Setting Yourself Up for Failure: 5 New Year's Resolutions to Avoid MakingAh, New Year’s. The time to make resolutions… and then throw them out the window a month later, as we fail to stick even just one of them. I mean, why do we even bother making resolutions in the first place?

To complement all the great things that have been written about how to make and keep good New Year’s resolutions, I thought I’d also share some of the absolute worst New Year’s resolutions you can make.

You should avoid making these kinds of resolutions, because most people simply won’t keep them.

1. “I’m going to completely change or stop this behavior or habit I’ve been doing for 5 or 10 years by the end of January.”

Whatever that behavior is — smoking, eating too much, getting into arguments too easily, eating junk food, being a work-a-holic, etc. — it’s simply unrealistic to think you’re going to change a behavior you’ve been doing for 5 or 10 years in one month. It’s not going to happen.

Instead, pick a smaller, interim goal that’s more realistic and achievable. For instance, instead of stopping over-eating all at once, try to focus on one meal a day (maybe even just 2 or 3 times a week, not everyday) where you’re going to eat “right” and control portion sizes better. Once you achieve these smaller goals, you can move on to the next small goal.

By building on small successes spread out over time, you’re more likely to achieve the overarching objective.

2. “I’m going to lose 20 lbs, but have no idea how.”

No goal is ever achievable without a plan. A realistic plan. Saying you’re going to do something (or stop doing something) with no clear way how you’re actually going to do it is setting yourself up for failure.

If you make a resolution with a specific goal, your next step for success is to make a plan on how you’re going to achieve that goal. The more concrete you are, the better. So download a habit app or sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and write it out. Be specific, and as #1 showed, be realistic with smaller, short-term goals to aim for along the way.

3. “I’m going on a diet.”

Everyone’s who’s ever said those words has probably regretted them at some later point. Diets generally don’t work — not because you won’t lose some weight — but rather because most people who try and diet regain the weight within a year or two after starting the diet. So not only won’t the diet work in the long run, but it’ll make you feel horrible as you inevitably regain the weight. There are many more reasons why don’t work as a long-term solution too.

The real solution is much simpler — eat more healthy and engage in regular exercise. If we just cut out the junk food, snacks and most processed food from our days, you’d be amazed at how healthier you’ll feel in a couple of weeks. Add some exercise to the mix, and voila, you’re doing something much healthier than dieting — you’re giving your body what it needs to get to a healthy weight.

4. “I’m going to do X every day from now on.”

Whether it’s going to the gym, smiling, weighing yourself, exercising, etc. — you’re going to fail if you say you’re going to do something every day. Most people’s willpower simply isn’t strong enough to adhere to a new daily regimen out of the blue. Yes, a habit app or simply scheduling reminders via Siri or the like may help. But for most people, it’s unrealistic to just start doing something new every day, and stick to it without fail.

Instead, put yourself on a new schedule that is more realistic. Set the reminder in your calendar or on your habit app to do it every third day, or even just once or twice a week. Most people need to build small, gradual successes in order to work up to having it automatically become a part of your daily routine. In other words, take it slow to increase your likelihood of success.

5. “I’m going to change this core part of who I am.”

I don’t want to say that personality change isn’t possible, but it is extremely difficult for most — and even more difficult if you’re trying to do it on your own without the help of a therapist. Our personalities are what they are from a complex interaction of factors that have been melded together through the experiences and knowledge gained in your past 10, 20, 30 or more years. Changing a core part of who you are isn’t something that is likely to come easily.

Sometimes we want to change to be a better person, or to meet the goals of someone important in our lives. People are usually more successful in aiming to soften or tone down a component of their personality, than to try and change it altogether. A therapist comes in handy for this kind of change, as they can help guide a person toward such changes with less stress and more success. Find a therapist now.

Also check out: 10 Tips for Setting Successful Resolutions That Stick



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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Dec 2013
    Published on All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2013). Setting Yourself Up for Failure: 5 New Year’s Resolutions to Avoid Making. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 3, 2015, from


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