Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

New Year’s Day is now less than two weeks away. Almost half of Americans will set New Year’s resolutions but in the end less than 10% will be successful. Typically by the end of February, if not January, our resolutions are as forgotten and as far in the past as Aunt Martha’s holiday fruitcake.

But why do resolutions fail so miserably? There are three reasons but the number one reason is that resolutions are nothing but dumb goals as opposed to SMART goals. Smart goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

The first problem with resolutions is that people tend to be very unrealistic when stating them. If not unrealistic, sometimes just plain delusional. Some examples of unrealistic goals would be “I want to go to the gym everyday” or “I want to lose 50 pounds by June.” Okay, that is great, but without a plan these goals are nothing more than wishful thinking. Be realistic on setting your resolutions (goals). If you have never been to the gym more than twice in a year, expecting to magically go everyday might be a stretch. Setting unrealistic, highly aspirational goals is a quick way to guilt and failure.

Resolutions also fail because they are unclear and unspecific. The more specific you make your goal, the more likely you are to succeed. As as an example… “I want to lose weight” is unclear. If I weighed myself last night and skipped eating all day today, I am sure that by bedtime I would have lost weight. But is that the intention of the goal? Have I really been successful? But if you state the goal clearly, such as “I will lose 10 pounds by the end of June” then you can design a plan and incorporate action towards that end. This goal has three simple principles that make it work.

  1.  “I will” carries a lot more weight and intention than just saying “I want to.”
  2. “lose 10 pounds” is specific and it is a measurable result. You will know when you have been successful by reaching that milestone.
  3. “by the end of June” makes it measurable by time, the Timely portion of a SMART goal. It is a deadline so you are less apt to procrastinate.

In the end, the greatest reason that resolutions fail is that they are based on willpower, and not on a plan. We say, “I want to walk more” but instead we jockey to get the parking spot closest to the front door of the gym (that is the times that we actually we go) instead of parking our car at the end of the parking lot. We say, “I want to get on a better sleep schedule” instead of actually working on ways to get to sleep earlier like turning off the TV, the lights, the laptop, the phone, etc… Willpower without a plan will lead to weak results.  Period.

Don’t sit around and make up weak resolutions or goals. Get clear and write down your goals so that they are SMART and achievable. Don’t let another 12 months go by and end up kicking yourself and beating yourself up for blowing your resolutions yet again. Make them goals and make them happen!

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Certified Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado



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