5 Reasons Why Your New Year's Resolutions Fail

There are several reasons why New Year's resolutions fail. We'll the most common ones and what to do about them in detail.
5 Reasons Why Your New Year's Resolutions Fail
Elena Sanz

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 17 January, 2023

Have you ever wondered why your New Year’s resolutions fail? A few days before the end of the current year, it is common to wonder why it’s so difficult to implement -and especially to maintain- those habits that allow us to make positive changes. It’s estimated that only 8% of people manage to fulfill them.

In most cases, the implementation of new goals is maintained during the months of January and February. After this, many people fall back into bad habits and old habits. So, it seems that generating long-term change is more difficult than you might think. Why is this? Let’s take a look.

Why do your New Year’s resolutions fail?

Research reported in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health revealed that, although setting New Year’s resolutions is a popular activity in many cultures, people are not particularly good at keeping them.

There are several factors that explain why your New Year’s resolutions fail. Setting unrealistic goals, making too many changes too suddenly, and procrastinating are some of the most common. Of course, there are some strategies to increase the odds of success in the new year.

The most important thing is to start recognizing what actions are not helping and what can help reinforce discipline and consistency when it comes to reattempting all those changes. In this article, we’ll go over the causes of failure and what to do to not fail in the attempt.

We think you may be interested in reading this, too: 24 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions that You Can Actually Keep

1. Setting unrealistic New Year’s resolutions

Keep in mind what the odds of keeping New Year’s resolutions are. The starting point for failure is to set goals that are too difficult to achieve. This not only limits their realization in the medium and long term, but also becomes a trigger for frustration.

That said, it’s necessary to start from the current reality before setting any goal. To do so, several questions must be asked, such as the following:

  • Are the objectives quantifiable?
  • Are they determined by economic factors?
  • Are they limited by time?
  • Can they be divided into several parts?
  • Is third-party intervention necessary to achieve them?

Ideally, goals should be challenging and achievable. A good strategy is to set them in terms of the estimated time to achieve them. Setting small, short-term goals is a way to motivate yourself to reach greater achievements.

why New Year's resolutions fail.
 It may be useful to write down your resolutions to make them more tangible and realistic.

2. Make abrupt changes in a very short period of time

The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions is rooted in Western civilization, where the passage from one year to the next represents an opportunity to adopt a new lifestyle. Hence, January is the time to initiate changes in your diet and routine. The problem? This can be overwhelming.

When it comes to food, abrupt changes make it difficult to sustain the diet in the medium and long term. After a few weeks, there’s often the so-called “rebound effect“, which triggers food cravings and leads to failure when the goal is to lose weight.

This worsens if a high-demanding training routine is started or other goals are implemented at the same time: giving up an addiction, starting a new career, changing jobs, etc.

Keep in mind that taking one step at a time increases the chances of fulfilling the purpose. It’s easier to achieve success when changes are implemented gradually so that the body and mind can adapt.

More than “achieving” a goal, it is about changing your lifestyle and adopting healthier habits. This is what makes it possible to maintain its effects over time.

3. Not keeping track of your progress

Not reviewing the progress of the goals set is also a common barrier to progress. It’s important to check on a weekly or biweekly basis what progress has been made, what can be improved, and what may be interfering with the achievement of the goal.

The more aware you are of the process, the more likely you are to be on track for success. Keeping a record of accomplishments increases motivation and, above all, allows you to develop strategies to resolve those issues that may represent a barrier.

4. Letting yourself be dominated by fear

As the days go by, the excitement of accomplishing new resolutions fades. In turn, the feeling of fear increases. This represents the main cause of self-sabotage; there may be fear of change, of leaving the comfort zone, of failure, or of success itself.

Fear is heightened if there has already been some kind of failure in the past.

If this is the case, it will be key to strengthen your self-confidence and self-esteem. To do this, it’s advisable to learn new things, enhance the skills you already have, meditate, and take care of yourself physically and mentally. If this doesn’t work, a psychological consultation could help.

5. Procrastination

Many fail in their New Year’s resolutions because they procrastinate. Multiple distractions, setting a date to start, and making excuses will prevent reaching the goal in the desired time.

If you really want to accomplish a goal, why wait until Monday or a specific date? Any time is a good time to start and move forward. Many times, the perceived lack of time has its origin in hours poorly invested; for example, spending a lot of time connected to your cell phone, video games, or any other type of distraction.

You have to have a clear goal and prioritize the things that lead to its fulfillment.

why New Year's resolutions fail.
Procrastination delays the achievement of goals, whether they are New Year’s resolutions or not.

Tips for keeping your New Year’s resolutions

One of the keys to keeping New Year’s resolutions is to set more specific goals. That is, don’t just think “I’m going to change my diet,” “I’m going to exercise more,” or “I’m going to start a new project,” but what those changes will look like, the new routine, schedules, strategies, etc.

Specific planning for each goal plays an important role in knowing how to carry them out at any given moment. To cite a few examples, you can put the following into practice:

  • “I will avoid consuming sugar and ultra-processed foods,” rather than “I will make changes in my diet.”
  • “I will attend the gym three times a week, for at least one hour” instead of “I will start exercising more”.
  • “I will take English lessons from 4 p. m. to 6 p. m.” instead of “I want to learn English.”

Thus, whatever the objective is, leaving it specified will facilitate its realization. Of course, to this must be added commitment, discipline, and perseverance. To keep them afloat, you have to remember what your motivation is, where you want to get to and what you have achieved little by little.

Changing your lifestyle will be decisive to achieve your goal. It is useless to set goals if your habits are not consistent with what you want.

You may have to reorganize schedules, work and leisure times, eating routines, and rest periods, among others. This is the only way to optimize time.

Like this article? You may also like to read: These Are the Health News that Stood Out the Most in 2022

It’s necessary to change the “all or nothing” mentality

Many times, New Year’s resolutions fail because of an “all or nothing” mentality. This makes it impossible to make mistakes and enjoy the process because success starts to be measured by a black-and-white, all-or-nothing mindset of “success or failure.” Keep in mind that failure is not a bad thing and is part of the way.

Results may take a little longer than expected or obstacles may arise that force you to start from scratch. Keep this in mind, as it’s crucial to avoid self-sabotage or deviation from the main objective. You can do it!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Dickson, J.M.; Moberly, N.J.; Preece, D.; Dodd, A.; Huntley, C.D. Self-Regulatory Goal Motivational Processes in Sustained New Year Resolution Pursuit and Mental Wellbeing. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 3084. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063084
  • It’s January 7: Are You Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolution?. (January 7, 2013). Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Available in https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/its-january-7-are-you-sticking-to-your-new-years-resolution/#:~:text=Author&text=Nearly%20half%20of%20Americans%20make,the%20Journal%20of%20Clinical%20Psychology.
  • Rössner SM, Hansen JV, Rössner S. New Year’s resolutions to lose weight–dreams and reality. Obes Facts. 2011;4(1):3-5. doi: 10.1159/000324861. Epub 2011 Feb 18. PMID: 21372604; PMCID: PMC6444530.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.