Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


7 Reasons Why New Year's Resolutions Don't Work

Here's what to do instead.

Photo by JESHOOTS .COM on Unsplash
Source: Photo by JESHOOTS .COM on Unsplash

New Year's resolutions are not the best strategy to improve the quality of your life in 2020.

The data speaks clearly: 80 percent of people fail to follow through on their New Year's resolutions by February.

Thus, the best decision you can make for the new year is not to make resolutions. What can you do instead?

When it comes to New Year's resolutions, I've had my good share of failure as well. I wanted to shed some pounds, to read more books, to have more time for friends and family, etc.

I'd start the new year with enthusiasm. I'd sign up for the gym and invest in a 10-session package to work with a personal trainer. I'd buy a bunch of books on Amazon and start reading avidly. I'd invite friends over to eat lasañas I'd cooked myself.

But soon, the enthusiasm, the motivation, and the effort would fade away. I became a statistic: By February, I had fallen back on my old habits.

Does this all sound familiar?

If you want to make 2020 the best year of your life, let's first understand why New Year's resolutions don't work.

1. You are trying to change your entire life overnight. You don't reach the tip of Mount Everest in a day. It's a journey made up of a myriad of small steps.

2. You don't believe you can achieve your aspirational goals. You doubt yourself. As a result, you don't commit.

3. You know the theory, but you don't practice. You have read tons of personal development books, but you fail to put your knowledge into practice. It's all talk, no action.

4. Your resolutions are a source of suffering instead of enjoyment. They become a source of stress. They become one more thing you need to do in your life. You feel they are something you have to do.

5. Because you're afraid of failing, you are keeping your resolutions a secret. As a result, you don't have a support system. You don't enroll family members and friends in helping you to move the needle.

6. You don't have enough great reasons to accomplish your resolutions. You are not clear about your "why."

7. Your resolutions are too vague. For example, "to exercise more" is way too general; it lacks concreteness. What's that "more" all about?

Frustrated with my own results. I changed my strategy. What's the main change I made? I turned New Year's resolutions into firm commitments. And it worked.

Thus, here are some tips that worked for me:

1. Ask yourself what your immediate next step is to achieve your resolutions.

2. Turn resolutions into commitments. Deepen your conviction. Make them a must.

3. Results are a consequence of massive action. Take action every day.

4. Find ways to enjoy living your commitments. Anticipate the joy you will feel when you achieve your results.

5. Don't keep your commitment a secret. Set up an accountability system. Enroll a trusted friend or invest in a life coach.

6. Be very specific about what you want to achieve with your commitments. Describe them in observable terms. What will you see, hear, and feel when you reach your commitment?

7. Be clear about your "why." Uncover the most profound purpose that underpins your goals. Why do you want your commitment to become a reality? How will your life change as a result of living the intention of your resolutions?

For example, here is how I've articulated the commitment to my health and well-being:

I make health and well-being my absolute priority. I will continue increasing my vital energy with quarterly visits to my functional doctor and to my nutritionist. I will drop 3 percent more body fat, reaching 10 percent by May 31, 2020. I will eat healthy, staying away from gluten and red meats. I will monitor my sleep quality with my Oura ring, and I will move my body for at least 30 minutes every day.

What's one of the commitments you will make to turn 2020 into one of the best years of your life? You can share it below in the comments to mark your decision, your commitment, and your willingness to be accountable.

More from Aldo Civico Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today