Why It’s a Bad Idea to Set New Year’s Resolutions…And if You Must

By Jen Aly, M.S.

As we begin the new year, many people are setting new goals or revisiting old ones. While over half of us make New Year’s resolutions, less than 10% of those who set them actually keep them. So, before you consider setting new resolutions, start the year by forgiving yourself for all the ones you haven’t kept over your lifetime.

If you are reading this article, chances are you are growth oriented, have an active life, and may be a perfectionist (or recovering “A” student). Do you spend your energy on being more perfect, less flawed or “better”? A big part of being happy and expressing that happiness in the world comes from self-acceptance, a feeling of self-worth and feeling loved.

What if your only resolution this year is to love yourself and those around you more? That’s it. When you are gentle with yourself, you have more love to give. When you take care of you, you are supporting all of your relationships.

For many of you, the idea of adding new habits to your schedule may be overwhelming anyway. What about simplifying your schedule so you have more unscheduled time? It may sound scary at first, but if you are someone who is generally busy, spaciousness can be miraculous for your well-being and for your relationships.

In addition to adding more to your schedule with your resolutions, you may also berate yourself for not doing as much as you had hoped. This isn’t very much fun and only increases your stress level. These reasons, and the following three reasons are often why resolutions don’t work.

1) Your goal is too big. Out of guilt, you may try to compensate for all the years you haven’t exercised daily and commit to six hours a week. This over commitment is likely setting yourself up for failure.

2) You pressure yourself to be disciplined and your inner child (the part of you that is tired of being pushed to do more and just wants love) rebels wildly. You may hit a stand off with this part of yourself and get no where.

3) You believe you should be able to do it alone and don’t ask for or create support. The thing about choosing to do it alone is, you can’t see what you don’t see or know what you don’t know. So the perspective of an insightful friend, colleague or coach can help you create changes more easily.

When it comes to making changes, consider this. There is a part of your brain called the amygdala. Its job is to keep you in your comfort zone. When you move outside of your comfort zone, you experience stress. The amygdala does not make any distinctions about whether you are moving outside of your comfort zone in a beneficial way or in a way that is dangerous to you. So, your amygdala may be triggered to overreact and sabotage the change you really want. With awareness of this you can keep going in the direction you choose even when it’s uncomfortable.

Perhaps you are not convinced and feel having resolutions is important and keeps you motivated to make positive change. If you feel that adding new habits to your life is the way to love yourself, please consider these ideas.

  • Set a small clear goal. If you want to get in shape, the goal could be to put your running shoes on every day. I’m serious about starting small. Begin where are you now and complete an action that is one small step in the direction you want to go in. Success breeds success. Take it from there.
  • Track what you are doing. Create a log sheet and write down what you do. It’s hard to beat yourself up for not doing enough when you can see you are making progress.
  • Enroll your partner or a friend in your new commitment and let them cheer you on. Share your accomplishments and celebrate with them. You can agree to support each other if you each have a commitment to a resolution.
  • Set an intention instead. What is it you want to cultivate more of this year? Choose an intention and make that your focus for the year. Make it something you can live into such as courage, calm, prosperity, etc. Determine a symbol that anchors your intention like a piece of gemstone jewelry you can wear daily or plaster the word everywhere on Post-It’s in your home and office.

Try this and see how you feel at the end of the year without the guilt of quitting the diet in February or paying for a gym membership you only used for two months. Focus on one habit that creates more gentleness in your life. Pat yourself on the back for whatever progress you make. Einstein once defined insanity as, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So, why not try something different?

Click here for a video about using gemstone jewelry as an anchor for your intention.



Jen Aly (8 Posts)

Jen Aly, M.S. learned business skills from million-dollar training company, Thrive Academy in California, and worked as a coach for their clients. She has been a Martha Beck Certified coach since 2003 and has coached clients in the areas of business, marketing, organization, productivity, and communication.

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