• Shannon Wiggins

Why Your New Year's Resolutions Fail

Well, here we are the year 2020! When the heck did that happen? Just think, this means that whole Y2K scare happened 20 YEARS AGO! 2020 sounds more like the distant, far away time that futuristic movies are set in, not the actual year we’re living in. But, alas, here we are. A new year. A new decade. And that, of course, means New Year’s Resolutions.


Now, I’ve made my share of resolutions in the past and I’ve also gone years without making any resolutions at all. I personally don’t feel like I need a special occasion to want to do better, so I got in the habit of making “resolutions” throughout the year, whenever the desire struck. But the real reason I think I went through a phase of rolling my eyes whenever someone mentioned New Year’s Resolutions and stopped making them all together was that they simply seemed like a waste of time. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a terrible track record with keeping resolutions. I am that person that signs up for the gym membership and has already given up on it by mid-February. So, in addition to being disappointed in myself for not keeping my resolutions, I was also losing A LOT of money on gym memberships I never used...


That was until I realized the issue wasn’t sticking to the resolution part. It was the way I was making the resolutions to begin with. I wasn't being very SMART about how I created my New Year’s Resolutions, so I was constantly setting myself up to fail. And unfortunately, if you fail at the same thing enough times, you may find yourself giving up on the task completely. Instead of making New Year’s Resolutions this year, why not create some SMART goals for the New Year instead?


I’ve talked about SMART goals on the blog before here, but I thought it would be cool to show you how to use the SMART goal model to create some really doable New Year’s Resolutions to kick off 2020. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. This is the model I use when counseling clients and it’s the same one I use myself. The first step is to be Specific.



One of the biggest issues with making New Year’s Resolutions is they never seem to be specific enough. For instance, if your resolution is to get in shape, well, what does that even mean? Does it mean you’ll exercise every day, go on a diet, lose weight? Or maybe the resolution is to lose weight. What does that mean? Will you be happy with losing 1 pound, 5 pounds? At what point have you met your goal? If you’re not specific about your resolution, I can guarantee you will never keep it because you won’t know what you’re actually working toward.


The next part to the perfect resolution is to make it Measurable. This is where your specifics get a number. This is how you will know you’re met your goal. For instance, instead of the resolution of getting in shape, we could say, I will get in shape by going for a 30-minute walk 3 times per week for 6 weeks. Or maybe instead of lose weight, we would say, I will lose 10 pounds. See the difference?


Next, we need to be sure the resolution is Attainable. This was a problem with my resolutions in the past. I would set these lofty goals that really just set me up for failure. Sure, I could become a millionaire this year, but a more realistic goal may be to increase my income by 10%. That way I’m being specific and measurable while keeping my resolution attainable. There’s nothing worse than setting a goal you never had a shot at reaching.


So, we’re being Specific, Measurable, and Attainable. Now we need to make sure we’re keeping it Relevant. This is especially important for New Year’s Resolutions. How is this resolution relevant to your life? How will this make it better? You’re not going to be motivated to keep the resolution if you don’t think it’ll change your life in some meaningful way. If losing those 10 pounds or writing in your journal every night doesn’t seem like it will have a major impact on your life, then it’s probably best to skip it on the resolution list. You’re not going to keep that one anyway.


And finally, your resolutions should be Time-bound, and I don’t mean “sometime within the year 2020”. That’s not specific enough. Let’s go back to our weight lose example. Time-bound would mean we say, “I will lose 10 pounds by March 15th.” You may be tempted to say something like “over the course of 3 months”, but I would advise against it. That would mean wiggle room in when you start working on your goal. If you set a date, the clock starts ticking toward your deadline, motivating you to get going.


So, our SMART resolution may look something like this:


Specific: I get in shape this year.

Measurable: I will get in shape this year by walking for 30 minutes 3 times per week for 6 weeks straight.

Attainable: This goal is attainable because I have room in my schedule that can be set aside for walking.

Relevant: This goal is relevant because I want to avoid common illnesses that run in my family and being in better shape will help me do that.

Time-Bound: I will start walking on Monday and walk 3 times per week for the following 6 weeks.


There you have it! A New Year’s Resolution you can actually keep!

Do you have any resolutions for 2020? Let me know what they are in the comments below!



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