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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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50 Comments on "Why you’ll probably fail your New Year’s resolution"

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Larry Mahoney
Larry Mahoney
5 years 10 months ago

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

Paweł Kata
5 years 10 months ago

I had exactly the same feeling 😉

Ricardo
5 years 10 months ago

same feeling ( so Seth Godin style) but it is so true .. it’s all about execution !!!

Casey
Casey
5 years 10 months ago

I agree, and it’s something I’d like to see more of from Ramit. Usually his lifestyle advice comments are buried in the middle of other posts.

Alex Dumitru
5 years 10 months ago

I’m really confident that I won’t fail 🙂

Josh
5 years 10 months ago

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…

Dustin Sanchez
5 years 10 months ago

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.

Robert
Robert
5 years 10 months ago

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

Stickypurplecat
Stickypurplecat
5 years 10 months ago
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… Read more »
Tim
5 years 10 months ago

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.

Srinivas Rao
5 years 10 months ago
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… Read more »
Thea
Thea
5 years 10 months ago

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.

Dustin Sanchez
5 years 10 months ago

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.

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

Zach
5 years 10 months ago

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. http://nintemanfitness.com/cancel-your-new-years-resolution/

Sandra
5 years 10 months ago
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… Read more »
Maria
5 years 10 months ago

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!

Sophie
5 years 10 months ago

I stopped caring about resolutions years ago… But I guess I do set smaller 2 to 3 months goals for myself. Also, I like to do some kind of small checkup before summer and one before Christmas, when I also take time to clean my desk and get rid of things/projects that are going nowhere, to start fresh from then.

So tell us about your “fall resolutions”?!

Andrew
Andrew
5 years 10 months ago

Any resolution with a future start date is doomed to failure. If you’ve got the motivation to lose weight, save money, pay debt, earn more, etc., why not start right away? Saying, “OK, Monday is the start of a new me” basically means that you like the idea of something, but you aren’t willing to make sacrifices to make it happen.

Sheridan
5 years 10 months ago
Actually, when I set my resolution this year I did it based on one of your old posts. http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/set-smaller-goals-impress-friends-get-girls-lose-weight/ I weighed 217 lbs and I set the goal to be below 200 lbs by my Birthday. Since my birthday is in mid-April that equated to losing about 1 lb. per week. I actually had a couple of friends give me a hard time over my goal. “1 lb a week?!? Why not just make a resolution to get out of bed every day? That’s weak!” Here’s the thing, the few weeks I didn’t lose my 1 lb. I felt like… Read more »
Desi
Desi
5 years 10 months ago

have not seen any real content on this site for a long time now. These one paragraph articles are getting very annoying now!

Gerard
Gerard
5 years 10 months ago

For new years resolutions Leo Babauta’s method of changing just one habit at a time is a very good method. Not very ambitious, but very lasting.
http://6changes.com/

Gal @ Equally Happy
5 years 10 months ago

I don’t think every new year’s resolution needs automation, but they all need planning and that’s what most people don’t do. Resolutions like “Lose weight” or “make more money” are useless if you don’t actually plan out what those mean. And yes, automation could and probably should be part of most plans, but start with the plan.

Ramit, what were your new year’s resolutions this year? How are you doing on them?

Lukas
Lukas
5 years 10 months ago

Chris Guillebeau over at The Art of Nonconformity (his book comes out today!) has an awesome process for setting and following up on goals. The post below illustrates that approach (spreadsheet inclusive!).
Has helped me a lot and definitely is worth checking out.
Chris rocks, btw.
http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/how-to-conduct-your-own-annual-review/

Sharon
Sharon
5 years 10 months ago
It really is all about mindset. Yeah, you can say “I’m going to lose weight” or “I’m going to travel more” as a mid-year or January 1 resolution, but you have to be in the place to make it happen. Speaking it is one thing, but going out and actually doing it every day, step-by-step, is when success happens. And most people who have accomplished something out of the ordinary – successful entertainers, entrepreneurs, fitness competitors, best selling authors, etc. – they have the ‘make it happen’ mindset. And they are generally more positive, ‘put in the work and you’ve… Read more »
Sarang
Sarang
5 years 10 months ago

Telling people your resolution might actually be counterproductive:
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/derek_sivers_keep_your_goals_to_yourself.html

I think the “having a system” point that Ramit makes is the key. You have to be accountable to yourself and choose meaningful, achievable goals.

It does make for boring New Year’s Eve party conversation though.

David
5 years 10 months ago

Like Tim Ferris, this is one of the few blogs I read where the comments are just as good as the post.

Tyler Wells, CPA
5 years 10 months ago

On the other hand, I’m still working on last year’s resolutions!

t-bone
t-bone
5 years 10 months ago

from Ramit the other night @ brazencareerist.com

“anyone can offer something for free. very few people can offer something people want.”

Lucille
5 years 10 months ago

Great comments! I am a divorced mother of two who was sick and tired of living paycheck- to- paycheck and decided to take charge of my financial situation. On my journey I realized that I have the right and the power to live debt-free. I also realized that that the financial choices that we make no matter how small will determine our destiny. If you give your money no direction it will run wild and you will struggle financially.

Join me on my journey to wealth.
htt://Thejourneytowealth.blogspot.com
Lucille Baldwin
Author of: Sick and Tired of Being Broke”

Adam
Adam
5 years 10 months ago

Happy Rosh HaShanah. The Jewish New Year is tonight.

J. Money
5 years 10 months ago

Interestingly enough, I just blogged about NY’s resolutions last week 🙂 I like the way you think, sir!

David
5 years 10 months ago

You make a good point about systematically working towards a goal during the year, not using an arbitrary date on a calendar to dictate behavioral change. I wrote an article about this a few years ago for my website that speaks to this idea — and expands on it. You may find it interesting. http://www.dctalktherapy.com/articles/the-folly-of-new-years-resolutions

BTW, I’ve been following your posts for several months now. Well written and very informative. Keep it up.

Best,
David

Elizabeth Polis
5 years 10 months ago
I routinely send my patients email reminders about their prescribed home exercise program or fitness routine. This allows for increased accountability and the chance of disappointing someone that you “report to”. When people choose to rely on themselves for checks and balances-they have a higher rate of failure unless they are continually goal setting, and preventing any plateau. With all the electronic gizmos and apps that are available, we have limitless free resources keep us on target….but sometimes having a breathing, heart pumping human being to keep you in check, increases compliance. I am someone who likes to recruit buddies… Read more »
Alex Spirer
5 years 10 months ago

I don’t set goals in January, but have them for myself and my business throughout the year. That way I don’t feel like I failed if I don’t reach them right away. This has helped me achieve more of them.

Brandon
Brandon
5 years 10 months ago

This has been my sentiment for a few years now, and people look at me like I’m missing my head when I tell them that I don’t make ‘new year’ resolutions.

Rose M
5 years 10 months ago

Zach’s idea of “right now resolutions” is great. And being flexible is important too. Life and circumstances change all the time so you have to flexible enough to change what has to be addressed right now. Sometimes our lives don’t pay attention to the calendar.

Christopher
Christopher
5 years 10 months ago

OFF TOPIC: I’m not sure if this has been discussed on the site recently. Why are interest rates so low for supposed “High Yield” online savings accounts? I just started reading the book and then went online expecting to see around 3% but could barely find anything close to 2%. I’m looking at ING right now and am getting a 1.10% APY. I guess it’s better than the 0% that I’m getting a my bank right now but still….ADVICE? Thanks!

Rita S
5 years 10 months ago

I never make new year resolutions, I just plan something and put it into action. New Year resolutions are pointless.

Fred
Fred
5 years 10 months ago

@Christopher: “high” yield is supposed to be high relative to what everyone is offering as rate, and that rate is set by the Fed. And the Fed is currently keeping rates low, in the hopes of stimulating the economy.

Elizabeth
5 years 10 months ago

Ramit,

Thanks for this post now! Just last night, as I was watching the various football games start off the season, it occurred to me that I only have four months (well, a little less) to achieve some pretty big goals. I immediately re-evaluated my budget (woefully neglected since about March) and my fitness goals and begin a new system tomorrow.

Seeing this post helped reinforce my feelings that now was as good a time as ever to reevaluate and get back on track. Thanks.

Moneymonk
5 years 10 months ago

off the subject…

Cool favicon~

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[…] you applied the stress of a deadline.Stress in life = action (It’s also why most fail at a New Years resolutions)You have to be the best to attract the best.We all want to surround ourselves around high quality […]

Kristine
5 years 10 months ago

Awesome. I heard recently that only 2% write down their goals…and that only 2% of the population are successful in achieving their goals…Coincidence? Probably not.

Brian Tracy said that if you write down your goals on a piece of paper on New Year’s Day and seal it in an envelope…you may just accomplish some of those goals without even thinking about it….just by the act of writing it down.

Why wait till New Years to see if this works? 🙂

dustin sanchez
5 years 10 months ago

Thanks for the reminder Ramit. The time to think about the next 20 years is right now.

Sunil from The Extra Money Blog
5 years 10 months ago

great post. and great supplement Dustin – how does one know if they are making progress toward the goal when the end result is not clear. agreed totally – and yes resolutions need not be only for the new year. each day is a new day and resolutions should be ongoing – both in identification of gaps and working toward them

Scott
Scott
5 years 10 months ago

I’ve kept my New Year’s resolution every year since 1996.

That resolution was: Never again make a New Year’s resolution. They’re pointless, you might make it a week or a month if you’re lucky, then you fall back into the same old stupid habits.

Usama
5 years 10 months ago

An interesting idea. New year resolution in the middle of the year. Its brilliant to set your goals before you set your goals. Know what i mean?

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[…] how we built failure into every one of those resolutions. Frankly, resolutions are the closest thing to hypnotic suggestions. Build in failure and you’ve practically hypnotized […]

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[…] how we built failure into every one of those resolutions. Frankly, resolutions are the closest thing to hypnotic suggestions. Build in failure and you’ve practically hypnotized […]

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