8 Reasons Why Your New Year’s Resolutions are Failing

1 January 2024

New Year's resolution tips, Goal-setting strategies, Achieving personal goals, Goal-setting motivation

Introduction to New Year’s Resolutions

The new year often brings a sense of optimism and motivation to improve our lives. As the confetti falls on New Year’s Eve, we feel inspired to set big goals for personal growth, healthier habits, and new skills. However, according to multiple studies, 80% of new year’s resolutions fail by mid-February. Why do so many of us struggle to stick to our goals beyond the first couple weeks of January?

While setting positive intentions helps kickstart motivation, most resolutions derail quickly due to lack of planning and preparation. By understanding the common pitfalls, we can set ourselves up for success and turn aspirations into lifelong positive changes. With some forethought, flexibility and self-compassion, those big resolutions can become great accomplishments. So grab a tea and let’s dive into 8 common reasons, why your New Year’s resolutions probably will fail.

#1: Lack of Preparation

Most people fail at their new year’s resolutions because they do not properly prepare for them. When making a resolution, many people do not take the time to think through their goals, make concrete plans, and anticipate potential obstacles.

Without thorough preparation, resolutions remain vague aspirations rather than concrete goals with actionable steps. For example, resolving to “lose weight” lacks specificity. A better goal would be “lose 15 pounds by cutting out soda and going to the gym 3 times per week.”

Failing to make detailed plans is another common downfall. If you aim to read more books, deciding how many, which ones, when you’ll read, and where you’ll get them makes this goal more tangible.

People often underestimate the commitment required and do not plan for motivation lulls or setbacks. Outlining tools like apps, reminders, accountability partners, and rewards builds in motivation maintenance.

Rather than haphazardly picking a resolution, spend time soul searching about what you want to achieve. Set distinct, measurable goals with action plans, motivators, and flexibility to turn resolutions into realities. Thorough preparation leads to long-term success.

#2: Unrealistic Expectations

Many people set unrealistic expectations when forming their New Year’s resolutions that are nearly impossible to achieve. They may resolve to transform every aspect of their lives all at once or set extreme goals that cannot reasonably be accomplished in a short timeframe. For example, someone who has not exercised in years may resolve to run a marathon in a few months. Or someone may resolve to completely eliminate all sweets and junk food from their diet overnight.

These types of extreme, all-or-nothing resolutions set people up for failure. Our brains like gradual change rather than sudden, drastic shifts. Smaller, incremental goals are much easier to adapt to. So instead of resolving to overhaul everything instantly, it’s better to make gradual changes over time. Focus on one or two manageable goals as a starting point instead of trying to change too much too fast. Be realistic about what you can achieve in the short term. Incremental progress eventually adds up to big changes over the long haul.

#3: Lack of Accountability

Most people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions because they lack accountability. When setting goals, many people keep them to themselves rather than involving others. Without anyone to answer to, it becomes easy to make excuses, get distracted, or give up when things get challenging.

Sharing your resolutions with supportive friends and family is a great way to add accountability. Their encouragement can motivate you to persist when your motivation starts to wane. You can also ask them to regularly check in on your progress. Knowing you’ll have to report your progress to someone else helps prioritize your goals. It’s harder to procrastinate or rationalize quitting when others are invested in your success.

Consider finding an accountability partner who is also looking to achieve a goal. Check in with each other daily or weekly to report on milestones achieved or challenges faced. An accountability partner can relate to the struggles you face and offer advice and motivation. Together, you can brainstorm solutions and hold each other responsible for progress.

Setting up a reward system when you achieve mini-goals or milestones can also build accountability. Use a visual tracker to monitor your progress and consistency. Celebrating small wins provides positive reinforcement to keep going.

Accountability is critical for translating intentions into actions. To be successful, resist keeping your resolutions private. Include others to maximize motivation, prioritization and follow-through. With an accountability strategy in place, you are far more likely to stick to your goals and make real progress.

#4: Lack of Willpower

A major reason people fail at their New Year’s resolutions is due to a lack of willpower. When temptation arises or minor setbacks occur, many give up entirely on their goals instead of pushing through.

Willpower is like a muscle – it needs to be strengthened through regular exercise. If you go from a sedentary lifestyle to trying to run a marathon, you’ll quickly burn out. Similarly, trying to go from eating fast food daily to becoming a vegan overnight is often unsustainable.

Instead, make small, gradual changes that allow your willpower to be built up over time. For example, if you want to eat healthier, start by cooking two extra healthy meals per week. Once that becomes a habit, increase to three meals per week, and so on.

When temptation strikes, have set actions prepared to distract yourself or calm cravings. Go for a short walk, call a friend, drink a glass of water, or do 10 pushups. This resists the urge in the moment while also building willpower over time.

It’s important not to beat yourself up over slip-ups. Perfection is not required. Just acknowledge the setback, then get back on track with your next decision. Progress happens one choice at a time.

#5: Negative Self-Talk

Many people fail at their New Year’s resolutions because of negative self-talk. When you start being overly critical of yourself and doubting your abilities, it’s easy to lose motivation.

You might tell yourself things like:

  • “I’ll never be able to do this.”
  • “I don’t have enough willpower.”
  • “I already messed up, so what’s the point?”

This kind of negative self-talk leads to feeling bad about yourself. And when you feel bad about yourself, you’re more likely to give up on your goal.

The key is to catch yourself when you have these negative thoughts. Don’t believe every criticism your inner voice tells you. Talk to yourself with compassion and encouragement instead.

When you notice negative self-talk creeping in, replace it with something more motivational like:

  • “I can do hard things.”
  • “I’m stronger than I think.”
  • “A small mistake isn’t the end. I can get back on track.”

Speaking kindly to yourself and silencing your inner critic is crucial. It gives you the confidence to power through setbacks. With self-compassion, you’re more likely to stick to your resolutions and achieve your goals.

#6: Lack of Reward

Setting big goals at the start of the year can be exciting, but the day-to-day process of working towards them is often full of small actions that don’t provide much gratification or positive feedback. Without experiencing rewards and celebrating small wins along the way, it becomes difficult to stay motivated.

Rather than waiting until the end goal is achieved, build in regular rewards that reinforce progress. This could be anything from treating yourself to a nice meal after achieving a milestone, taking a weekend off after a period of hard work, or tracking your progress with visuals that highlight accomplishments. Having something to look forward to makes the journey more enjoyable.

The human brain loves immediate gratification. Creating systems where you experience regular payoffs, even if they are small, taps into powerful neuroscience and psychology to boost motivation. Don’t wait for a big payout at the end – shape your habits and goals so that you feel continuously reinforced.

#7: Unexpected Circumstances

Life often throws unexpected events and situations at us that can derail our New Year’s resolutions. A sudden illness, injury, or family emergency can understandably shift our focus away from the goals we set out to accomplish. Major events like a job change, move, or new relationship status can also disrupt routines and plans.

It’s easy to abandon resolution efforts when dealing with unanticipated challenges and changes. But rather than scrapping your goals altogether, consider adjusting them to fit your new circumstances. Be compassionate with yourself and acknowledge the difficult situation. But don’t give up completely. See if there are smaller, modified steps you can still take toward your overall vision. Re-evaluate how to adapt your goals so some progress can still occur. With flexibility and self-kindness, you can get back on track after the dust settles.

Unexpected obstacles will inevitably arise. Don’t harshly criticize yourself, but don’t throw in the towel either. Find the middle ground of adjusting your resolutions based on the hand you are currently dealt. Maintain hope that you can eventually recommit to your goals or a modified version that still propels you forward. With resilience, creativity and a willingness to pivot, you can still make progress amidst whatever unpredictable events come your way.

#8: Lack of Flexibility

One of the biggest reasons people fail at their New Year’s resolutions is due to a lack of flexibility. Many people set strict, ambitious goals without accounting for the inevitable changes or obstacles that will arise over the course of the year.

When you set a rigid goal like “lose 30 pounds by summer,” you don’t allow for flexibility when life happens. Maybe you get sick and can’t exercise for a few weeks. Maybe work or family obligations limit your time. When inevitable roadblocks come up and you can’t stick to your original goal timeline, it feels like failure. This can lead to frustration, guilt, and giving up entirely.

The key is to set goals that are directional rather than time-bound. Focus on the overall progress and behavior changes, not arbitrary deadlines. If your goal is to lose 30 pounds, don’t tie it to a specific date. Just commit to establishing healthier eating and exercise habits.

Goals need space to adapt and evolve based on your unique circumstances. Build in flexibility upfront so you can navigate challenges and setbacks. Adjust your goals as needed, but don’t abandon them completely.

Focus on overall progress and consistency in your new habits. Don’t define success so rigidly that you can’t readjust and get back on track when life inevitably happens. With the right flexible mindset, you can turn stumbles into learning experiences instead of failures.


The beginning of a new year offers an opportunity for positive change through setting resolutions. However, most resolutions fail within the first couple of days. The most common reasons for this failure include lack of preparation, unrealistic expectations, lack of accountability, lack of willpower, negative self-talk, lack of reward, and unexpected circumstances.

To set yourself up for success with your resolutions, take time to prepare by choosing S.M.A.R.T. goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Set small, incremental goals instead of drastic changes. Track your progress and hold yourself accountable through journaling or enlisting a friend. Celebrate small wins along the way. Develop self-compassion instead of self-criticism when you experience setbacks. Build in flexibility for when life happens outside of your control.

The beginning of the year is full of hope and possibility. With thoughtful preparation and commitment to your goals, you can make this year different. Believe in yourself and your ability to grow. You’ve got this!


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