Why we’re skipping New Year’s resolutions in 2024

Old-fashioned, clichéd resolutions don’t necessarily take your lifestyle into account — is it time to rethink how we kick off the new year?
6 min read
As 2024 approaches, so does the pressure to start thinking of New Year's resolutions. As well-intentioned as these goals might be, they’re often abandoned within the first few months of the year, which begs the question: Are they even worth it? This year, we’re taking a different approach to this annual tradition — by breaking the wheel and swapping stigmatizing, socially-pressured resolutions for personal goals that fit the way you live.

Resolutions rarely focus on what matters to you

As we usher in a new year, some of us find ourselves swept up in the fervor of ditching our ‘bad habits’ and starting the year off fresh. However, many New Year’s resolutions aren’t aligned with who we are, what we want, or where we are in life. With over 62% of us feeling “pressured” to set a New Year’s resolution, these new habits can sometimes reflect societal expectations or ideals we think we should pursue. It’s not surprising that about 80% of New Year's resolutions fall by the wayside, and most lose steam by mid-February​​​​.  Take, for instance, the clichéd expectations of getting in shape or saving money. While commendable, these objectives are pretty generic and might not resonate with what we actually care about. If that’s the case, attempting to achieve them becomes near impossible in the long term. Without personal drive, skipping that morning yoga session or indulging in that impulsive purchase becomes all too easy. As a result, when goals are set without considering our wants, needs, and passions, they’re unlikely to last. To break this cycle, it might be worth shifting our focus towards meaningful and personal objectives that resonate with our unique life situations.

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We forget about our priorities and over-commit

When setting New Year's resolutions, one of the key challenges is juggling competing priorities. First, it can be helpful to acknowledge that our time, resources, and willpower are finite. Then, it’s useful to evaluate resolutions critically and consider how dedicating time to one goal might detract from another. It's a balancing act of determining which priorities matter more and why and the direct and indirect benefits we expect from pursuing them.Making too many resolutions is an easy temptation to give into. Many people draft extensive lists of wants for the new year, which can easily lead to being overwhelmed or burnt out. In one study, about one in ten individuals who didn’t manage to achieve their resolutions admitted they’d set too many goals​​​​

Death by vagueness

Vagueness can undo even the most well-intentioned resolution. A well-crafted resolution is personal, detailed, and measurable, allowing for continuous adjustment and improvement. Generic resolutions often lack the depth required for a goal to be genuinely attainable. This is where the SMART goal-setting criteria can help: Specific, Measurable, Accepted, Realistic, and Time-framed.A key strength of this framework is its focus on measurable progress. This is important because it allows us to adjust our goals in a way that suits our lives. It also provides a sense of accomplishment through visible milestones, which can be highly motivating. This is a fantastic antidote to vague, unrealistic resolutions. Staying in shape might sound good on paper, but you know what’s better? Making it to that spinning class you love so much — say, a certain number of times each month. Setting measurable goals that speak to you makes it easier to venture out on a more structured and rewarding journey toward personal improvement and success.

The perils of negative thinking

New Year's resolutions often revolve around distancing ourselves from aspects of our lives that we dislike. However, for a goal to be truly impactful, it should be about achieving a positive state, such as feeling healthier, managing stress effectively, or taking steps towards financial freedom. Shifting from a negative to a positive outlook isn’t just about semantics; it also represents a fundamental difference in how we approach our goals. Setting a positive goal involves moving towards a desired state, not just away from an undesirable one. For instance, this could mean reframing "I want to lose weight" to "I want to feel stronger in my body." This positive framing aligns with research indicating that approach-oriented resolutions are more successful than avoidance-oriented ones. A study showed that 58.9% of participants who set positive, approach-oriented resolutions considered themselves successful, compared to 47.1% with negative, avoidance-oriented resolutions​​.

A different take on resolutions for 2024

Instead of approaching New Year’s resolutions with the same traditional method — since it only works for 8% of us — why not try tackling them unconventionally this year? Not only will this increase the chances of successfully reaching our goals, but they’ll probably be a lot more fun.

Adopt an annual theme rather than a resolution

Instead of making a resolution, consider choosing a central theme for the year. This approach involves selecting a word or mantra that encapsulates any aspirations for the upcoming year. For instance, if your chosen theme is "balance," you could look for ways to infuse this concept into your daily routines, like reorganizing schedules to reduce stress or finding ways to make regular tasks more efficient and enjoyable. A theme-based approach can attract new habits, relationships, and behaviors that resonate more with our core values and goals.

Set flexible resolutions

Life is dynamic, and our resolutions should be adaptable to accommodate changes in our circumstances and preferences. Rigid goals often fail to account for life's changes. For instance, a new job or a change in personal interests can make some resolutions irrelevant or impractical. Allowing for flexibility in our goals can make them more resilient, realistic, and practical — especially for the longer term.

Set mini-goals 

Often, grand resolutions seem unattainable because, well, they are. Breaking down a massive goal into smaller, manageable milestones can lead to greater success. For example, instead of resolving to start a business within a year, consider setting sequential mini-goals: networking with mentors in the first few months, drafting a business plan by mid-year, and securing initial funding by year's end. This method allows us to celebrate each small victory, maintaining motivation and making the overall goal seem less daunting.

Embrace (and learn from) setbacks

Let’s face it: It’s possible that your resolutions won’t work out as planned. However, viewing shortcomings as learning opportunities instead of feeling guilty about them will make the pursuit of a goal an accomplishment in its own right. For example, if you find it difficult to stick to a specific budgeting plan, you might simply need a different approach that aligns better with your lifestyle and preferences. A failure is never really a failure if it’s approached as a life lesson. Instead of just writing off an unsuccessful goal, try a different approach: Take it as a learning and growth opportunity and adjust your plan accordingly.

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