Have You Failed Your New Year’s Resolutions Already?

Try again! Here are tricks to help you stick with it.

Posted Jan 14, 2019

Source: pixabay/katzenspielzeug

Like many people, you may have set some new year’s resolutions. Maybe your goal was to exercise more, spend more time with family, or be a more conscientious employee. And like many people, after only two weeks into the new year, you may have already failed.

Do not despair. There is solid evidence that there are things you can do to improve the odds of sticking to your resolutions.

The examples I give above are of goals that do not have an end. They are about forming new habits. You don’t want to exercise or be conscientious at work for only a month. You need tricks to make them part of your routine.

  • First, have you made your goal specific enough? If your goal is exercising, you need to decide what sort of exercise you will do. If your goal is to spend more time with family, you need to decide how you will spend time with them. If your goal is to be more conscientious at work, you need to think about what behaviors would make you achieve that.
  • Have you determined when and where you will do the activity? For example, put it into your schedule to exercise on Monday, Wednesday and Friday after work. Or make a schedule to call your family in your calendar. Be realistic. If exercising three times a week or calling your family twice a week is unrealistic, decrease the number of times you will do it. Better once a week than never at all.
  • Have you made it easy enough, so you don’t “break down” and find excuses to avoid it? Things such as keeping your gym bag (don’t forget that water bottle!) in the car and exercising in a location that is easy to access (close to home or work, or even in your home) will increase the odds you won’t find an excuse. Or put a picture of your family next to your phone or computer at home that will remind you to call them. In other words, make the behavior as automatic as possible.
  • Have you also made a plan to deal with things that could stop you from doing it, such as work asking you to stay to finish something, or friends convincing you to go for a drink instead? If you can, block your calendar or turn off your phone so people cannot stall your plans.
  • Finally, do you have ways to track your progress? Seeing that you are meeting your goal will make you feel more motivated to keep it up. And if you don’t meet it 100%, do not be too hard on yourself. See if you can change anything above to make it easier to reach. Then progress it back up to what you would like it to be.

Besides these simple tricks, you also need to ask yourself why you picked your resolution. Are you exercising because your doctor or spouse is making you do it, or because you genuinely think it is good for you? Have you picked an exercise you enjoy doing or dread every time? Are you calling your family out of obligation or do you enjoy the conversations you have with them? Do you want to be a more conscientious employee to get a bonus or impress your boss, or because you feel the work you do has value and is important (that is, it makes a difference in the world)?

Research has shown that this matters quite a bit. Enjoying an activity or finding it meaningful makes it more likely you will stick with it. Doing it to please others or not to get in trouble makes it less likely. Therefore, make sure to craft yourself a resolution that you can enjoy or because you genuinely think is important for yourself or significant others around you. Pursuing an enjoyable or meaningful goal even makes it seem easier to pursue!

So don’t give up just yet, you still have 50 weeks to practice before you set your next resolution!


Koestner, R., Lekes, N., Powers, T. A., & Chicoine, E. (2002). Attaining personal goals: Self-concordance plus implementation intentions equals success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 231-244.

Holding, A. C., Hope, N. H., Harvey, B., Marion Jetten, A. S., & Koestner, R. (2017). Stuck in limbo: Motivational antecedents and consequences of experiencing action crises in personal goal pursuit. Journal of Personality, 85(6), 893-905.

Werner, K. M., Milyavskaya, M., Foxen-Craft, E., & Koestner, R. (2016). Some goals just feel easier: Self-concordance leads to goal progress through subjective ease, not effort. Personality and Individual Differences, 96, 237-242.