What To Do With Failed New Year’s Resolutions

We’ve almost reached the end of January. If you’re like most people, this is about the time of year when those New Year’s resolutions you made a few weeks ago start to lose their appeal. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 92% of us fail to attain our resolutions.

Image courtesy of Kevin Skene on Flickr.

However, making resolutions and setting goals seems to be pretty important. In fact, individuals who explicitly make resolutions are about ten times more likely to achieve their goals than individuals who do not make resolutions. So, what do we do?

First, take a deep breath. Letting your New Year’s resolutions slide is definitely not a reason to be self-critical. Research shows that when we treat ourselves with compassion, we’re significantly less likely to give up on our goals. Rather than becoming frustrated and giving up, self-compassionate people view failure as a learning experience and opportunity for growth.

Second, remember that while New Year’s may be a traditional time for making resolutions, you can set a new goal any day of the year. If you do decide that you want to set new goals, here are some things you may want to consider:

  1. Be realistic. Focus on goals that are challenging, but attainable. Don’t try to change everything all at once. Pick what is most important to you, and stick with that.

    Resolution 2
    Image courtesy of Christopher Smith on Flickr.
  2. Write it down. Research shows that those who write down their goals are more successful than those who do not.
  3. Make it so easy that you can’t say no. Start with small steps. For example, maybe your goal is to do 25 push-ups per day. If you’re having trouble getting started, just think about doing 3 push-ups per day. Once it becomes part of your daily routine, slowly work up to more and more push-ups until you reach your goal. Those small changes add up!
  4. Work on changing your routine rather than looking for a particular result. Rather than trying to lose a certain amount of weight, consider shifting your focus to living a healthier lifestyle. This may include eating a balanced diet, exercising, or getting adequate sleep.
  5. Make it a positive goal. We respond better to prescriptive goals (goals that tell you what you should do) rather than proscriptive goals (goals that tell you what you should not do). For example, rather than having a goal of “stop eating junk food,” consider a goal of “eat more vegetables.”
  6. Be self. Don’t beat yourself up if you have trouble sticking to your goal. Know that you can always try again, and that you’re not alone. Extend the same compassion to yourself that you would extend to a friend trying out new goals.

What are your goals for 2016? Post them in the comments section below!


Kaitlyn Brodar is the Program Assistant for Resiliency Initiative at UNC Student Wellness and a Master of Public Health graduate student with a focus in Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She previously worked in cognitive psychology research on post-traumatic stress disorder after earning her bachelor’s in Psychology at Duke University.

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