The Real Reason Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

I’ve been a big fan of writing New Year’s resolutions for many years. Every late December, I dedicate a blog post to the annual ritual of our society. And I have so many now that I could create an eBook about creating and sticking to New Year’s resolutions.

So, if you’re 100% committed to the New Year’s resolution challenge, start here.

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For my pessimistic readers, keep scrolling. You won’t be disappointed.

Last year, I started turning sour towards writing New Year’s resolutions. So much so that I blogged about why January is the worst time to write New Year’s resolutions.

Albert Einstein Meme: Witty...Yeah, I Said That

I’m not a negative person. Well, for the most part, that is. But seeing the same thing happening year after year can be quite bothersome.

What’s that famous quote? Oh yes: Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results. And no, Einstein didn’t say it.

That’s what I see happening with writing New Year’s resolutions every year. It becomes the end-of-the-year fad and you’re only a cool kid if you create a goal by January 1.

But if you’re just making a goal for show and not for the long haul, that really just makes you a loser.

The truth is that most of us fail. And after decades of observing myself and others pursue this annual personalized goal, I now know the real reason why we fail at New Year’s resolutions.

Stats, Back Me Up

I’m not going to tell you that around 45% of Americans write at least one New Year’s resolution or the staggering stat that only 8% of resolution-ers succeed. Because, while that survey is pretty legit, it’s also extremely outdated by almost 15 years.Box of Shame GIF

So, shame on you Forbes, Washington Post, and the Guardian. You know better than to slip in old numbers into new articles.

Sadly, since University of Scranton’s big findings of 2002, most top-level research institutions gave up on studying the behavior around New Year’s resolutions.

Fortunately, FranklinCovey picked up the slack. They surveyed over 15 thousand customers back in 2007.

Yes, almost ten years ago. But I’m calling myself out and I’m calling out the fact that this is the latest legit survey on the topic in Internet existence.

Let’s state the facts:  Only 23% of those that write New Year’s resolutions succeed. By the end of January, 35% have jumped off the resolution bandwagon.

And that’s why you shouldn’t create New Year’s resolutions in January. But I digress.

Why We Fail at New Year’s Resolutions

If we rely solely on the stats, I’d tell you that nearly 40% claim that they have too much going on in their lives while 33% are just not committed enough.

We all know that’s not the real truth.

I’m definitely not accusing FranklinCovey of tweaking the stats. And I’m sure that the survey participants filled out their surveys accurately.

But when asked bluntly, I don’t think most of us consciously know why we fail at keeping our New Year’s resolutions. Or any of our goals to be frank.

Only 33% were honest enough with themselves. I’d like to add on the 40% and claim that 73% are just not committed enough.

Because that’s the real reason why we fail at keeping New Year’s resolutions: We’re simply not committed enough to the goal.

I know it’s harsh to say. I’ve even had to be honest with myself a couple of times with my goals and fess up to the same reason.

It doesn’t matter how much you want that New Year’s resolution. If you don’t make it a priority, it isn’t going to happen.

I’ll give you an example.

Running Shoes GIF

My workout schedule is important to me. I love going for long runs and pushing myself to the limit. I also love to eat, so it’s a good thing I enjoy burning off the calories.

But Mother Nature isn’t always cooperative with my fitness schedule. She likes to make it rain or snow. She likes to keep the hours around my 9-5 schedule dark outside in the winter. She likes to make it unbearably hot during the summer afternoons.

I don’t quit and blame the weather for why I miss a workout. I adjust my schedule to keep my commitment.

That means shifting my work hours earlier so that I can run outside in the winter afternoons. That means waking up before dawn to run outside in the summer or (ugh) run inside at the gym.

I could also say that I have too much going on. Which is also very true. But since I’m committed to my goal, I stretch my schedule to the max to fit it all in.

Can We Beat The Odds?

This is how we need to treat our New Year’s resolutions. We need to make a plan, a back-up plan and a back-up back-up plan. We need to be prepared for any scenario that’s thrown our way so that we stay on-course. And we need to commit to being flexible when these obstacles land on our plates.

And flexibility is not a strong trait of mine. Just ask my sisters.

It’s up to us to commit to our goal and to commit to finding a solution when life doesn’t go our way. Because you can be a success, not just another number.

Why do you think we fail at keeping our New Year’s resolutions? Share your opinions below.


  1. I think sometimes we make resolutions expecting to break them, or ones that we think we OUGHT to make, or we make them too negative (losing weight, not drinking/eating chocolate/smoking).

    One year I resolved to drop my change into charity boxes on shop counters whenever I bought something with cash – if the shop didn’t have a charity box, I went looking for one. I loved giving money, and the amount probably added up over the course of the year. Even now, I still do this a lot of the time, although I don’t necessarily seek out collection boxes.

    Another year, I resolved to not buy any new clothes. I had so much fun delving into my wardrobe and finding new combinations, and – yes – possibly wearing stuff that wasn’t entirely fashionable (but I didn’t care). The only exceptions were underwear and workout clothes.

  2. I have a friend who quit smoking after about 40 years enjoying the habit. She told me that when she realized will power alone would not help her succeed. I said, “Whaaa…?” (I’d been watching too many back-to-back Parks and Recreation reruns.) I think what she meant was that, as you said, Kaitlyn, you need a plan and some flexibility. And it doesn’t need to be a detailed plan – I know because I am not a planner. Another good ideas is to recognized the difference between an excuse and a reason. “Awww…it’s raining. Guess I can’t run,” is an excuse. “I’m in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy. Guess I can’t run,” is a reason. Very seldom do I have reasons, although my excuses are abundant.

    So Happy New Year and succeed at something today. Then do the same thing tomorrow. That’s my plan.

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