Well-Being//

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work—and How to Fix Yours

Why do 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail, and what three steps can you follow to ensure yours succeed?

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

You’ve made New Year’s Resolutions before and — like so many well-intentioned ideas — they simply haven’t worked out. Don’t feel bad; 92% of people are in your same boat. Why is that?

Because January 1st is meaningless.

The enthusiasm associated with the clean slate of a new year is incredibly fleeting. After a few days we revert to old habits, unless this arbitrary date is coupled with meaningful reasons to change.


Don’t let me talk you out of getting excited for January 1st, 2017, however. Before we start the new year, let’s work together to ensure you have sufficient reasons to stick with your goal. Here are three steps you can implement to massively increase the chances of your resolutions succeeding:

Step 1: Choose a different future date and decide if this resolution is still important

Ask yourself, “Would I choose this same goal if today was December 30, March 15 or October 28th?” If you’ve had resolutions fail in the past, it’s simply because you haven’t had enough reasons to change when New Year’s Day happened to appear on the calendar.

I can guarantee that you’ve made many meaningful changes in your life that were not on January 1st. In fact, the vast majority of your significant life events were not on January 1st. So why put so much stock in this arbitrary date?

Instead of deciding that New Year’s Day is a do-or-die date, get started today. Or, choose a different date once you’ve convinced yourself that your goal is truly important.

Step 2: Schedule milestones to measure your results

In the past, you may have thought to yourself, “Okay, as of January 1st, my life is going to change for good.” How did you know if that change was actually taking place, though? Without periodic measurements, you won’t know if you’re winning, losing, or making any progress at all.

Build your resolutions to have specific check-in points. Say, “As of January 8th, what’s going to be the result of me doing this? How am I going to feel after a weeklong commitment?” And then, as a January 31st, “How am I really going to feel after a strict one month commitment to doing exactly what I set out to do?” Break down your resolution into scheduled milestones so you have an idea of what you expect to happen by which point. That way, you can adjust your modify and adjust your goals to be consistent with your desired outcome.


Step 3: Celebrate small victories on the way to your larger goal

This is the most important part that will ensure that you stick with your resolutions — you need to celebrate small victories on the way to your larger resolution. If it’s a weight loss goal — as an example — and you think, “Ten pounds would be a great number,” then you need to celebrate losing that first pound. Then, when pound number two comes off, commemorate that victory as well. You’ll start to think to yourself, “Wow, this feels great! If I accomplished this again and again and again, and I achieved my ten-pound goal, how fantastic would I feel?”

Begin associating your behavior with positive reinforcement. Instead of an all-or-nothing resolution, acknowledge the progress you’re making to help ensure the new habits continue.

If it’s a business goal, use this same approach. Oftentimes, those of us in business only think about annual projections. I want you to pause at the end of each month, and certainly at the end of each quarter, and think, “What did I do really, really well with our business this quarter? What new customers did I earn? What new things can we celebrate as a team together?”

These pauses — to take time to celebrate small victories — will ensure that you have the conviction and the commitment to stick with these resolutions that you set for yourself.

Will this three step process help your achieve your New Year’s Resolutions? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments. Also, please share this article with your friends if you think they’d benefit from this message.


Spencer X. Smith helps teach social media strategy in plain English. When he’s not writing for Thrive Global, he shares how-to articles and videos on his website at spencerXsmith.com as well in both his column #SocialBiz from In Business Magazine and The Huffington Post.

Originally published at medium.com

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.