6 Reasons New Year's Resolution Fail (And How To Stick To Yours)

You can actually make a change for 2021.

woman wondering why new year's resolutions fail Getty

Each year right around New Year's Eve, I watch to see what people are posting about their New Year's resolutions. Everyone and his or her mother is going to lose weight. Going to stop smoking. Going to stop doing X,Y or Z.

About two weeks later, I hear only "slight chatter" about these resolutions. A week after? I hear zilch. Those passionate resolutions are now distant and cool lovers of the past.


This is why it is rare for me to root someone on unless they ask directly for me to do so.

I know most people will abandon their resolutions each year, but why do so many fail?

Here's why New Year's resolutions fail, and how to keep yourself from breaking them.

1. You're not ready to make the change you say you want to make.

Are you really ready to make that resolution to drop weight, quit smoking or quit a bad marriage? Ask yourself honestly.

According to Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, people are looking to reinvent themselves but they're not usually ready to change serious bad habits.


Are you really ready to change or are you all talk? Change can be extremely painful and a lot of work.

In the end, the rewards will be great, but you have to be willing to put in the work. You can't press a button on January 1st of each year and expect miracles.

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2. You don't truly believe you can follow through with the resolutions you have in mind.

You're spouting off diatribes on how this year will be different. You'll leave that bad man! You'll lose weight! You'll ask your boss for a raise! But inside, do you believe you can really do it?

Most likely, if you keep failing at a resolution, you don't believe you have it in you.

3. You set resolutions that are simply unrealistic.

You're saying you'll run a marathon next month, but you haven't stopped on a treadmill since. Well, you've never run on a treadmill, much less walked on it.

If this sounds familiar, you've set insanely lofty resolutions that are impossible to achieve.


4. You fall back on setting the same resolutions as everyone else.

Yeah, I said that. You're making resolutions because, hey, everyone else is doing it.

You say you're going to hit your goals but you aren't committed deep in your heart.

5. You're surrounded by people who don't have your best interests in mind.

You want to lose weight, but you hang out with friends who think that "gym" is a bad word.

You want to stop smoking but your spouse is lighting up like a tree. Being in "bad" company doesn't help the matter.

6. The resolutions you set aren't specific enough.

"I want to lose weight." "I want to meet someone."

Okay, that's nice, but narrow it down a little, like, "I want to go on 5 dates this month by signing up on an app or site" or "I want to lose 10 pounds this month and will do so by joining a karate class."


Being broad just allows you to fail more quickly!

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Now that you know why New Year's resolutions fail and why you're not too likely to follow through, here are a few tips you can use to improve the chances that you'll stick to your guns.

Create a new habit.

Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D., says that since we as people make "habits" all the time, it's not so hard actually. In order to change your bad habit, adopt a new, healthy one.

She shares these three steps created by B.J. Fogg and Charles Duhigg:

— Pick a small action. Avoid those broad resolutions, folks. Decide that you'll go for a walk each morning at 9 AM rather than resolving to "get fit."


— Attach your new action to an old habit that's well-established. Dr. Weinschenck says, "For example, if you already go for a brisk walk 3 times a week, then adding on 10 more minutes to the existing walk connects the new habit to an existing one. The existing habit 'Go for walk' now becomes the 'cue' for the new habit: 'Walk 10 more minutes.'"

— Make the action easy to do at first. This will make the habit easier to stick with.

Make sure your resolutions and goals match the story you believe about yourself.

Or, as Weinschenk calls it, your "self-story."

"You want to make decisions that match your idea of who you are. When you make a decision or act in a way that fits your self-story, the decision or action will feel right. When you make a decision or act in a way that doesn’t fit your self-story, you feel uncomfortable," Weinschenk advises.


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Laura Lifshitz will work for chocolate. The former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate is currently writing about divorce, sex, women’s issues, fitness, parenting, marriage and more for YourTango, The New York Times, DivorceForce, Women’s Health, Working Mother, Pop Sugar, and more.