Why you never stick to your New Year’s resolutions

The new year is a great time to start fresh and establish healthy habits for the coming year. However, setting unrealistic goals that result in disappointment or feelings of inadequacy is a phenomenon far too many individuals associate with creating New Year’s resolutions. 

You’ve lit a candle, a fresh notebook lays before you and you confidently write out your aspirations for the new year, but why aren’t you able to stick to that goal of running 10 miles every day? 

Boise State psychology professor Mary Pritchard discussed the psychology behind unrealistic goal-setting, as well as some ways to remedy this behavior.

“We get so excited about turning a new leaf and starting a new year … and we have so much hope,” Pritchard said. “I don’t want people to abandon a sense of hope at all, we want them to be a little bit more realistic.”

Pritchard broke down the three main reasons she believes humans overcompensate with their goal setting.  

“First, we tend to be overconfident in our own ability to do things, that’s not just New Year’s resolutions,” Pritchard said. “The second one: social comparison. Oftentimes, when we make these New Year’s goals we’re not doing it because it’s something we genuinely want, we’re doing it because we are being pressured to by somebody else or we feel like we should.”

Unrealistic expectations may be a prominent factor in unsuccessful resolutions, but failing to set yourself up for success can be just, if not more, damaging. 

“The third is that we often fail to plan,” Pritchard said. “We get these lofty goals and are so excited, are so confident, and then we don’t think about okay, let’s say I’m going to work out five days a week, let’s say that that’s my New Year’s resolution, when am I going to do that? Again, you’re setting yourself up for failure when you fail to plan because if you don’t make a plan, it’s not happening.”

It’s no secret that everyone, especially college students, feels pressure to make up for lost time after the pandemic years. Pritchard discussed the nature of students to overexert themselves, which could be contributing to setting unattainable goals. 

“One thing I know about college students because I’ve been doing this for 30 years and it’s gotten worse over time, is that college students are overbooked,” Pritchard said. “Coming out of COVID, people feel like they have to make up for lost time and (students) want to do 50 things in 30 minutes, you have to be realistic about your schedule.”

The concept of SMART goals — smart, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely — is a valuable tool that Pritchard suggested keeping in mind when setting goals.

“When you’re going into the process of setting a goal, it really goes back to that pre-planning, you’ve got to get clear on your motivation. Is this the right time for you to do it?” Pritchard said. “For some people, [the] beginning of the semester is a great time because they’re super motivated, for some it’s not because they’re super stressed. The first thing I would do is stop, take a deep breath and really dive into ‘why do I want this?’ Because if your answer is for somebody else … this is not the goal for you.”

Feeling a sense of pressure to show up for yourself when creating a New Year’s resolution is one thing, but imagine having thousands of followers who are anticipating it as well.

Influencer Katie Williams, known as @travelingspud on Instagram and TikTok for her travel and lifestyle-based content, discussed the benefits and drawbacks of sharing goals online, as well as her take on New Year’s resolutions.

“Once I tell my audience … it feels like something that I need to follow through on, but that being said, I am really hesitant to announce too many goals on my page,” Williams said. “I personally change my mind a lot about what I do and I don’t want to lead people too far down the rabbit hole if I’m not going to follow through because then maybe they’ll think ‘Oh, she doesn’t follow through with anything.’”

A lack of motivation or fatigue from the drastic weather changes is a key component of why many individuals do not stick to their New Year’s resolutions.

“We start our goals in the winter, which is the time when we should be hibernating and not doing much. That’s when we’re setting all of these goals, like, ‘let’s go run a marathon,’ I don’t even want to go outside today,” Williams said. “Knowing that winter, when we are setting these goals, is a really hard time to start, spring when you have like renewed energy that’s a good time but January you just got hungover from the holidays.” 

Williams provided her take on New Year resolutions as a whole. 

“I like goal setting, I think that the intention behind it is really great… It doesn’t matter what time of year you’re doing these goals. I really like it for the fresh start,” Williams said. “I do feel like there can be some really restrictive goals that are just so difficult to get to and then you just feel bad about yourself.”

So, if your New Year’s resolutions for 2024 haven’t exactly been easy to stick to — you’re not alone. There is no shame in taking some time to sit with your goals and determine whether or not these changes fit your lifestyle or your vision for the coming year.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Annette

    I like Katie’s perspective. And I like that in winter we should be lying low. Good ideas.

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