Why New Year’s Resolutions are a Waste of Time


This post is cross posted on the Betterment blog as part of the Betterment New Year’s Carnival. 

Every year around the holidays, people start talking about New Year’s resolutions. The most common among people I know is to get in shape or fix their finances. The problem is, New Year’s resolutions often do not work, especially when compared to taking immediate action on your goals.

New Year’s Resolutions: Waste of Time?

Thinking back to everyone who had a resolution last year, I can’t think of one that followed through until today. Sure, someone paid for a gym membership that was used six or eight times in January. I do know someone who created a budget, but stopped tracking in February.

Why does everyone fail?

It is simple to explain. If you are not willing to do something right now, why would you be willing to do it in two weeks? If you have been bad about going to the gym for the last five years, why is January 1st special?

It is not. Setting New Year’s resolutions for the future is not the most effective and efficient way to accomplish what you really want.

Small Lifestyle Changes Work

If you want to get in shape, you have to be motivated by one of two things. Either you have to want it enough to change, or you have to value your current situation little enough to make the effort. That is no secret, it is simply psychology.

If your situation is not enough to motivate you to make a big budget change today, you are not going to change it on January 1st. You need to focus on small adjustments rather than dramatic changes. If you go to restaurants four days every week, do not say that you are going to stop going to restaurants to save money. Say that you are going to go twice per week to save some money.

If you want to lose weight, don’t think you can start a dramatic new diet on January 1st. You are going to follow it for a day, or a week, or a month, or a few months. Then, one day, you will cheat. You will give in and have that chocolate milk shake and stop going to the gym all at once.

Instead, say that you are going to stop eating candy and ice cream six days a week. If you make those small changes, you are more likely to succeed in the long run. After six months, try to make additional changes so the transition is less dramatic.

Make a “Right Now” Resolution

Whether you are trying to lose weight, fix your budget, or learn a new skill, do not make a New Year’s resolution that is destined to fail. Make a right now resolution. If you care enough to do it in two weeks, you should care enough to do it today.

Your Resolution Successes and Failures

How have you done on resolutions in the past? Whether they were for a new year or just because you wanted to make a change, please share your stories in the comments.

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Image by mikebaird.

8 thoughts on “Why New Year’s Resolutions are a Waste of Time”

    1. That is similar to what I do on my life list, though I have 1 year, 5 year, and lifetime goals. I have only ever missed one goal after I put a measurable time frame on it.

  1. We’re singing off the same sheet of music on this one. I like goals, both short- and long-term, as  much as anyone else. But January 1 is not some magical date, at least not for me.

    1. Glad to know I am not alone. We need to improve our lives every day, not just when everyone else decided it is a good day to do so.

  2. I believe in short term and long term goals, and aiming high so at least you get most of the way there. There is nothing wrong with checkins every now and then, but we can’t wait a whole year to begin changing when we should start today.

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