Most People Set New Year’s Resolutions Poorly, are You One of Them?

For most, the start of every year is the trigger to create a New Year’s resolution.

The desire to improve oneself is common and should be encouraged, however, most implement changes in ways that ultimately prove to have a low success rate.

resolutions in january

As you can see from the picture above [1], a bit over 40% of people start a ‘diet’ in January, much higher than any other month.

Weight loss resolutions in particular are common, but not particularly successful overall.[2]

Why New Year’s resolutions aren’t successful

A study of New Year’s resolutions found that 77% of subjects maintained their pledges for the first week, but the long-term success rate was only 19% [3]. That means that about 1 out of 5 are successful, which seems encouraging until you realize that a full 80% of people won’t come close to reaching their goals.

The positive side of resolutions

For anyone to make a change in their life there are 2 things required:

  1. Make the change
  2. Maintain the change

The significance of the new year alone is enough to motivate them to complete number 1, deciding to make the change.

For people who tend to put off making changes, the new year gives them the perfect opportunity to finally take the plunge.

The second positive side of a New Year’s resolution is that most other people are also making resolutions. This makes it exceedingly easy to find people with similar goals to form a support goal. This is a double-edged sword however, as if you group with people with poor ambition or motivation, they might drag you down with them.

How to maximize your chance of success this year

While it’s easy to dismiss resolutions altogether citing the lack of success most people have, the more productive attitude to take is to try to mimic behavior that successful resolutioners enact.

1 – Treat it like any other goal

While it has a specific time prompt, a New Year’s resolution is a goal all the same. This means that all the same principles of effective goal setting still apply.

2 – Pick resolution partners carefully

As noted earlier, other people who commit to a resolution with you can have a significant effect on your success rate. Only partner with people you can trust to elevate your motivation and responsibility while avoiding the rest.

If you’re mostly an independent person there’s no rule that you need resolution partners to be successful, do what you feel works best for you.

3 – Set long-term resolutions for behavior, not results

People are notoriously bad at estimating their own performance, myself included. In most cases they overestimate what they can achieve.

So picture this, you set a results-based resolution like “I want to lose 10 pounds in 2 months”, but at the end of the 2 months you find out you only lost 5 pounds.

Many people would be discouraged at this point, they were only planning on losing weight for 2 months, and now they’re basically being told they have to do it all over again.

On the other hand, what if you set a resolution like “I want to eat healthier for the entire year by only having 1 snack a day instead of my usual 2 or 3”.

In this case you weigh yourself at that 2 month period and you find that you lost the same 5 pounds, but instead of feeling discouraged, you feel encouraged and your motivation is reinforced. After all, your focus was on eating better, and the weight loss just came as a bonus after that.

Set a goal for the long haul, you can’t take a shortcut to success.

4 – Be realistic

While you would have seen this in the goal-setting guide I linked earlier, I know not everyone will see that and this is really important.

With the excitement of the new year it is very common for people to get caught up in the moment and make a resolution that is near impossible for them to complete.

You can’t change your whole personality and behaviour on a dime. Fact.

Instead, focus on achieving a realistic change that will improve the area of your life the most.

In Conclusion

1 – Treat it like any other goal

2 – Pick resolution partners carefully

3 – Set long-term resolutions for behaviour, not results

4 – Be realistic

Let me know YOUR New Year’s resolution below in a comment and share this article with any of your friends who you know have struggled with keeping New Year’s resolutions in the past.

If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it's free).

Email Address:

4 comments

  1. Sasha   •  

    My New Year’s resolution is to run 10 miles a week (or the equivalent exercise if for some reason I can’t do it). I don’t think this will make me much fitter (maybe lose some weight?), but it’s more for enjoyment.

    • Dale   •     Author

      Good resolution Sasha, it’s important that you take some time to enjoy yourself.

  2. John   •  

    this isnt really about weight loss or anything related, but I really want to get better at playing the guitar. I have a stack of books to work through and im going to make my goal to go through just 2 pages a day.

    • Dale   •     Author

      Great goal John! Good luck

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>