When new year resolutions begin to fade, what do you do?

A Forbes article from 2021 cited a study that found that nearly 80% of people admitted to abandoning their New Year’s resolutions by February every year.

As a practicing psychotherapist setting and following through with resolutions, invoking change as I like to call it, is a subject that I have the pleasure of approaching daily with my clients. Most of my clients have had issues with maintaining a new resolution, however, when we break down the process of goal setting and the motivation behind the need for the specific goal it becomes very clear if the new resolution will ‘stick’ or if will just become another example of ‘how I cannot do anything right’.

Let’s break this all down into simple concepts that will lead to the increased ability and success to bring change into your life and keep those New Year’s Resolution. 

There are many reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail, and one of the most common is setting unrealistic goals. Clients report often getting carried away with the excitement of a new year and set themselves overly ambitious targets that are impossible to achieve. For example, setting a goal to run a marathon in six months when you’ve never even run a 5k before is unlikely to end well. So, let’s talk about solid goal setting. 

Goal Setting Bullet Points:

  • Specific: A good goal should be clear and specific, so you know exactly what you’re working towards.
  • Measurable: It’s important to be able to measure your progress towards your goal, so you can track your success and adjust your approach if necessary.
  • Achievable: Your goal should be challenging, but also within reach. Setting a goal that is too difficult or unrealistic can be discouraging and lead to failure.
  • Relevant: Your goal should be relevant to your overall vision or objectives. It should be meaningful and important to you and align with your values and priorities.
  • Time-bound: Setting a deadline for your goal can help give you a sense of urgency and drive, and help you stay focused and motivated.

By keeping these key elements in mind when setting goals, you can increase your chances of success and ensure that your goals are meaningful and impactful.

Another reason why resolutions fail is a lack of motivation. People often start off with the best of intentions but find that their motivation wanes over time. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as not seeing any immediate results or simply losing interest in the goal. Then this would lead us to the question of how motivation works bringing in the dreaded concept of DISCIPLINE. 

I believe most of my clients believe that motivation can carry them when the change they are attempting to inflict on their lives become too challenging. This would indicate that it is not motivation that is needed but instead, discipline. The difference here is that motivation is used for things that we want (not much effort needed on our part). Discipline is used to get ourselves to do things we would rather not do. So, leave the motivation at the door and expect to begin setting goals knowing you will need to discipline yourself rather than waiting to feel like changing. 

Wait, are we talk about wanting to change? Depends. After working with my clients to understand their original strategy to accomplish their resolutions (goals) it usually becomes clear that the client believed they should ‘want to want’ a certain thing (losing weight, start exercising, etc.). Once we can agree that the client does not really want to run a marathon but feels the need to set these new resolutions, for any number of reasons, then we shift our focus back to what the client really wants. At times, this becomes the biggest challenge—to clearly understand what it is we want—and upon mastery can be used as a superpower.

For New Year’s Resolutions or any other goal, it all works the same. Abandon setting resolutions just because you think you are supposed to. In this case your next New Year’s Resolution will be to now make any more New Year Resolutions and then keep it. When you begin to become uncomfortable where you are in your life and know you need something need to change, please remember:

  • Identify the item, that is in your control, to change
  • Set specific goals following the above rules
  • Focus on discipline and determination rather than waiting ‘to feel like it’
  • Eliminate any ‘wanting to want’ items

Keep in mind that this is your life journey, and you are doing it your way and by practicing these new goal setting and resolution completion techniques change will could be in your future.

Michael Beckham, MS, LPC, Member HK Psychological Society

If you are interested in scheduling a session with Michael Beckham or have further queries, please contact us today. 

About The Author

Michael Beckham

Michael Beckham is a US-trained and licensed Clinical Counsellor with over 16 years of experience. He assists his clients to understand how they see themselves, to understand how they see the world, and to understand how they see themselves in the world. Michael approaches therapy without judgement of his clients. He creates a safe, confidential, objective environment in which the client can feel secure to express themselves in ways they may have never approached before.