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Why you’ll probably fail your New Year’s resolution

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The most common New Year’s resolutions deal with health & fitness, money, career, relationships, and travel.

Sorry to be blunt, but if you’re not making steady progress at your top resolution right now — September 6th — you haven’t set up systems to maintain ongoing accountability, and chances are you’ll fail again in January.

On the other hand, if you’re systematically working towards a specific goal you set, the world is your oyster. What’s the next challenge I can set for myself? How can I top myself last time? Bring it on. These are the phrases of top performers I know.

The time to think about resolutions is not January 1st. It’s in the middle of the year, when nobody else is thinking about them.

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  1. You sound a lot like Seth Godin in this one. But I really like it!

  2. The main reason, I think, people fail at achieving their new year resolutions are because they underestimate how hard to achieve them throughout the year. They set the goals – thinking it’s pretty doable, but then in the midst of all other things going on in their lives, they don’t put continuous efforts to take a step forward and make that thing happen real. Losing 10 lbs sounds great and doable, but can you consistently workout throughout year and really lose it? Only you can tell…

    • I think Ramit referred to this once as “sustainable change” I use that phrase all the time now. One way to increase your chances of sticking to your gym going schedule is to grab a workout partner or what I might call an accountability partner. Sometimes just telling someone, or just having someone to hold you accountable is an extremely large predictor of success.

  3. Y’know what’s interesting is that I always think of my Labor’s Day resolutions right around New Year’s.

  4. Stickypurplecat Link to this comment

    It’s funny, I had actually stopped making resolutions every year because inevitably they’d be unreasonable to start with. I’d have trouble making plans to get started (instead of just diving in), then I’d feel guilty about procrastinating for a few months until I finally pushed it out of my mind completely. I spent the last half of 2009 getting my financial affairs in order with the help of IWTYTBR, and between the money I freed up by revamping my budget (I didn’t really have any debt to speak of) and the increased income from using Ramit & Co.’s negotiation tips I had plenty of money this year to spend on the first resolution I’ve made in years. I’m studying a language of my choice, on my time, and have been making great progress so far. It feels great, and that feeling motivates me to keep working towards optimizing all aspects of my life until my friends and coworkers spontaneously combust with jealous rage.

  5. Thanks Ramit. This advice is a far cry from my typical New Year’s goal setting method, which goes like this: spit out a goal when asked at the New Year’s party. No wonder they always fail.

  6. It amazes me that people set their goals in January and then never look back at them. I remember thinking exactly what you are talking about in this post in March so I wrote about it saying that we’re already 1/3 done with 2010. One of the most useful things I learned about goals from another blogger when I asked him about growing was this simple idea “focus on what you can do today.” So, I’ve set many goals, but I look at everything that I can do today to make progress to that goal and that’s made a huge difference in accomplishing some of the things I’ve wanted to get done this year.

  7. Most people fail their New Year resolutions because they think that they need a huge amount of willpower in order to achieve them. I used to think that too. But setting good habits is much more effective. You should not have to think about going to the gym each week, just do it every Tuesday at 8 pm. Once it becomes a routine, you are set.

    • I tell people all the time, you don’t need a workout program or a diet, you need a habit. That’s a good point Thea b/c inevitably will power fails us.

  8. […] other bloggers are setting people up for failure this Labor Day, I hope that I can set up people for […]

  9. I totally agree with you! I wrote something similar regarding health and fitness telling people the need to cancel their new years resolution and make right now resolutions.

  10. I’ve always been horrible at resolutions. The one thing I really, really want to do is make webcomics. I’ve failed horribly in the past…for three years all I managed to do on my comic was two pages (and four site redesigns…but that’s another story).

    This year I decided to try something different, I made a resolution on the first of January to do one drawing everyday, not matter how stupid or complex or boring or whatever. Just DO it.

    I’m now on drawing #250. I’ve finally got into the habit of getting things done. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to take all that momentum and get my comic done.

    • I agree with Ramit, Sandra and the rest of y’all that have been using small milestones as a way of reaching greater goals. I found that it has helped me work up to different and more complicated goals. A small goal of mine this year was to start a blog that connects to my love of finding visually stimulating things on the web to share. It was a fun idea that has helped me achieve my more complicated resolutions. I just added Sandra’s drawing site to my blog. Awesome work Sandra!