Why Are New Year’s Resolutions so Hard to Keep?

When we really look at the numbers, it turns out that New Years resolutions arent so much a chance for self-improvement, as they are a chance for disappointment. But the trouble isnt us! Its just that resolutions rarely ever go as hoped. According to one study, 80% of people have already abandoned their New Years resolutions by the second week of February, and only about 8% of people actually achieve their resolutions.

This year lets step away from New Years resolutions, because there are better ways to pursue our better selves. Read on below for more thoughts on New Years resolutions, where they can steer us wrong, and how we can make more sustainable changes in our lives.

Where do New Years resolutions go wrong?

1.  They tend to be way too broad

Unlike specific, well-planned goals, New Years resolutions usually tend toward vaguer desires for self-improvement. I want to be in better shape this time next year, or save more money, or have better relationships, and so on. But unless a goal is specific and measurable, were likely to fail the pursuit. Try breaking your resolution down into its most basic steps, into daily and weekly tasks, so that you can really track your progress and keep on course.


2.  They distract us from the day-to-day work

New Years resolutions train us to think of self-improvement in terms of years for scale, when self-improvement is really a daily effort. Instead of focusing on a vague finish line, a whole year away, we have better odds of success when we think of self-improvement as a daily commitment to a healthier, more sustainable and satisfying lifestyle. Its not one big resolution to be reached in a years time; its a dozen of small, good decisions made each day.


3.  They train us to fixate on our shortcoming

New Years resolutions very often end up focusing on whats wrong with us. Its always a good idea to address our bad habits. Eat less junk food, exercise more, quit smokingthese are all very sensible, good ideas! But becoming better versions of ourselves is more than just cutting out our unhealthy behaviors. We are more likely to achieve our goals when they also inspire real passion. Try to frame your goals and resolutions in terms of something you want to achieve, rather than just in terms of the things youd like to avoid.


4.  They emphasize transformation over growth

It may be a brand new year, but its not a brand new you, and thats a good thing. New Years resolutions encourage us to think about big transformations, but you dont need to be a brand new person to be well. Instead of transformation, we are better off imagining self-improvement as growth, and the way we grow is by showing up every day and trying our best. Rather than focusing on the things youd like to transform about yourself, try taking an inventory of your best qualities instead, and then focus on nurturing those qualities to their fullest potential.


5.   They tend to be all or nothing

New Years resolutions are easy to fail because theyre so often framed as zero-sum scenarioseither total success or total failure, and nothing in between. But out here in the real world, change is gradual. Its an effortful, bit-by-bit process, flagged with setbacks at every turn. And it doesnt happen without failure. So if you slip up on your project of self-improvement, as we all do, dont decide youve failed just yet. Just try again tomorrow.



We want to know what you think about New Years resolutions and strategies for self-improvement. What works for you? Join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #BeWell, #BeHeard, and #BeThere.

For more information on New Years resolutions, goals, and intentions, check out these resources here.

If you or someone you know is having a difficult time and would like to talk to someone about it, there are people who want to help. For teens who want to talk to other teens, call Teen Line at 310-855-4673, or text TEEN to 839863. You can also text LA to 741741 to talk with a trained Crisis Counselor for free, 24/7. For more information check out www.crisistextline.org.