12 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

How Often Do New Year’s Resolutions Fail?

The making of resolutions is an ancient practice that we’ve carried forward till today. Yet,somehow the fulfillment of our resolutions remains an elusive goal. According to Insider, 23 percent of resolutions fail within just one week, and a mere 19 percent are maintained for up to two years. US News reports an even bleaker picture with an 80 percent failure rate by mid-February. To help you achieve and sustain your resolutions be sure you address these 12 reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail. And, here’s an additional tip. Take these into account before the Time Square ball drops. You need to do some prep work.

Where Does the New Years Resolution Tradition Come from?

It’s worth taking stock of the origins of resolutions, although, there are likely many stories of origin in different parts of the world. The New Year’s resolution tradition started back in ancient times. The Romans, Babylonians, Christians, and other people of ancient cultures made New Year’s commitments to their Gods and/or Goddesses (History.com). These resolutions were a kind of renewal of their vows to lead a pious life and to perform benevolent acts such as the gifting of food and other assistance to those less fortunate than themselves.

New Year’s Resolutions Today

Historically, people expressed resolutions in the form of positive intentions such as I will be kind and compassionate to my husband, will eat well, or will act in a way that supports good health. Nowadays, however, we often express resolutions in the negative. In other words, in terms of ceasing to do something or breaking a “bad” habit: I’ll stop smoking, eat fewer sweets, drink less, stop fighting with my husband, etc. Interesting, more and more people these days recognize the power of positive thinking, positive visualization, and positive intentions.

Unfortunately, the actualization of positive intentions requires more than a simple statement of intent. For example, a person who sets her intentions can actually derive power and alignment through focus, embodiment, and commitment.

Alas, few people continually cultivate and regularly revisit their New Year’s resolutions. No wonder so many New Year’s resolutions are ineffective, quickly broken, and ultimately forgotten. Furthermore, unmet resolutions are often resurrected each year only to be broken and continuously compound defeat, resignation, self-judgment, and/or shame.

Avoid These 12 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

1. Overconfidence and Unrealistic Intentions:

Overconfidence is a common reason why New Year’s resolutions fail. This is because it tends to translate into exaggerated expectations, a lack of planning and preparation, and cavalier indifference to potential challenges.

2. Failure to Account For and Work On Underlying Issues

Stubborn behaviors and resistance to change are held in place by limiting thoughts and beliefs. In fact, limiting beliefs are just beliefs that prevent or discourage a person from living their life forward. They can also distort emotional signals through the conscious process of misinterpreting and thus mislabeling the embodied sense of a particular emotion. In order for a person to create change, it’s critical that she addresses these limitations before setting goals. Or, alternatively, account for the requisite personal growth as part of the change process.

3. Haven’t Created Positive, Clear, and Specific Intentions

Resolutions are essentially intentions, and achievable intentions possess three key characteristics. They are positive, clear, and specific. When they meet these criteria, a path to fulfillment is illuminated.

But, as noted above, most resolutions are stated in negative terms such as I’ll stop heavy drinking, eating ice cream, or staying up past 11:00. When phrased this way they act as inhibitors and offer no clear direction and only restraint. In essence, they deprive and punish. Furthermore, people are wired such that this deprivation tends to create a fixation with what is being withheld.

In contrast, positive, clear, and specific intentions orient. They create awareness and receptivity to opportunities, even unexpected auspicious stepping stones. Energetically, these types of intentions are more apt to entrain with supportive energies (think co-create or “law of attraction”).

4. Lack of a Plan

Most people proclaim a resolution without establishing any form of a plan. Therefore, at best, they’ll have only a vague notion of logical steps to follow toward success. Furthermore, they haven’t considered what they may have to give up. And, there’s no accounting for potential challenges that may arise and how they’ll overcome them.

In addition, they probably didn’t think the change process through, thus they may have also set unrealistic expectations.

5. No Self-Monitoring Plan

If there are no milestones or self-monitoring plans, how can progress be measured? And, what is the measure of overall success? Without monitoring, it’s hard to identify progressive achievements, apply incentives, and allocate rewards.

6. No Embodiment the Desired Change

An important driver of change is a person’s ability to visualize and embody the results they want (see my blog for more on the importance of embodiment and embodied awareness. This is less about actions and steps and more about being that final result.

It might sound silly, but to take on the posture, mindset, and the whole shape of who they will be inside and out creates the biophysical and biochemical states as well as the neurological networks that correspond to the new desired way of being.

7. No Recognition For Over-Coming Critical Challenges and Achieving Ultimate Success

Many New Year’s resolutions pose significant challenges. Without encouragement and recognition of progressive wins, the process of change can be arduous and demoralizing.

A growing body of research and literature suggests significant benefits arise from the acknowledgment of accomplishments and expressions of gratitude. Embracing success releases endorphins (reward hormones), boosts motivation, and galvanizes the change process. It releases stress and anxiety, improves moods and outlooks. In turn, this fosters optimism and reinforces commitment (Harvard Business Review, Psychology Today, Inc, Gambo). See my blog post personal commemoration boards for more on the value of encouragement and ways to incorporate it in the change process.

8. No Established Rewards For Small Success and Progress

Milestones are akin to mini resolutions that collectively or progressively yield fulfillment of the ultimate resolution. Too many people forget to reward themselves for achieving their mile makers. And, the change process drags on toward a painfully distant end goal.

When people focus on the endpoint and ignore their progress or how they successfully handled challenges, they tend to burn out and turn to self-judgment and criticism. Even worse, they fail to learn from the process and the successful navigation of challenges.

People tend to persevere when their resolutions are broken down into small steps that include what they need to overcome and negotiate in order to make headway toward their final goal.

9. Inappropriate Rewards

Many people, especially those who desire to break a tenacious habit, reward themselves with a bit of the exact behavior they were trying to change. For example, a person resolves to give up dessert in order to lose 20 lbs. Yet, contradictorily, she rewards herself for achieving her 5 lb milestone with a big piece of cake!

10. Self-Criticism and Intolerance of Slip-Ups

This reason for failure requires little explanation. If slip-ups aren’t tolerated and instead met with strong self-reproach the change process comes to a screeching halt upon the first infraction.

Even if a person decides to maintain her resolution, she’s likely setting herself up for an even stronger round of self-criticism upon the next slip-up. In this way, the resolution is highjacked successive eruptions of self-loathing. The whole experience is debilitating and likely sabotages future efforts.

11. Doing It Alone and Without Support

Not everyone needs or wants support to manifest their desired change. But for those who would benefit from support or mutual companioning, going it alone will most likely result in disappointment. Going solo means forgoing resources others have to offer. And, when the going gets tough, who will you turn to for solace and commiseration.

12. Simply Not Ready to Change and Do the Work

Dares, whims, obligations, or casual attachments to this popular New Year’s custom don’t tend to yield successful results. In fact, these motivations are destined to fail within the first few days of the year. Similarly, evidence suggests simply wishing to change or improve doesn’t garner sufficient willpower and resourcefulness necessary to effect sustainable change either.

In fact, repeated faulty starts and defeats can have a detrimental impact on a person’s confidence and self-esteem. Negative self-judgment, criticism, and defeatism can actually reinforce the very behaviors a person wants to change.

In sum, if you have New Year’s resolutions you truly want to fulfill, check whether any of these 12 reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail are applicable to you and your situation. If so, find remedies before the Times Square ball drops. If you need more time to prepare, let go of your attachment to a New Year’s start date, create the best conditions for success, and only start your program when you’re good to go.

For More On Setting and Fulfilling New Year’s Resolutions, See:

Patricia Bonnard, PhD, ACC is an integrated spiritual life coach and energy healer. She offers virtual and in-person sessions and numerous short workshops on personal growth, natural healing, and wellness. For more about Patricia, visit her website Starchaser Healing Arts, or contact her using her online form

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Integrated Coach and Energy Healer, Writer, Speaker, Teacher

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Patricia Bonnard

Patricia Bonnard

Integrated Coach and Energy Healer, Writer, Speaker, Teacher

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