Why do New Year’s resolutions fail?


Courtesy of Statista

Author James Clear writes, “All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision.”

On January 1st, people, customarily from the western world, proclaim how they will change their lives in the new year. This annual tradition, known as a New Year’s resolution, often includes people’s intentions to lose weight, make more money, do better academically, or spend more time on important matters. In short, these resolutions represent a person’s natural desire to right past wrongs and address personal insecurities. Although the concept of the New Year’s resolution has good intentions at its core, it is an idea that has faced great scrutiny.

Many have starkly criticized people’s hyper-fixation on New Year’s resolutions and refuse to make them. A common complaint is that resolutions often break by February or March, and all the hope one puts in themself and their gain from New Year’s resolution turns into self-loathing.

Learning from their past experiences with New Year’s resolutions, many see no point in them. Oprah Winfrey revealed in 2017 on the Rachael Ray Show that she no longer commits to New Year’s resolutions and is much happier “being in the present.”

But why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep?

New Year’s resolutions are prone to fail because goal-setters often focus on the extrinsic outcome rather than fulfilling intrinsic goals.

A person’s New Year’s resolution may be to lose weight, but how? What life changes will one make for a goal to become a reality?

The unanswered question of “how or why?” results in the failure of one’s resolution.

In addition, many people struggle with overly ambitious goals that are not sustainable simply because of everyday life’s common problems compounded with a lack of willpower. Many mistakenly expect to commit a massive change in their life without doing the work to build habits.

In the New York Times best-seller “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones,” author James Clear notes the importance of working towards your big goals through little changes in your life.

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision.”

When you focus on small doable habits rather than a complete 180-degree change in your life, there is more of a chance for success and less for disappointment. It is far more feasible to commit to spending 5 minutes on the treadmill every day than promising yourself you will exercise more.

A New Year’s resolution can be a positive tool for change as long as it remains a tool to better yourself as a whole and not the entire purpose of the change. So, if you fail to keep your New Year’s resolution this year, don’t be too hard on yourself because lasting change is not always linear. Know that a new beginning doesn’t have to be recognized at the start of a New Year but can also be at the beginning of each day.