Why Traditional New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

January 2, 2017  |  


As 2016 has come to an end, people have reflected on the past 12 months and are hopeful for what 2017 has to offer. As always, with a new year comes the hope for a new you.

Just weeks ago, my Facebook news feed was flooded with this question: “What will be your 2017 New Year’s resolution?” While I can appreciate those friends initiating the conversation and helping people think about their next step for a better year, I can’t help but wonder if setting a New Year’s resolution actually works for most. If not, why keep making them year after year?

In his book Willpower, social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister determined that the main reason people do not keep their New Year’s resolutions is because of a state of mental fatigue called ego depletion. According to the New York Times, Baumeister said that the only way a person can keep their resolution is to foresee the limits of their willpower.

Ironically, a study conducted by University of Chicago Assistant Professor Wilhelm Hofmann showed that people who use their willpower less often had the best self-control and could make it to the finish line with their resolutions. According to that same New York Times article, they do so by filling their lives with minimal temptation.

So we’re going about this whole thing wrong. Simply coming up with one, or a few huge goals has never really worked for me. Besides the temptations, I would think that the numerous distractions and the pressure of it all would entice any person into foregoing their initial vision and just starting over the following year.

But if you are truly committed to doing better in the new year, there are a few alternatives that will increase your chances of seeing your goals through.

Inspired by our pastor, I chose a word to focus on last year, and that word was actually “focus.” That word was somewhat like my theme for the year. I attempted to apply it to my tasks, as I wanted to get more projects completed by honing in on them.

I’m not alone in my desire to use words as inspiration to take into the new year. Zoe Saldana and her sisters have done the same thing for 2017, stating that their word of choice is an intention.

“You see, intention feels more like an active verb,” Saldana explained in their YouTube video titled “New Year’s Intentions.”

“Why not just be? Let’s say, instead of trying to be brave, instead of trying to be nice, just be nice. Just intend to be nice. I feel that has a different kind of approach, and it will bring a different kind of result.”


Also, another great option is that you can make a list of goals you want to accomplish. Starting only a few months ago, a friend of mine persuaded me and three other girlfriends to write down what we wanted to accomplish for the rest of the year. We also jotted down the exact date that we wanted to complete each goal, how we planned to achieve the goal, any obstacles we might face, and how we planned to work around them.

Each week, we would connect to help keep each other accountable, and in the process, had success.

With that being said, whether you choose a word, choose a few goals to chase or actually choose to go the traditional New Year’s resolution route, make sure you do what you can to truly achieve all that you want. Also be sure to surround yourself with people who will help you succeed in those areas.

My word for 2017 is “action.” For me, there will be no excuses and no turning back. What’s yours?


Image via Shutterstock 

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