Why Your New Year Resolutions Don't Work

Why Your New Year Resolutions Don’t Work

Do you find you repeat the same New Year resolutions every year? Naturally, you hope THIS year will be different!

Or, perhaps you’ve given up on New Year resolutions completely? Perhaps you feel doomed to fail.

What’s worse, is you may dread New Years, as you’re reminded of last year’s lost aspirations.

If you relate to the above, you’re not alone. In fact, most of us miss out on achieving our New Year resolutions by a long shot! It’s not that you’re lacking in motivation, it’s that New Year’s resolutions don’t work…unless they’re done properly!

Why New Years Resolutions Normally Don’t Work

There are some common mistakes people make in their New Years resolutions, which are not conducive to success. These include:

  • We tend to commit to big BROAD goals – for example, “I want to be healthier”. The problem with goals that are not quantifiable, is they’re uninspiring: You don’t know what you’re reaching for, which means there is no end point to signify your achievement.
  • New Year resolutions allow a one-year window for achieving them – this is a long time! A long time to procrastinate or worse yet, forget your goals.
  • You “say” your goals to family and friends during the New Year festivities, but may not have any plans for implementing these goals.

Given most of us make these types of New Years resolutions, most of us inevitably fail! This can leave us feeling deflated and unwilling to set future goals.

The good news is you can successfully set New Years resolutions that ACTUALLY WORK, with the following simple steps.

[Pause for a moment of reflection: What would it be like to achieve your goals? Imagine how you would feel in that “happy new year’s!” moment, knowing you accomplished your dreams for the year?]

First Step to New Year’s Resolutions: Choosing an Area for Change

The first step to goal setting is to ask yourself:

What’s most important to ME, to change or improve this year?




There is no point setting goals that are not truly important to you. For example, a lot of people set goals to earn more money or get a better job, because they think they “should” be “better” in these areas – but does this align with their values? For example, someone who values love, creativity and adventure, may be most satisfied in a job that involves new experiences and creation. With this example, earning more money or obtaining a promotion may not be THAT important to them.

Once you’ve decided on the area of your life you want to improve or grow, you can sit down and set goals using the wonderful formula of SMART goals.


Given New Year resolutions are long term in nature, you will need to set one overarching SMART goal that guides a bunch of small SMART goals responsible for achieving your big goal (aka: New Year’s resolution).

Ok, so let’s say for example, you wish to get “fit” in the New Year. Your New Year resolution needs to be:

Specific. Not broad, like “I want to be fit”. Think about how you define getting “fit”?

Measurable. What are your goal posts? How do you measure achievement?

Achievable. It’s not fair to set ridiculous goals that are far-fetched.

Relevant. What’s required to be “fit”? Most likely, a certain level of stamina and physical ability. It would be irrelevant, for example, to aim to “look” fit.

Time-related. You need to specify the time and date you plan to achieve your goal.

So, an example of a SMART goal for getting fit for 2019 would be:

“I am going to run a 10km marathon (without stopping to catch my breath) by October next year.”

With this goal being your overarching SMART goal, you now need to set small SMART goals to achieve your big goal or New Year’s resolution. For example, your first goal might be to jog for 2km twice a week.


If you haven’t already noticed, planning is important in goal setting! Sit down for half an hour to map out your micro SMART goals required to achieve your macro SMART goal (or New Year’s resolution). If you’re not as dedicated as this, perhaps just start by planning your first micro SMART goal.

As part of planning, it’s important to examine whether there are any barriers to achieving your goals. Using the above example again, it might be difficult to leave the house to go for a jog if you’re a primary caregiver with little support. You may need to Problem Solve – e.g. could you exercise at home somehow?

Another common barrier to goal achievement is to struggle with motivation and organisation. If this is your experience, it may help to talk to a psychologist. Psychologists are trained and experienced in helping people achieve their goals.

In summary, your planning session involves 4 Simple Goal-setting Steps:

  1. Answer the question: What’s most important to ME, to change or improve this year?
  2. As such, set an overarching SMART goal – i.e. New Year’s resolution
  3. Then, set a bunch of small SMART goals to achieve your overarching SMART goal
  4. Problem Solve any barriers in the way of achieving these goals

And there you have it, you are all set to accomplish your dreams for next year! Now you can enjoy the festivities this New Year’s, knowing you have 2019 all covered.

How Can Peaceful Mind Psychology Help?

We are a team of warm and experienced psychologists, all of whom adopt a goal-orientated approach to therapy. We use evidence-based therapies to: harness motivation, challenge unhelpful mental barriers, problem solve, grow your strengths, and keep you focused on your values. If you would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.