Why Resolutions Fail…And How to Succeed Instead

January has flown by, and like 80% of those who made New Year’s Resolutions, you may be staring disappointment head-on by the time you get to mid-February. Why are resolutions so hard to keep for the majority of people? Some have even gone the opposite direction and just plain refuse to make resolutions at all, for fear of failing. It’s a new year, though, and it seems such a wasted opportunity not to use this time of year as an opening towards better things—a fresh start with a clean slate. Here are seven reasons why your resolutions may fail, and how to succeed instead.

1. Your resolution is too vague.

Being healthier is consistently the most popular New Year’s resolution, whether it means more exercise, a better diet, or weight loss. It’s an excellent one, but if your resolution is to generally “lose weight” or “exercise more” and you’ve got no specific goals, you’re setting yourself up for failure. There’s just too much grey area. Giving yourself specific targets makes your resolution more achievable. “Lose 15 pounds by Memorial Day,” “Walk 2 miles on the trail every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” or “Drink no more than 2 cans of soda per week”—these examples are more concrete, clear resolutions to reach for.

2. You’ve created unrealistic goals.

Making a resolution that is too lofty or unrealistic also sets you up to fail. For instance, if you don’t like your job, don’t make a broad goal such as getting promoted or finding a new job in three months. Rather, try creating a list of To-do’s that would help move you towards your goal: 1) Update your resumé and LinkedIn profile; 2) Attend a networking event at least twice a month; 3) Meet with a recruiter by next week. You can check items off your list as you go, knowing that these tasks are helping you work towards your resolution.

3. You’re going at it alone.

This isn’t the time to go solo. With support from those around you, you’ll have more motivation to accomplish your goals. For example, if your resolution is for more self-care this year, enlist your family and friends to help you so you can schedule what you need for yourself. Even something as simple as someone else taking on your kiddo’s Thursday soccer practice carpool so that you can use that time to take a 30-minute brisk walk! Surround yourself with people who believe in you and support you physically, mentally, and emotionally, and allow yourself to ask for help—we all need it sometimes.

4. You don’t have a plan or a timeline.

Creating a plan of action or a timeline with specific deadlines is an excellent way to have accountability towards your resolution. If your goal is to improve your finances by spending less and spending smarter, but you don’t have a plan, it’s going to go nowhere. Instead, break this resolution into smaller, concrete actions and create a set of benchmarks to help you measure your achievements. Examples: make one less Starbucks stop each week until you’re down to only two a week; set up a vacation fund and auto-transfer money into it each month; set a specific budget for dining out and check off each week that you meet that goal.

5. You have too many resolutions.

“This year I’m going to declutter all my closets, save 20% from each paycheck, finish all my craft projects, get my real estate license, and run the Seattle Marathon.” Okay maybe that’s slightly exaggerated, but the point is there is such a thing as too much of a good thing (in this case, resolutions). Not only will it overwhelm and stress you out, but it’s a sure set-up for failure. Now’s your chance to prioritize them and then pick the two most important ones; you can always strive for the others once you’ve accomplished these.

6. Your environment is not supportive of your goals.

If your resolution is to stop the cycle of being late—to work, to appointments, to pick up kids—but your disorganized home is a hinderance to getting out on time, then you need to take a step back. You can’t achieve your goals if your surroundings will impede you from even getting to the next level. Do what you need to do for your personal spaces to be conducive towards your goals.

7. You’re too hard on yourself.

Cut yourself some slack—you need and deserve this! Too many people quit after the first time they mess up their resolutions. Give yourself some room for mistakes, take a deep breath, then get back into it. If your resolution is a significant change to how you live now, it’s not going to happen overnight and there may not be instant gratification. Slow and steady. Realize that life changes can take time and much effort, but they will be worth it. When you do hit a benchmark towards your goal, reward yourself!


Think of February as a resolution-reset month. Consider the guidance in this article and what you’ve experienced so far this year, then revamp your resolutions so that you are set up for success, you’ve got accountability and a plan, you have the support you need, and your environment won’t hold you back. Now go get ’em.


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