7 Surefire Ways to Fail at Your New Year’s Resolution

updated May 3, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

Maybe you want to pay off debt or cushion your savings in 2019. Perhaps you want to get to that yoga class you’ve been meaning to go to, or try to cook healthier meals. No matter what your New Year’s resolution is, now’s the time to be proactive in planning: A whopping eighty percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.

Want to make sure you stay disciplined and dedicated to the goals you’ve set for 2019? This year, start by crafting your resolution in terms of what not to do. Here are some surefire ways to fail at your resolution, according to experts.

1. Set too big of a goal

Did you know setting and meeting goals triggers a dopamine release in your brain, which can serve as motivation to keep going? If you choose a goal that’s too big and distant, you won’t experience this pleasure response—which puts you at risk for abandoning ship. To maximize your likelihood of successfully achieving a goal, try breaking it down into smaller, measurable chunks. “Smaller, attainable steps along the way allow for the release of dopamine at each stage, and that pleasure response helps your brain create and retain a habit,” says Spencer Gerrol, neuroscience expert and founder and CEO of Spark Neuro.

2. Forget to track your progress

Tracking your goal and visually seeing improvement over time is part of a successful cognitive reward system, Gerrol says. If you can’t see how far you’re coming, even if it’s tiny increments, you’re more likely to fail at the goal. Whether you track in a spreadsheet or keep a journal, keep your progress visible. “You need to be able to see progress being made and reflect back on how far you have come,” Gerrol says. “That creates pride, a reward in and of itself, which will help you avoid failing at your New Year’s Resolution.”

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

3. Set a vague goal

The key to a successful resolution: It should be measurable, attainable, and timely. In other words, you won’t see specific results without a specific goal. “Resolutions like ‘lose weight’ or ‘make more money’ are so vague it’s hard to know what success looks like,” says counselor and life coach Jonathan Bennett. “Setting specific, measurable goals like ‘lower my blood pressure by 10 points’ or ‘find a job that makes a dollar more an hour’ will allow you to see progress.”

4. Set an unsustainable goal

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, but if you can’t fit your huge goal into your routine, it’s unlikely you’ll keep up with it, says David Barbour, co-founder of Vivio Life Sciences. “You may jump through hoops to work at the goal for a month, but sooner rather than later the inconveniences and sacrifices you have made to work at a goal that possibly has not even shown promise yet will wary your spirit, and the impossible schedule will start to slip back into its previous form,” he says.

5. Take an “all or nothing” approach

A black-and-white approach might seem helpful in the beginning, but ultimately, this kind of mindset sets you up for disappointment. “Change is a gradual, non-linear process. Change may happen in small steps, fits and starts, and will almost certainly involve some setbacks. But many of us go into the new year believing that if we don’t achieve our goal fully and immediately, it signals failure,” says marriage and family therapist Sarah Epstein. “Change is not all or nothing and setbacks are not only okay, but they are part of the process. We must be gentle with ourselves as we change because change is not always smooth.”

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

6. Do it alone

If your resolution is personal, you might be tempted to isolate yourself as you pursue it. But Epstein says involving others can be a great way to ensure success in goal-setting. “Sometimes, we feel ashamed of the things we want to change in our lives so we resolve to change them by ourselves, secretly. We don’t want those closest to us to see that we struggle or shatter the illusion of effortless growth,” she says. “But we need each other, and being vulnerable by including others in your change process will give you strength and help you move forward.”

7. Don’t set a goal at all

The most promising way to fail at your 2019 goal? Don’t set one at all. “I’ve heard from a lot of people through the years that they’re not making resolutions because they hate the way they feel when they don’t follow through,” says writer and college professor Amanda Page, who paid off her $48,000 in student loans in just 14 months. “They’ve already decided they won’t follow through—that’s as good as not making a resolution.”