Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Never Stick



“New year, new me”: possibly one of the most popular catchphrases to flood social media each time a new year rolls around—especially when it’s the beginning of a new decade. Hence the plethora of new year’s resolutions that, unfortunately… never really stick.

What gives? Why is it so hard to keep those new-year-new-me aspirations? The most apparent answer is to attribute your then-smouldering, now-sputtering, new-year’s motivation to a sheer lack of willpower. After all, there’s some truth to the fact that so many fail to live up to the goals they set for themselves because they just “don’t want it” enough.


In reality, though, it’s not such a straightforward answer.

Just like any other goal-oriented endeavour, new year’s resolutions are about more than just willpower. Without the appropriate methods, systems, and frameworks in place to support your motivation for positive behavioural change, achieving what you set out to do becomes harder than it needs to be. Here’s how to change all of that and tip the scales in your favour instead.

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1. You’re looking at the destination without thinking about how you’ll get there


Amidst all the excitement of envisioning a new future for yourself, it’s easy to forget that setting new year’s resolutions is actually just the first step of a long-term journey towards your goals.


This is why so many people give up on their resolutions after a while; they give too much thought to what they want to achieve without thinking enough about how they’re going to achieve it.

To that end, it’s crucial to ensure that you measure both these things:

  • Lag measures = what you want to achieve in the end (for example, procrastinating less)
  • Lead measures = what steps you need to take to achieve your end goal (for example, minimising your digital distractions, implementing David Allen’s 2-minute rule, giving yourself tight deadlines, or working on your most difficult tasks first thing in the morning)



2. You’re trying to build an entirely new habit


No one ever said you had to reinvent the wheel. A lot of the time, the problem lies in the fact that we think we have to “remake” ourselves entirely in order to even stand a chance at achieving our goals. The thing is, though: it doesn’t have to be that hard.

Going after our goals is almost always a question of habit change. If there’s something you want to achieve, you need to change your current habits to get incrementally closer where you want to be.


However, according to Charles Duhigg, bestselling author of “The Power of Habit”, most people jump straight to creating entirely new habits instead of changing the old ones, which is why they fail so often.

Every habit has three components: a cue, a routine, and a reward. Old habits die hard because they’re hardwired into us; our brains have learnt over time that a given routine always invites a given reward. It’s the craving for that old reward that makes it so hard to form new habits.

Duhigg writes that the best way to change the old routine while preserving the same reward, not to try and make an entirely new habit.



3. You’re not factoring accountability into the equation


It’s unheard of to initiate any project at work without knowing exactly who’ll be responsible for it and how that person is going to be held accountable for it. We know and understand this perfectly well in our professional lives, but so many of us fail to apply the same logic to our goals.


In this case, without a proper system in place to keep track of your progress on your new year’s resolution, you can’t realistically expect for it to stick in your mind, or for your motivation to magically keep replenishing itself independently.

  • Give yourself weekly performance self-evaluations to look objectively at your progress and how you can improve
  • Make all of your resolutions public; leverage “saving face” as a motivator
  • Ask your co-workers or friends to check in regularly with you on your progress: use peer pressure to motivate yourself


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