The Psychology Behind Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

With the new year in full swing many struggle to stick to their New Year’s resolutions.  They become a popular tradition, symbolizing the desire for personal growth and self-improvement. However, despite our best intentions, the majority of New Year’s resolutions end up abandoned and forgotten within a few weeks. In this article, I will delve into the psychology behind why New Year’s resolutions fail and explore the various factors that contribute to this recurring cycle.

The psychology behind setting resolutions

Setting resolutions is a way for us to envision a better version of ourselves and strive for positive change. However, the psychology behind this process is more complex than it may seem. When we set resolutions, we are essentially setting goals for ourselves. Goal-setting theory suggests that for a goal to be effective, it needs to be specific, challenging yet attainable, and accompanied by a plan of action. Unfortunately, many New Year’s resolutions fail to meet these criteria, which significantly reduces the likelihood of success.

Common reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail

Lack of motivation and goal setting

One of the most common reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail is a lack of motivation. While the start of a new year may bring a temporary surge of enthusiasm and determination, this initial burst of motivation often fades quickly. Without a strong and enduring motivation, it becomes challenging to stay committed to our resolutions. In addition, the goals we set for ourselves may lack clarity and specificity, making it difficult to stay focused and track our progress.

Unrealistic expectations and goal setting

Another factor that contributes to the failure of New Year’s resolutions is the unrealistic expectations we often place on ourselves. We set lofty goals without considering the practicality or feasibility of achieving them. For example, resolving to lose 50 pounds in a month or completely eliminating a particular indulgence from our lives overnight. When we set unrealistic expectations, we set ourselves up for disappointment and feelings of failure, leading to the abandonment of our resolutions.

The role of self-control and willpower

Self-control and willpower play a significant role in the success or failure of our New Year’s resolutions. Research suggests that self-control is a finite resource that can become depleted over time. This means that as we exert self-control in one area of our lives, we may find it more challenging to resist temptations and stay committed to our resolutions in other areas. Furthermore, relying solely on willpower to achieve our goals can be unsustainable in the long run. We need to develop strategies and systems that support our self-control and make it easier to stay on track.

The impact of social influence on resolutions

The influence of our social environment can also contribute to the failure of our New Year’s resolutions. Social norms and peer pressure can shape our behaviors and make it difficult to stick to our goals. For example, if our friends or family do not share our commitment to a healthier lifestyle, it can be challenging to resist their influence and maintain our resolutions. Additionally, the fear of judgment or ridicule from others can deter us from pursuing our goals, leading to a sense of discouragement and eventual abandonment.

Seeking professional help and support

If you find yourself struggling to stick to your resolutions, don’t hesitate to seek professional help and support. A therapist or coach can provide guidance, accountability, and help you navigate the psychological barriers that may be hindering your progress. They can assist you in setting realistic goals, developing effective strategies, and addressing any underlying psychological factors that may be contributing to the cycle of failed resolutions.

The psychology behind failed New Year’s resolutions is multifaceted and influenced by various factors. From a lack of motivation and unrealistic expectations to the impact of social influence and the role of self-control, understanding these psychological factors can help us break the cycle of failed resolutions. By setting specific and attainable goals, seeking support, and developing strategies to overcome obstacles, we can increase our chances of success. Remember, the journey towards self-improvement is not limited to the start of a new year but is an ongoing process that requires patience, perseverance, and self-compassion. So go ahead, break the cycle, and make this year the year you achieve your resolutions.If you would like to see how we can help, book a FREE 10 minute intake call here: Contact – Psychotherapist, Marriage Counselor, LMFT: NYC, Manhattan (



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