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Why New Year's Resolutions Don't Work & How To Get Them To

Updated on December 29, 2007

It is that time of year again. The time for people to make resolutions about what they want to do in the coming year. I think it is great that people spend these last few days of the year thinking about the past year and planning for the new one. New Year's resolutions should help people right? They should provide motivation for someone to start doing something new that they didn't have the courage to do before. They should be about becoming a better person right?

I am not so sure about that. It is a nice thought and all, but do New Year's resolutions actually benefit the person who makes them? Most of the time, the resolutions we make at this time of year don't last through January. Most people end up failing at some of them or all of them. To me this is a bad thing and can backfire for a person. When someone makes a big resolution for a major change and it doesn't work it can be very discouraging and can possibly leave the person worse off than they were before the resolution. There are many reasons why New Year's resolutions don't work. Let's take a look at some of these reasons and some ways to combat them so that we succeed this year.

For me, lack of planning is the number one reason why my resolutions don't work. It doesn't work to say that I want to save more money this year. I need a plan to meet my goal. Not having specific ways to reach your goal is another reason resolutions don't work. If I want to save more money I need more information than this. How much do I want to save? Where will that money come from? How much do I need to save each month to meet my goal by the end of the year?

Many times goals are too large and seem overwhelming. If I want to save $6000 this year for a new car, at first glance I wonder how in the world I could do that. Breaking it down into smaller steps will help it become attainable. Breaking this down to say that I want to save $500 a month and I will do this by cutting out trips to the coffee house, online shopping and reducing my food budget is a much more specific, reachable goal.

Try to build on something that you are already doing. You don't have to come up with totally new things each year. If you worked out twice a week last year and want to increase that, this year your goal could be to work out three times a week. This is a lot more attainable than starting from scratch. If I am currently saving $200 a month, then I only need to save an additional $300 each month to meet my goal. That is a lot easier than going from $0 to $500.

Starting something completely new is harder than adding to something you are already doing. Of course sometimes you need to start something completely new, but a goal is more doable if it is building on something we are already trying to do. If you are starting something totally new, work up to it. Don't start trying to work out seven days a week when you weren't working out at all. Start with just a couple and build up to your goal. It will be much more attainable that way.

Most people don't write down their goals. And if they do, they file it away and don't give it another thought. Write down your goals and post them somewhere you can see them every single day. This will help you to maintain your focus on these goals, which will means it is more likely that you will succeed. If you are saving money for a vacation, find a picture of where you want to go and attach your goal to it. If you are trying to lose weight, find a picture of a skinnier you and attach your goal to it. A visual reminder will help you every day.

Like I mentioned earlier, most people make a big list of resolutions they want to do and then never think about it again. This is not going to work. Take time each month to evaluate how the previous month went and readjust if necessary. Maybe you were only able to save $400 in the month of January and you really needed to save $500. Dig deeper in February to save an extra $100 and celebrate at how much you saved in January. Just because you fell a little short of your goal doesn't mean it is time to give up. If however every single month you are not meeting your goal, it might be time to adjust your goal.

You want to have some successes or it is way to easy too get discouraged and give up. Don't make your goals so far out there that you will never meet them. That won't help your situation. It is not realistic for most people to go from saving $0 each month to saving $500. Start small and increase it through the year. This is where planning the specifics helps. Take three months to work up to saving $500 a month. You are more likely to reach your goal by working up to it.

Speaking of successes, set some easy resolutions and goals so that you do have successes this year. Last year I made a resolution not to buy anything from any book orders that came home from school. This actually took a lot of stress off of me. It saved me money and stress all year by having this resolution. There were a couple of times that some of the books looked really good. At those times I just took a look at the thousands of books we have here already and then borrowed the great looking ones from the library. I was able to meet my goal! It helped me to save money and reduce the amount of items coming into my house. Having that success has boosted my confidence in meeting other goals. While the goal itself was small, the end result is large.

Making a list of everything you want to do and goals you want to meet this year is not going to work by itself. If you want to have more time for your family you need to cut something else out of your life. Make a list of things that you won't be doing this year to allow room in your day for the things that you want to add. There are only 24 hours in every person's day and if your day is anything like mine, your 24 hours are very full. The only way to add something is to cut something else out.

For me this is going to mean not joining the book club that I had thought about joining. I do not want to take on anymore evening commitments, even those that are just once a month. I want more evening time with my family, when we are all here together. For this to happen I can do two things. Reduce the commitments I already have and not take on any new ones. If you want to save more money this year, then you need to spend less. Making a list of specific things that you aren't going to buy this year is a great way to come up with how you are going to save more money.

The end of the year and the beginning of the New Year are great times to think about resolutions - new things to try, ways to improve your current situation, goals you want to meet, etc. But this time of year can not be the only time of year that you think about these things. To be successful you have to think about your goals frequently. Keep them in your head daily, work towards them weekly and evaluate where you are at monthly.

The only way for us to succeed in our resolutions is to change the way we handle them. If you really want to succeed then you have to make them a priority in your life. Be specific and work hard and you will succeed. Good luck and happy New Year!


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    • REritr profile image

      REritr 10 years ago from California

      Great Hub. you are a very organized lady and have figured out a lot of things most people can't get their minds around.

    • terrymill profile image

      terrymill 10 years ago from Florida

      I agree with your suggestions. I ditched the NY Resolution a long time ago and decided to make changes during the year and then EVALUATE at New Years to see how I am doing. I think that is the best way to go. You don't set yourself up for failure that way.

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 10 years ago from Sydney

      For many years I was associated with Large International American Company. Their methodology was just like your advice

      Break it down to triviality and it is not so hard to swallow. Instead of stating it will cost this much per year. Tell the people it will cost ONLY 13 cents per day. There was never any difficulty in the consumer purchasing. They knew that 13 cents per day was not much.

      Great hub

      Thank you

    • Hoodala profile image

      Hoodala 10 years ago from Mesa

      I agree goals that are too big and not broken down are too hard to reach.  Reaching goals is a process like any other.

    • coolbreeze profile image

      Rik Rodriguez 10 years ago from Hawaii

      Smart Lady !!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      "Build on someting you've already done" is great! Such behavior chaining as we call it really works for a lot of people - even in training animals, too.

      Great hub!