end result, appreciate the journey and the progress made along the way. Celebrate small wins and use setbacks as opportunities for reflection and adjustment.

Failure to Adapt

Life is unpredictable, and circumstances may change. Failing to anticipate potential obstacles or lacking strategies to overcome them can be a significant roadblock to success and building positive new habits.

Solution: Be Flexible and Adaptive

Be prepared to adapt your goals to new situations. Life is dynamic, and the ability to adjust your approach when faced with challenges is crucial. Embrace flexibility and view adjustments as part of the natural evolution of your resolution journey.

Ignoring Obstacles

Ignoring potential obstacles or not having strategies in place to overcome them can leave individuals ill-equipped to navigate the inevitable bumps in the road.

Solution: Identify and Plan for Obstacles

Anticipate potential challenges and devise strategies to overcome them. Whether it’s finding alternative ways to exercise during a busy week or planning for social situations that may tempt unhealthy habits, being proactive in addressing obstacles increases resilience and ensures continued progress.

So here we are, 10 days into the beginning of the year, and the gym memberships and diet plans are already starting to wane. While New Year’s resolutions have a reputation for faltering, understanding the common pitfalls and implementing effective strategies can significantly increase the likelihood of success. By setting realistic goals, developing specific plans, cultivating a positive mindset, seeking support, and adapting to challenges, individuals can transform their resolutions from fleeting aspirations into lasting achievements. As we embark on the beginning of a new year, let us embrace the opportunity for positive change with thoughtful consideration and a commitment to sustained growth.

​Lastly, here are some of team illumy’s favorite resources for staying on track, and setting yourself up for success:

  1. MyFitnessPal (https://www.myfitnesspal.com/): A platform for tracking your fitness and nutrition goals, helping you stay accountable to your health resolutions.
  2. Habitica (https://habitica.com/): A gamified task manager that turns your goals into a game, making it fun and motivating to stick to your resolutions.
  3. Headspace (https://www.headspace.com/): A meditation and mindfulness app that can aid in stress management and maintaining mental well-being, supporting resolutions related to mindfulness.
  4. Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/): A platform for tracking and discovering books, great for those with reading resolutions or goals.
  5. Duolingo (https://www.duolingo.com/): Ideal for language learning resolutions, offering a gamified and interactive approach to mastering new languages.
  6. Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/): An online learning platform providing courses on a wide range of subjects, helping you achieve educational resolutions.
  7. Todoist (https://todoist.com/): A task management app that helps you organize and prioritize your to-do list, facilitating productivity resolutions.
  8. Investopedia (https://www.investopedia.com/): For financial resolutions, Investopedia offers educational resources and information on personal finance and investing.
  9. TED Talks (https://www.ted.com/): A source of inspirational talks and ideas that can help you stay motivated and focused on your personal and professional resolutions.
  10. Meetup (https://www.meetup.com/): A platform to connect with like-minded individuals and join local groups or events related to your resolutions, fostering a supportive community.


Additional Reading:

Keep your New Year’s Resolutions with these Pro Tips

The Year of the Tiger and incredible lunar new year facts

Photo by kike vega on Unsplash

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