Why your New Year Resolutions fail (and what you can do to help it stick)

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The end of the year is almost upon us. Apart from the Christmas gifts and holiday plans, a big year-end ritual for most people is to start setting your new New Year Resolutions. As you’re setting your own, take a look at your list and compare it with what you’d set out last year… does anything look familiar?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find your 2022 resolutions repeated on your 2023 list. For example: get better at a third language, do more strength training, up my financial literacy… all noble goals that I’d very confidently set out for myself at the start of this year, only to reach December and realise that I’ve barely started on them.

It’s a pretty common occurrence to realise that you’ve flaked out on your resolutions – yet, we continue setting them for ourselves every year What is it about New Year Resolutions that make it hard to achieve, and what can we do to set ourselves up for success in accomplishing them?

We explore why we enjoy setting New Year Resolutions (despite failing most of the time), and how to stick to them.

Why do we like to set New Year Resolutions?

As the saying goes ‘new year, new beginnings’, New Year Resolutions give us a chance to reset from the year that came before. After all, who doesn’t regret some of their past decisions?  

With the new year, it feels like we’re starting off on a fresh slate. In this way, New Year Resolutions may represent the opportunity we’re given to right any wrongs or mistakes that we’d made in the previous year.

If you take a look at common resolutions, they revolve around improving ourselves: losing weight, eating more healthily, going to the gym, learning a new skill. We want to do better, to be better people than we were previously – and that’s an admirable trait of human kind! At its core, New Year Resolutions are about hope, for ourselves and the people we want to be.

What makes it hard to keep to your New Year Resolution?

According to a study, a good 80% of people fail at their resolutions by February – so you’re not alone if you find yourself neglecting your resolution, halfway through the year.

If you look at the literature on goal setting, you’ll find that a large component of success is being specific about a) what you want to achieve, and b) how you’re getting there. However, when we’re setting New Year Resolutions, we may not be as analytical or thoughtful about what we want to accomplish.

Take me, for example – at the start of 2022, I told myself that I’m going to be more “financially literate” and left it as that. But, what does financial literacy mean? It’s a wide field and an endless amount of information to trawl through; and it was precisely because it felt so overwhelming to even begin that I never got started.

Similarly, someone who sets “be healthier” as their goal may find it hard to achieve or even start on their resolution. There are so many ways to be healthy, from nutrition to exercising; and even within these buckets, there’s so much more you can delve into, for each topic.

Without having a clear, specific outcome that we’re working towards, along with a plan (even if it’s just a rough outline of how you’re going to approach a problem) that would guide you, you’ll find it challenging to achieve your New Year Resolution. 

3 tips to achieve your New Year Resolutions

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The issue for most of us is the lack of structure and planning (I know, it sounds so stuffy and like real work at a job – but no one said improving yourself would be easy!). When you’re making your resolutions for 2023, keep these tips in mind so that you can decide on something that’s doable and achievable for yourself:

Make a plan of action 

After deciding on what you want to achieve, e.g. “I want to be financially literate”, don’t stop there. List out steps and actions you need to take that would get you to your goal. For example, “I’ll spend 15 minutes reading up about personal finance every day” or “I’ll arrange a meeting with a financial advisor by January to learn about different products”.

Rather than leave your resolution as a large ambiguous goal, break it down into smaller tasks that you can do. This makes your plan more tangible, so that you can start acting on it.

Find your purpose

Why have you made this your New Year Resolution? Connecting your resolution with a deeper purpose can help you to sustain motivation in achieving it. For me, I want to be more financially literate so that I can explore other forms of living that may not be tied to a usual corporate job.

Find something that emotionally resonates with who you are. Knowing the why behind your goals makes it easier to stick to them, especially when the going gets tough!

Tell people about your plans

Lastly, let your family members or close friends know about your resolutions. This creates a sense of accountability towards what you’ve declared you’d do, as there are now other people ‘watching’ you. You can also ask them to help keep track of your progress or do regular check-ins with them – even better, if they have similar resolution as you.

An accountability partner helps you to feel less alone in working towards your resolution; and also is a form of social pressure to keep yourself on track.

And, one last bonus tip – don’t beat yourself up if you slip up! New Year Resolutions are just one tool to help us improve ourselves; and self-improvement is a lifelong journey, not a one-year sprint. Just because you neglect your plan for a month, doesn’t mean that everything is all for nought. Always be kind and compassionate to yourself, as you’re on your journey toward self-improvement.

A Word from A Space Between

If you’re keen for more professional support to help you with achieving your goals – or even, designing a plan to support you with your resolutions – you can speak to any of our therapists at A Space Between. Browse the therapist directory to find out more about our partners, or get our help to match you with a therapist that best suits your goals.



  • https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2021/12/31/4-reasons-to-make-new-years-resolutions-even-if-you-dont-keep-them/?sh=5586101766a1
  • https://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/holidays-other/why-make-new-years-resolutions.htm
  • https://theconversation.com/how-putting-purpose-into-your-new-years-resolutions-can-bring-meaning-and-results-129182
  • https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/psychology-of-new-year-resolutions

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