Failing your New Year’s resolutions? Now’s the best time to get back on track

new year's resolutions
When the party is over, it’s time to get serious about your New Year’s resolutions. Source: AFP.

How are you holding up on your New Year’s resolutions? 

If you’ve made it three months into the year and you’re still going strong, you’re part of a small minority keeping your word. You’ve also successfully skipped celebrating Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day on January 17. Studies showed that 80% of people in the US fail to keep at their resolutions by the start of February, and only 8% stick out until the end. 

But if you’re unfamiliar with the topic, here’s the rundown: A New Year’s resolution is a common tradition found worldwide. It’s made before or during the new year and involves a person setting one or multiple goals to achieve throughout the year. 

new year's resolutions

Achieving your New Year’s resolutions is more of a marathon and less of a sprint. Source: AFP.

It’s how Christmas comes with Christmas presents and Easter comes with Easter Eggs; the coming of a new year naturally raises the question, “What are your New Year’s resolutions?” 

But why are we talking about this annual trend at the end of March? 

Well, it’s the end of Q1 – the first quarter of the year. It’s also the point when most people have already fallen off the track of achieving what they set out to do at the start of the year. 

For example, if your resolution was “going for more jogs,” you might have started the year with a bang. However, you might have started falling off when you began snoozing your alarm to go back to sleep instead of getting on the track. 

Soon enough, a day turns into a week, a week becomes two, and then you stop entirely. No more jogs, just you, the couch potato.

new year's resolutions

If your New Year’s resolutions are to save money and eat healthier, try meal-prepping. Source: AFP.

The most common New Year’s resolutions made — and failed

Statistica reports that in 2024, the five most common resolutions in the US for those aged 18 to 64 are:

  • To save more money: 59%
  • To exercise more: 50%
  • To eat healthier: 47%
  • To spend more time with family and friends: 40%
  • To lose weight: 35%

At a glance, all of these seem doable enough; it’s why people make them in the first place. These goals aren’t the latest trends – they’ve been part of people’s New Year’s resolutions for years and even decades. 

So, how come only around 8% of people can commit to them until the end of the year?

You might have come across the phrase “It takes 21 days to form a habit”, and while there have been instances that this is true, the idea has been scientifically proven to be false. 

The phrase originates from a book about behaviour titled “Psycho-Cybernetics” written by plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz, which has been heavily misinterpreted throughout the years.

The 21-day idea comes from observing how his patients took around three weeks to adjust to their new appearance post-surgery, which led to the idea that habits could be formed within a similar timeframe. 

Since then, while the phrase gets thrown around frequently, research clearly states otherwise. A study found it takes more than two months – 66 days, to be precise — to form a habit. Beyond that, the habit could take anywhere from 18 to 254 days (more than eight months) before it feels like natural behaviour. 

new year's resolutions

Unrealistic or overambitious goals are a sure way to fail at your New Year’s resolutions. Source: AFP.

Top reasons people fail their New Year’s resolutions

There are many reasons people fail their resolutions:

  • Not setting specific goals: Things like “workout more” or “eat healthier” are vague; they don’t have a clear finish line in sight.

    Instead, try “workout every Wednesday and Friday” or “have a serving of vegetables with every meal.”
  • Being overly ambitious: If you’re a non-reader and your goal is to read 100 books before the year ends, this can quickly lead to giving up early on. Having too many resolutions can be a bad idea too, especially if you’re not disciplined and committed to achieving them.

    Setting realistic and attainable goals like “read one book a month” is a good place to start. You can always challenge yourself further in the year. Remember, your goals aren’t set in stone, so you can adjust as needed.
  • Doing something you don’t enjoy: If it’s an activity you dislike or have no interest in, it’s easily going to be something that you have no drive to continue.

    Seek alternatives instead. Jason Mamoa – the Aquaman actor– hates working out, so instead of the conventional superhero training of weightlifting, he does things he enjoys, like surfing and rock climbing.
  • Being too hard on yourself: It’s easy to be disappointed for not following through on your resolutions, but many stop after one missed workout session or not hitting their reading targets for the year.

    Be kind to yourself whilst holding yourself accountable. There are 365 days a year, so you have loads of time to achieve your goals

How to get back on track with your New Year’s resolutions

With three-quarters of the year ahead of you, there’s plenty of time to make good on your resolutions.

If you need some help with how to start, try following these methods.

1. Set specific, realistic goals with deadlines

Evaluate your current New Year’s resolutions and adjust them to your current mindset. Does it have an attainable end goal with clear milestones and deadlines?

For example, if your goal is to go for more runs, start by deciding the distance and frequency of your runs. If you start with two kilometres twice a week, you can gradually increase it to 2.5 kilometres twice or two kilometres thrice a week. Your milestone could be “run four kilometres twice a week in a month.”

2. Build a routine

A routine is always helpful, even more so when you get to the point that it becomes a habit. It beats out any vague and uncertain promises and assures commitment.

If your resolution is to spend more time with family and friends, start making plans that stick. Whether its phone calls on Saturdays at 11 a.m. to chat about the past week or bi-weekly Sunday brunches, these routines can easily be a part of your everyday life. 

3. Use a visual cue

Some people find visual cues helpful to keep their motivation up. 

Between mobile apps that help you do the trick (like using a widget) or printing out a physical tracker and putting it somewhere visible (such as your fridge or desk), there are various ways to help you smash your New Year’s resolutions.

new year's resolutions

A key to accomplishing your New Year’s resolutions is being held accountable by a friend. Source: AFP.

4. Be held accountable

Announcing your goals puts you on the spot and it’s a pretty good way to make sure you stick to your words. Letting yourself be held accountable can be daunting, but on the larger scale of things, it’s for your own good too.

There’s loud budgeting for money-saving purposes, broadcasting on social media that you’re on a fitness journey, or simply telling your housemates that you’ll cook more. All these are small steps in the right direction of achieving your goals. 

5. Get a buddy to join you

This goes hand-in-hand with being held accountable. Studies show that something as simple as texting a friend when you act toward your goal triples the success rate.

While it might be ideal to share the same goal, you and your friend might be starting from different points – they might be familiar faces at the gym, but you’re not. In this case, stick to your own goals but go at it together. Having a friendly face around is always welcomed. 

new year's resolutions

Esteban Ocon (L) and Pierre Gasly (R) take part in a cooking competition with Formula 2 Australian driver Jack Doohan ahead of the 2023 Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Source: AFP.

Fun New Year’s resolutions to add to your list before the year ends

Now, if you’re over and done with the goals you have planned for the year, or bored and want to try something new, we’ve got some resolutions for you to tackle.

  • If your goal was to save money by shopping less, try going to thrift stores or secondhand stores. Some places even accept trade-ins where you can get points to get the items at a cheaper price.

    Make it a game with a friend and see what you can get with just a limited amount of money.
  • If your goal was fitness-related, try a new sport or activity. While running is free and the gym has its perks, exploring something fresh could lead you to a whole new passion.

    Bouldering was on the rise in 2019, but you could also try going for a spin class or barre class to spice things up.
  • If your goal was to learn to cook, aim to master your favourite movie character’s meal. Even if it’s the spaghetti and meatballs from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp or the iconic ratatouille dish from Pixar’s Ratatouille, it’s a place to start. You could also challenge yourself and your friends to a monthly cook-off session à la Master Chef and have other friends act as the judges. Hosting potlucks where everyone brings a home-cooked dish helps too.