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Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and How You Can Succeed

Whenever the new year rolls around, everyone gets the idea they are going to make immediate changes to their lives when the clock strikes midnight. Some of these changes are easier to make than others. For example, you could make the bed every day — which I highly recommend because it helps you start each day with a win. Or you could take the stairs instead of the elevator, which is also not a bad idea, but I’ll still be taking the elevator. Some of the changes people want to make are big and broad, and they don’t give themselves enough time to grow into them. I think that’s why a lot of people “fail” around this time in January because they wanted to make a big change immediately instead of making smaller changes to serve as stepping stones leading up to their ultimate goal. Essentially, New Year’s resolutions fail because people don’t make a plan.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said that “a goal without a plan is just a wish,” and he was right. A wish is a great thing to have, but it’s detached from our actions. A wish coming true isn’t the result of what we do, but it is the result of something acting upon us. A goal, on the other hand, is synonymous with a wish until you find a way to make it attainable. You have to find actions you can take to accomplish it. 

Having a goal is the best way to start your plan. This is the thing you want to accomplish. It gives you the big picture of what you are setting out to do. However, you need to start with more than that to keep yourself on track. You need to match your goal with your “why.” A huge part of sticking with a plan is establishing the reasons you have for reaching this goal. Your “why” has to be strong enough that, when it gets tough, you can remind yourself why it is important to you to reach your goal. It will get you out of the uncomfortableness of change and encourage you along the way.

After you have paired your goal with your “why,” you need the actual steps that you can take to accomplish the goal. These steps should start small, so the changes you are making to your life are not too abrupt. When we change things abruptly, we are not prepared for how those changes will affect other areas of our lives, which is why we stop doing those things after a while. However, if you write out a list of things you are going to do or ways to build up to those major changes, then you are more likely to keep doing those things. This way, you are integrating them into your life instead of trying to mold your life around them.

Once you have the steps you want to take, you need a timeline. A timeline tells you what you are currently working on and sets you up for smaller successes leading up to your final goal. It allows you to visualize and prepare for when each step will take place or be completed. It also helps you figure out how much time you need to accomplish your goal, which makes it more realistic. This is probably the part that most people hate because we want to see immediate results. Immediacy is an illusion and is part of the reason we are so drawn to wishes, but real change, real resolutions and accomplishments are made by the people who know what work they need to put in for them. 

New Year’s resolutions fail because people don’t make a plan to achieve them. It’s really easy to say “in the new year I’m going to do ___.” But nothing is holding you accountable to that statement — nothing that makes it attainable. By establishing your goal and your “why,” you set up a strong base to build a plan on. By deciding on the steps you are going to take and the timeline to take those steps, you are working towards your goal in a more realistic fashion. Goals should be hard to reach, and they should challenge you to make positive changes to your life. That’s why we make goals because we want to change ourselves for the better. That takes work, determination and, most importantly, a plan of action. 

And hey, if you are one of those people who “failed” this New Year’s, hear this: it’s never too late to make a plan to work towards your goals. You don’t need the calendar to switch years to set a goal and establish how you are going to achieve it. I believe in you!

Amanda Kraemer

Virginia Tech '23

Junior studying creative writing, professional and technical Writing, and English pre-education, with a language science minor. Adores reading books, listening to music, viewing art, and studying language. Also, an avid Disney lover, determined to see the magic in everything.
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