Are all resolutions predestined for failure?


Each new year brings a promise of a new start. This symbolic renewal has motivated people to make a change in themselves for years. People love the idea of reshaping their lives. With such enthusiastic starts, why do so many struggle to achieve the goals they set for themselves?

“You’re trying to change habits, which is hard because you’re so used to following a routine, and if you don’t have a plan then sticking to new goals is pretty tough,” health teacher Dominique Alexander said.

According to Psychology Today, half of people in America make New Year’s resolutions. The frequently seen topics involve weight loss, exercise and money management. Of the people who make resolutions, 80 percent will give it up by the second week of February, according to US News.

“My resolutions generally revolve around pushing myself to make my life better which I get excited for, but never end up following through,” junior Katherine B. said.

Why do these resolutions seem doomed from the start even though they are made with good intentions? One possible reason is the need for instant gratification. Today, technology fuels this desire by supplying it through a variety of modes like social media. When going into the New Year it is important not to expect the immediate pleasure of benefits, and know it will be necessary to work toward the goal.

“When I start out and nothing happens, it’s challenging to resist the temptation of things I’m used to doing, so I end up falling back into routine,” Katherine said.

Another reason resolutions end, according to Popular Science, is the human brain lacks skill in affective forecasting. Affective forecasting is when people predict how they will feel in the future based on how they feel in the moment. In the moment one feels great about their resolution; but when it’s time to start the predicted motivation isn’t there.  

This also works in the opposite way where one assumes feelings will change from the moment they make a resolution.  For example, a person who has negative thoughts about eating healthy may vow to work toward healthier eating as their resolution, thinking when it’s time to begin they will be able to do it. However, the connotations they put with healthy food make it more difficult to achieve this goal. The best way to overcome this challenge is to make healthy food neutral in their mind and remove emotion from the action.

Procrastination is another cause of failure. It’s easy to make excuses and put off making changes. What’s the best way to combat this? Find a friend to hold you accountable. If nobody knows about the resolution the easier someone can let it slip away. Another option is to download an app and set reminders to avoid forgetting.

I always teach my class this about smart goals: make it specific, make sure it’s measureable so you can keep track of it, make it something obtainable, check you have the resources and put some sort of time frame on it,” Alexander said.

As impossible as it may seem, New Year’s resolutions can succeed. The key is to be honest and realistic when setting them. Choose an attainable goal, the more realistic it appears the more motivation there will be to try. Then, once the resolution is set, focus on small victories.  Don’t get discouraged, for example, when the scale doesn’t read 20 pounds lighter after a week of healthy eating or when you forget to hit the gym on a busy weekend. Take it slow, and celebrate any progress with little rewards. Through these techniques, “resolutioners” can finally have their long awaited victory.