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Why New Year’s Resolutions Set You Up for Failure

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is not an event—it is a habit.”


Ahhh a new year… A time for fresh starts. A time for new beginnings. A time to reflect on the past year and project our dreams into the future. A time to recreate ourselves and clean the slate!

If you are like me, this is precisely how your parents described a New Year’s resolution to you when you were a kid. Interestingly, as I’ve become older, I’ve realized that although the idea behind a New Year’s resolution is honorable, the execution is highly flawed and can result in self-hatred and regret.

For many, New Years is not so much a time to wish and be grateful, but rather it’s a time to apologize for not being “good enough” in one year and promise to be better in the next.

Millions of people all over the world are about to embark on a mission that is destined to fail. Each year those people will resolve to improve their lives and each year, most will fail. According to a statistic published in Forbes Magazine, only 8% of people who choose a new year’s resolution actually see it through to the end of the year!

That’s an incredible statistic when you think about it because usually a success rate of only 8% would deter even the most aggressive people from attempting. I mean, would you invest millions of dollars in a company that you knew only had an 8% chance of succeeding? My bet (and my odds are probably better than 8%) is that you wouldn’t.

Yet, here we are; on the cusp of 2018 and people everywhere are stressing about a resolution that they won’t keep. Not only will they not keep it, but it will only cause more suffering and self judgement. This is because we as humans tend to relive our failures. In fact, we are the only animals in the animal kingdom to do so and because of this, a single failure can feel like one failure experienced over and over again.

Why do we pressure ourselves to conform to such an arbitrary ritual every year? What is it about New Year’s that gets us all to look in the mirror and want to change what we see? Why is the end of the year a time to improve your life, but the other 364 days are a time to just go through the motions?

As you can see, I have a love-hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions because I believe in the message, but I don’t like the consequences of a peer pressure inspired goal to improve one’s self. Do you remember your resolution from last year? Did you think about what you wanted in your life long and hard before committing to your goal? Did you meditate on your resolution and sleep on it for a few nights to ensure it agreed with your body and soul? Or, are you like most people and hastily came up with a resolution on the spot because someone asked you?

The problem with resolutions is the same problem with crash diets in that they aren’t sustainable. True change, life changing change, doesn’t happen overnight. As with all great things in life, it takes time and persistence to achieve your aspirations. When the ball drops on New Year’s do you instantly become skinny? No, of course not!

Instead, we must realize that all of the things we want in life will take time and effort. We must see that every day won’t be easy on the pursuit of our goals - but if they align to our higher purpose they are worth enduring. We must learn how to create good habits because habits are the true secret to success—not will power. Above all, we must be kind to ourselves when we fail and simply strive to do our best. If we miss a day at the gym, that’s okay, we will go tomorrow. I can promise you if you do your best, there is no way you can look back at the end of the year with regrets. Because at the end of the day, all we can do in this life is our best.

The Buddha once said that every ten thousand mile journey begins with a single step. New Year’s resolutions can help you take your first step but just remember, this is only step one—there will be many other steps along the way.

Knowing this, I would encourage you to start small with your New Year’s resolutions. For example, if your want to start meditating in 2018 don’t spend thousands of dollars and sign up for a silent retreat—that will only discourage you. Instead, commit to meditating a short amount of time a few days each week. Then, as time progresses and as you progress with it, you can increase the cadence and duration of your mediations.

Similarly, if your resolution is to be more mindful about what you eat, start by preparing one home cooked meal each week. By committing to this simple goal you set yourself up for future success because each goal builds on itself which leads to your ultimate goal. However, if you start by trying to ensure every meal you eat is healthy, you will undoubtingly fail and ultimately discourage yourself from any future efforts. By failing in this way, you might even build resentment towards your food which can cause even more suffering down the road.

Fortunately though, if we take it one step at a time and don’t bite off more than we can chew (pun definitely intended) than we give ourselves a chance to be successful and reach our goals. The compound effect is real and your successes will only grow as you knock down each micro goal and invest in a better future.

Next December when you look back on 2018, do you want to remember it as a year in which you failed to stick with your New Year’s resolutions again? Or, do you want to look back on 2018 and even if you didn’t reach your ultimate goals, know that you committed to the habits and activities that will lead to a more meaningful life; a life where you are a better person than you were the year before?

Thank you as always for reading our blog. We hope you have an amazing 2018 and we look forward to giving you more motivational and mindful blogs in the New Year. Let us know how you feel about New Year’s resolutions. Do you love them? Do you hate them? Were you able to stick with them and if so, how did you do it?

Until next time, many many blessing.

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