Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and How to Make Them Work

Starting with an enjoyable new goal will give you the momentum and energy for tougher new habits
January 2, 2020 Updated: January 2, 2020

Many people see the new year as a great time to set goals. It’s a “new year, new you” mentality, but research from U.S. News and World Report shows that only 20 percent of us succeed with our goals. In other words, 80 percent of us are likely to fail. Yikes, why is this? 

The main reason that New Year’s resolutions fail, in my opinion, is due to two compounding factors. The first is that many people don’t know how to create new habits. Creating habits is hard work. It requires consistency in a new routine and working toward your goal every day. Consistency is the only way to create new neural connections in the brain that support what you’re working toward. Once new neural connections are formed, your new routine will become a habit and will be much easier to maintain, but getting there is the challenge.

If you’ve moved beyond this hurdle, kudos to you, but you still may not succeed unless you’ve tackled the second problem: Most people don’t have a daily routine doing something enjoyable.

How can you expect yourself to keep a New Year’s resolution regarding something that you’ve struggled with when you don’t even do something daily that you’re good at and you enjoy? Think of it as low-energy output versus high-energy output. It takes much less effort to do fun things or relaxing things than it does to do challenging ones, right? Right.

No matter how mindful you are, we all have limited time and energy to get everything done: How much energy is realistic to put toward a new difficult goal, versus keeping up with everything already on your plate?

If you create a daily routine doing something you enjoy before you set any other kind of resolution, you’ll have given yourself some momentum. This will support the kind of confidence and commitment you need to take on a tougher goal.

Cultivating happiness through this new daily habit also gives you more energy to accomplish the rest of your goals. People who are happier are healthier and have a more positive outlook on life. People with a consistent daily routine also feel more confident in themselves, because the mind craves consistency in order to be healthy.

Now let’s look at the low-energy output versus high-energy output paradigm. When you acclimate yourself to constantly putting a low amount of energy into something new, it’s relatively easy to increase that to a high-energy output; more-so than it would be to go from nothing to everything all at once. It’s much harder to get a sitting stone to roll than to speed up a stone that’s already rolling. In other words, small mindful habits turn into bigger ones, giving you the ability to make difficult changes.

I have a few mindful things I do daily that help me stay positive, focused, and happy. One is to start each day with a cup of tea. Another daily habit is to go for a long walk. I do both of these things because I enjoy them, not because I feel obligated to. Both of these things give me the support I need to tackle my bigger goals. What will it be for you? What can you commit to each day that makes you happy? 

Jaya Jaya Myra is a wellness lifestyle expert and go-to media expert on mind-body wellness, stress management, mindfulness, food for mood, and natural, healthy living. She’s a best-selling author, TEDx and motivational speaker, and creator of The WELL Method for purpose-filled healthy living. Visit www.JayaJayaMyra.com.