Resolutions Are No Solution

by Sarah Bouy Published Mar 23, 2017 Last updated Mar 23, 2017

by Jason Falchuk, Founding Partner

“3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . Happy New Year!” We’re all familiar with the countdown, as we celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next. 

We’re wired to regard the calendar change as a fresh start, a cleaning of the slate. Many people use this time to organize their goals for the coming year, in the form of New Year’s resolutions. “This year I will: start, lose, move…” 

Sadly, research shows that short-term fixes, diets, and goals set as New Year’s resolutions end up being thrown out.

Wide awake one night, I began to research New Year’s resolutions.  I wanted an answer– are they as fruitless as I’ve always suspected? Here is what I discovered:

  1. A University of Bristol study of 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail. Only half of the participants were confident at the outset that they would be successful. Interestingly, there were noted differences between the sexes.  Men achieved their objective more often when they set small measurable goals, i.e. “I will lose one pound a week” vs.  “I will lose weight.”   Women succeeded more when they made their plans public and got support from their friends.
  2. According to Amanda Richardson of the Huffington Post, there are “7 Reasons Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Are Failing.” She lists them as follows: “It’s not what you really want, you’re not ready to change, your confidence is low, the goal was too ambitious, the goal was an outcome, not a behavior, you never made a public commitment, and you have no social support.”
  3. In “5 Common Mistakes That Cause New Habits to Fail (and What to Do About Them),” business analyst James Clear identifies the following problems as dealbreakers in forming habits.  They include “trying to change everything at once, starting with a habit that is too big, seeking a result- not a ritual, not changing your environment, and assuming small changes don’t add up.”

My research was enlightening.  If approximately 85% of New Year’s resolutions fail, why do we keep making them? The answer is simple—we strive for positive change, for an upgrade, for the next level.  To aim for these things is not useless, even though the New Year’s resolution model is flawed.  

I have identified three key concepts to help reframe resolution setting:

  • we need not wait for the New Year to set goals or strive for change; we should be doing this throughout the year as the need arises
  • we need to be ready for change and committed to making it a regular practice
  • when we set goals they need to be measurable and public 

If you connect with these concepts, join me in raising a glass. Let’s toast to remaining true to our core values, living each day authentically, learning from our failures, and appreciating our accomplishments.

As in previous years, my resolution this year is not to have any. Resolutions are a nice idea, but they just don’t work. 

Have you had success setting New Year’s resolutions? Have you discovered a reliable way to achieve your goals?