Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

New Year’s Resolutions: easy to make, hard to accomplish. I have mixed feelings about them. They seem like a great starting point, an opportunity for you to start making the most of your life, but more often than not they completely fail. Statistics say the same: 45% of Americans do them1, but only 8% are successful in achieving their resolutions.

Seems quite strange that so many people can’t do what they intended to. So where are they failing? It appears that age, gender and the type of resolution do not predict success2. On the other hand, the ones who complete their resolutions employ strategies such as reinforcement (e.g. take a rest day for every 2 weeks of gym completed) and stimulus control (e.g. not having junk food at home to avoid eating it). Interestingly enough, the ones who aren’t successful often use “consciousness-raising strategies”, which is almost the same thing as we see in a pack of cigarettes – images of lung cancer to supposedly convince people to stop smoking. They also employed more wishful thinking and self-blame3.


It turns out that cognitive–behavioral processes are effective during the action stage whereas awareness-generating and emotion-enhancing processes are counterproductive. All in all, New Year’s Resolutions are quite good to change one’s life, since they are ten times more likely to succeed than if you don’t make any resolution. I never paid too much attention to mine, but this year I decided to make a little list. They are not too ambitious nor too specific, but I like them that way. Take a look.


1 – http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics

2 – Dingfelder, Sadie F. “Solutions to Resolution Dilution” Monitor on Psychology (2004).

3 – Norcross, John C., and Marci S. Mrykalo. “AuldLangSyne: Success Predictors, Change Processes, and Self-Reported Outcomes of New Year’s Resolvers and Nonresolvers.” Journal of Clinical Psychology (2002).


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