New Year's Resolutions and Why They Don't Work

Many people make New Year's resolutions (an estimated 40% of Americans), yet only 8% of people end up keeping those resolutions. Some estimates state that 30% of Americans break their resolutions by February. Why is this? Let's find out

1. Setting unrealistic goals

Many New Year's resolutions are centered around diet, weight loss, and exercise (I wrote a blog post on this last year). These sorts of goals are problematic for various reasons. Many people set goals such as "I want to lose twenty pounds" or "I want to run the Flying Pig Marathon". These sorts of goals are often too big for resolutions. If a person sets a goal to lose a large amount of weight, they often fail to seek consultation from their primary care physician or a dietitian, which can lead to problematic dieting.  Individuals also sometimes fail to realize that the process of losing weight is a marathon rather than a sprint. This can be discouraging and cause the person to give up on their resolution shortly after setting it. Additionally, the person who wants to run the Flying Pig may struggle if they typically don't run long distances. Setting goals that are realistic, concrete, and observable is more likely to lead you to success.

2. Not having motivation to truly change

Setting New Year's resolutions has become a societal norm. Many folks post about their resolutions on social media and might even ask their followers for accountability. However, if a person is setting a resolution because they feel like they "have to", they likely aren't genuinely ready or interested in making a change. Spoiler alert, you can make changes in your lifestyle and behavior at any point during the year. As we move out of January and into February, it's important to remember that change is a process that has to be initiated by the person. January 1 isn't a magic date that allows you the ability to change- you dictate and decide whether or not you're ready to change.

3. A counselor can help you change during any time of the year

In counseling, the therapist will actually set therapeutic goals with the client. We call these treatment goals and they specifically target behaviors that the client wants to improve on or change in therapy. These goals are specific and time sensitive and, most importantly, they're not black and white. A person can make progress towards a treatment goal without completing it 100%. I validate and encourage my clients when they make any degree of progress towards change. Don't wait for January 1 to take steps towards reaching your goals.


Emily Teegarden