5 reasons your New Year’s resolutions will fail (and how to avoid it)


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New Year’s resolutions are popular worldwide. The tradition dates back to at least the Romans, who made promises to the god Janus at the beginning of every year. However, keeping those resolutions and following through on goals is less popular. As the new year moves forward, the best of intentions often fall short.

Michelle McCullough, motivational speaker and success coach, knows how important goals are and says we shouldn’t limit our positive changes to the beginning of the year.

“I am a huge fan of change,” McCullough says. “I think each of us should have something good to work toward. But if we’ve had years of failures, we’ve set ourselves up to fail.”

McCullough identified five reasons you might not follow through on your goals and what you can do to avoid failure.

1. You aren’t rooted in your “why”

Firmly rooting yourself on the reason behind your goals is key to success.

“Let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds,” McCullough says. “Why do you really want to do that? Are you saying it because you think you should, or because your health depends on it? Because you want more energy or because you want to do things with your kids? Keep asking yourself why you want it. That will really help you get rooted in your goal.”

This analysis not only helps you focus on the higher reason for your goals but also helps you recover when setbacks come and motivation wanes.

“Once you know what your ‘why’ is, put it on a 3×5 card,” McCullough says. “When you don’t get it done, look at that ‘why.’ Get rooted in that again and feel motivated.”

2. You rely only on resolve and don’t make a plan

Resolve is plentiful when the calendar turns, but making a specific action plan will help you turn resolve into success.

“For every goal, I suggest making a list of daily, weekly and monthly activities,” McCullough says. “Let’s say you have a goal to save $5,000. What daily, weekly and monthly activities would help you reach that goal? You could cut back on soda or coffee daily. Weekly, maybe you can save $20. And you could go through your house monthly to find things to sell that you don’t use anymore. Creating a plan breaks down your goal into actions. That makes a big difference.”

3. You binge on your goals

Setting goals creates a “binge mentality” in many people. This is hurtful in two ways—first, it leads people to binge before they start the goal for “one last hurrah.” Secondly, it creates the mentality that when we experience setbacks, it’s all over and we can binge again.

“We can focus on avoiding the binge mentality,” McCullough says. “Start working toward your goals before Jan. 1. If you want to become healthier, keep going to the gym or go for a walk during the holidays. Let yourself have a piece of pie, but don’t have seven.”

This moderate viewpoint creates a healthier environment for change.

“With a binge mentality, we fall off the wagon and we say, ‘There it goes,'” McCullough says. “Then we binge and go nuts. We say, ‘I’ll start again on Monday,’ or even worse, ‘Next year.’ The binge metality can hit before we set a goal and any time we fall off the wagon. When we fall, we fall hard. Avoiding that mentality makes reaching your goals easier.”

4. You deny the possibility of failure

Even with the right mindset, your goals might fail if you fail to plan for setbacks.

“Before you fall off the wagon, create a plan to get back on,” McCullough says. “Prepare to have moments where you slip up, but remain rooted in your ‘why.’ It’s OK to go to a party and overeat. The next day, don’t give up. Get back into your daily, weekly and monthly goals. If we realize things will happen to knock us off course and test our resolve, we’re not going to beat ourselves up for falling off the wagon. Instead, we will dust ourselves off and get recommitted.”

5. You aren’t accountable for success

Accountability is key to success in goal setting. That will look different for everyone, but having at least one person cheering for you will make all the difference in your success.

“Some people need just one person,” McCullough says. “Whether that’s a personal trainer, a health coach or a good friend, you want to have someone who can be your cheerleader. For me, sometimes it’s as simple as putting it on Facebook. Later, when I’m feeling like I want to quit, I remember that I told a thousand of my closest friends and family about my goal, so I’m more likely to keep it. Then I can go back and say, ‘Guess what, I did this.'”


Breanna Olaveson worked in the magazine industry before taking her writing from full-time to nap time with the birth of her first daughter. Her work has appeared in the Ensign, Liahona and New Era magazines, as well as Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley BusinessQ, Utah Valley Bride and the Provo Daily Herald. She lives in Utah county with her husband and three children. She blogs at www.breannaolaveson.com.

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