Why Can’t We Keep To New Year Resolutions?

Jan 06, 2017 1 Min Read

Oops – I didn’t do it again!

It’s the end of 2016 and I am having a déjà vu moment. I remember sitting down a year ago to identify the great things I wanted to do or achieve in 2016, and now, as I mentally list down my resolutions for this year, I realise that some of these resolutions were made years ago. It makes me ask myself: Why do I keep repeating them?

But the answer is simple: I keep repeating them because I never keep to them. Whether it’s leading a healthier lifestyle or spending an hour a day just for myself or saving money each month, I somehow fall off the wagon after a few months. For some, the wagon never even moved in the first place.

Just when I thought that I was one of the few facing this problem, I was relieved of this notion by Professor John C. Norcross, a professor of psychology from the University of Scranton. According to one of his studies, less than 10% of New Year resolutions are actually achieved.

However, this is no excuse for not being able to keep to your resolutions. So, I started doing some reading on resolutions and I found a few interesting insights that I could relate to.


1. Slipping away

There are few reasons why we fail in keeping to our resolutions. First, we have the tendency to set goals that we should achieve rather than the ones we want to achieve. For example, most of us include ‘I want to eat healthy’ on our list but how many of us really mean it and want it?

If you are one who enjoys food, then you are especially at risk of defaulting on this resolution. We set such resolutions because of social pressure. If you don’t truly want something for yourself, then you are never going to do justice to the resolution.

Another common mistake we make is putting too many things on our resolution list. I am guilty of that. I remember certain years when my resolution list was a full one-pager. This causes stress and anxiety.

We become so obsessed with our overwhelming list that we spend more time worrying about ways to achieve what’s on it rather than actually acting on them. The overload obviously becomes unachievable due to time constraints and other commitments, which then results in us abandoning our list once and for all.

Creating bigger items to achieve and repeating them each year in our resolutions is another error. If you have been including the same New Year’s resolution item in your list for the past two years, it’s time to eliminate it from your 2017 list. This does not mean you should stop pursuing it, since that will also cause you unwanted stress. Instead, plan and go for it when you really want to and are all ready for it. Remember this saying by Einstein:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

You don’t want anything like that happening to you!

This might interest you: The Highs and Lows of Resolutions: Capturing A Beaming Year!

2. One step at a time

Now that I have identified some core reasons for the failure to keep resolutions, I am learning how to get them right for the year. Here are some tips I have gathered:

  • Be thankful

Before you even get started on your resolutions list, give yourself a huge pat on the back and thank yourself because you are an achiever! Look back on the past year and see how you have grown. Appreciate yourself for all the accomplishments you made and the new knowledge you gained.

Once you have listed down your accomplishments, you will get a clearer picture of the types of goals to set for this year. This is because you have realised your capability and it gives you the inner drive to achieve your goals for the year.


  • Limit yourself

Time to get that list shorter, everyone! This is what I plan to do and maybe you could follow suit. For 2017, I plan to list down the top four things that I want to accomplish. It may seem little for some but I know that come the end of the year, when I tick off the check list, I am going to be immensely satisfied, as I will have achieved what I had set out to do. Furthermore, I will have developed some good traits that helped me keep to my goals.


  • Be realistic and specific

Don’t put down goals that are too big or vague. When setting a resolution, you need to ensure that you are specific about what you want to do and that it’s within your control. Don’t get overambitious and set resolutions that are way beyond your limits as this will only make you feel worse when you fail to achieve them.

If you had not saved a single cent for a holiday yet and you’re not earning a six-figure income, it’s probably ridiculous to include an extended year-end tour of Europe on your list. Instead, put down something realistic like “I want to visit Bali for a week”, which is definitely achievable.

Prevent from writing “lose weight” as your resolution. That’s too vague. Instead, be specific and say that you want to lose 5kgs by March. That way, you know you have three months to lose the intended weight and will work towards that goal within the given time frame.


In a nutshell

We can all achieve our goals if we put our minds and hearts to it. It’s all about carving them out in a way that is simple, realistic and doable. Start small and slowly but surely work towards the bigger picture. Let’s get our steps right this time around.
All the best with your 2017 resolutions and Happy New Year, everyone!

Prema Jayabalan has the tendency to get overambitious when setting goals. Writing this article has enabled her to get a real picture on how goals are meant to be set. It’s about taking one step at a time. She is also keen on getting insights from others as well. If you have anything to share, write to her at editor@leaderonomics.com.

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Prema was a team lead at Leaderonomics Digital. As a travel enthusiast who loves connecting with people from all walks of life, Prema believes that everything thrown to us by life enhances our development.

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