Why New Years resolutions don’t work and How to have a Great New Year

Ever wondered why New Years resolutions don’t work, well, at least not until after February anyway?

Wanting to make changes to our lives and set big goals for our new year is a good thing in theory.

However, we often don’t allow ourselves enough time to feel into the feeling of each goal before we set it. Is this what I really want for myself?

How will I feel inside when I have this in my life? It’s the feeling that the change is going to give us that we are after, after all. Feeling into our goals will allow ourselves to notice what might be holding us back from pursuing this goal with real determination, after the initial blank-canvas excitement of January has been and gone.

The truth is that many New Years resolutions are either not grounded in our core values, or are ideas about how we should look, be or have based on what society or other people believe is what we should aspire to. Another reason why New Years Resolutions don’t work is because we over-plan. Many of us try to beat our January blues with OOPS (Overly Optimistic Planning Syndrome) and then we suffer from overwhelm which often leads to procrastination.

The language we use when we describe our goals is also important. If we use language that is negative, self-deprecating or restricting, we can be pretty sure we won’t be succeeding. There is a huge difference between the goal-statement “Stop eating biscuits and cakes” if your dream is to lose weight and be healthier, and “Introduce healthy snack-options into my weekly diet”.

But the most common reason for why we don’t complete the challenges and big aspirations we conjure up on New Years Day, is because of a lack of balance in our lives.

Balance is to do with the underlying quality of our lives and our day-to-day experience of it.  Balance is about choosing a life that is in action, aligned with a compelling vision of it. It is about being empowered and less at the mercy of other people’s expectations, demands or even our current circumstances. It is about choosing our life, not just reacting to it. Balance is then, not about making everything even, or some ultimate equilibrium. Balance is not even necessarily about slowing down  (although sometimes it is)  – it is about a life-giving ride towards a fulfilling life-vision.

To get ourselves on this life-giving ride we have to be curious about the perspectives we are stuck in at the moment, as well as the choices we make every day to nurture ourselves- or not. If we are constantly putting other people’s needs before our own at work or in our family life – achieving one small New years resolution may seem like a treacherous hike up Mount Everest in flip-flops.

Before we can even attempt to go for our dreams we have to make sure we are coming at them from the right place. It is about being properly prepared: Who are we being as we are engaging with our goals? Are we approaching our goals with honest excitement, motivation and a deserving-attitude or are we trying to create life-changes from a ‘stuck’ perspective?

Being curious about who we are being as we are trying to create change in our lives is key.

But balance isn’t about waiting for the perfect moment when everything is calm in our lives to begin our journey towards our goals.

Balance is about cultivating resourcefulness, resilience and hope even when life is challenging.

We know a lot from what researchers, such as international bestseller and vulnerability expert Brene’ Brown, positive psychologists and neuro linguistic programming have found are key strategies that resilient, resourceful and hopeful people utilise.

Some of these include connection, appreciation, being mindful of numbing and having a sense of purpose, to name a few.

If we can start by cultivating these key strategies and tools in our lives, we will set ourselves up for success in pursuing our big dreams as well as nurturing ourselves as the going gets tough.


Emily is a life-coach, creative consultant and workshop leader with experience of living and working across different countries and cultures. She helps people and organisations to develop helpful ways of being and relating by connecting them with what truly matters to them, asking powerful questions and challenging the status quo.

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