4 MIN READ | Positive Psychology

Dennis Relojo-Howell

The Nature of the New Year’s Resolution: Why Does It Keep Failing?

Cite This
Dennis Relojo-Howell, (2021, January 26). The Nature of the New Year’s Resolution: Why Does It Keep Failing?. Psychreg on Positive Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/new-years-resolution-keep-failing/
Reading Time: 4 minutes

2021 is here.

After an incredibly turbulent 2020, people try to stay hopeful but cautiously so, making plans without getting their hopes up. Though we have entered the new year with the vaccination already available in some countries, including the US, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, not to mention the further socio-economic repercussions.

As such, some people might find it hard to make New Year’s resolutions, except for staying alive or sane. On the other hand, others might want to use this fresh start to introduce some changes to their lives and improve the situation despite the circumstances.

However, we rarely associate New Year’s resolutions with an actual change. Millions of people set goals every January 1st only to forget about them in the following weeks. According to self-development experts from selfdevelopmentsecrets.com, we tend to forget that to form a new habit, we need to break the old (bad) one first. And it takes time.

Let us consider why resolutions made every new year are so likely to fail, and what we can do to change it.

Why do we make New Year’s resolutions?

To understand why it is hard to keep our resolutions, we should consider our motivations first. Very often, our strong but fleeting determination is a result of holiday remorse. Christmas and the end of the year are a unique time; holiday food, catching up with friends and family, time off from work – all that might lead to overthinking. We feel ashamed and guilty about indulging ourselves, relaxing, and overeating or we start comparing ourselves to that more successful cousin, concluding that we have failed ourselves, our parents, or partners.

Then, Christmas is over, and we feel determined to change our life. And could there be a better time for a revolution than a new year?

As you have probably already guessed, these motivations aren’t enough; it’s no wonder 80% of all New Year’s resolutions fail in the first several weeks. Thus, we need to approach our goals differently.

We ignore our state of mind

Change is always difficult, no matter its nature. Even when you finally get to improving your life, and you know the change is for the better, you have to expect a certain degree of emotional irregularity.

People react to change differently. Some get incredibly stressed and anxious, others – depressed and fatigued, and some will quickly get bored. All that means a lot of reactions occurring in your body, which can be exhausting. But we also adapt and get used to new things. All we need is time; that’s why persistence is so vital for success.

Most revolutions don’t happen overnight. We start motivated and excited, but when we don’t see any results straight away, we get stressed and discouraged. According to research, immediate rewards make people persist because they bring satisfaction and enjoyment. 

Approach your resolution as a marathon, not a sprint; make a detailed plan so that you can predict when you can expect the first results and what kind of effects you might see first. For example, when you start exercising, you might not see the numbers on the scale decreasing right away, but you will surely notice a change, even a slight one, in how you feel.

It’s a perfectly normal – human – thing to feel unmotivated at times. But this is precisely why you should always start by changing the way you think. After all, it’s hard to imagine you will go for a run every afternoon if you spend the whole day thinking about how awful it will be and how you will certainly fail. Believe in yourself and enjoy it. You absolutely can do it.

Self-discipline is key

People say that you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it, and while it sounds cliché, this is what you need to succeed, no matter if you resolve to lose weight, spend less time on social media, find a new job, or improve your health.

Nobody is born motivated, determined, and with a great sense of self-discipline. That is something you need to learn and practice, just like any other skill. It won’t do you any good if you try to turn your whole life upside down all at once. Start small – break one bad habit after another. If you want to switch to a more beneficial diet, introduce healthy products one by one into your daily life, gradually reducing the number of unhealthy ingredients.

Focus on what you want

Let’s say you want to lose weight. But why? It’s hardly about the number itself – you probably want to change the way you look or feel. Most likely, you want to be healthier. Focus on that wish. There’s no obligation; only your will.

Erin Falconer, the author of How to Get Sh*t Done, says that we should stop using the word should. It implies the obligation and the absence of decision or free will. Humans are bizarre creatures; we might want something with all our hearts and stop as soon as we discover it’s a duty or a must.

Make plans. Say that you will go for a run, rather than you should. It puts you in a position of control, plus makes it harder to make excuses.

Final thoughts

A new year can be a push that you need to start changing your life, but remember that every change starts from within. For instance, if you set a goal to spend less time on social media, start by determining why it’s important to you and what you will achieve if you keep this resolution.

There’s no should. Commit yourself to your work towards your goal by visualising it and staying optimistic. Stick to the plan and try enjoying the process. To form a new habit, you have to break the old one, and it might take some time to establish a new routine, so don’t get discouraged and stop making up excuses. You will soon see it’s all worth it.

It is crucial to make peace with yourself. Remember that you’re working towards something you want; no one forces you to do anything. So, enjoy the process of improving your life, but don’t beat yourself up in case of delays or mistakes. Be proud of your efforts.


Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.

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