13 Jul 2024

How to Keep a New Year Resolution

The beginning of the new year is a traditional time to make plans and resolutions. But why does the lion's share of all these resolutions remain broken?

What Men and Women Really Want?

No one knows exactly how old the tradition of New Year's resolutions is: its prototype already existed in some ways at least during the time of Ancient Rome when people sent prayers to the pagan god Janus. The name of the deity is related to the Latin word “janua”, which means “door” and also “beginning”. The name of the month “January” is derived from the same word. So, people make promises at all times.

No one can say whether the ancient people kept promises given at the beginning of the year, but it is known how things are going with this year's resolutions in the modern world. The YouGov portal has analyzed the promises of Americans for the outgoing year. According to new statistics, only 32% of respondents didn’t want to make any plans, while the rest confidently indicated what they would like to change in their lives for the better.

The most popular promise is to eat healthy throughout the new year (37% of respondents). The vows to go in for sports and save money are no less relevant (the same 37% have promised that). Many people are obsessed with the idea of giving up their bad habits as well.

Other popular promises are:

  • to take care of oneself (for example, to sleep longer), 24%;
  • to read more, 18%;
  • to make a new friend, 15%;
  • to learn something new, 15%;
  • to find or change jobs, 14%;
  • to get a new hobby, 13%.

This Is How Great Ambitions Fade

If you are unable to keep your own New Year hot resolution, then you are far from alone. According to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, more than a third of people abandon their holiday promises by the end of January.

The question arises: why do we need this tradition if almost all of these resolutions fail?

Fox News reports new data showing that only 8% of those who make New Year plans achieve their long term aims. But according to the same statistics, people who at least declare their intention to change their lives starting from a new year have 10 times more chances to achieve what they want than those who don’t set goals at all.

Dream Algorithm

You have already guessed that those old and new promises are the subject of numerous sociological and psychological studies. Experts tried to figure out what to do to make them come true.

  • Realistic goal

A study published by the American Psychological Association says that many goals for the next year are too complex. For example, if a person is crazy about sweets, one can confidently predict that the promise to completely and immediately reject desserts from January 1 will fail very soon. It would be nice to understand your capabilities and seek compromises when giving yourself promises, at least for the first time.

Another mistake made by the authors of such promises is abstractness. The “deadline” of achieving a goal is not established; possible obstacles and special circumstances are not taken into account. When it comes to the resolution on the rejection of sweets, it can be assumed that its author will probably want to feast at least occasionally, for example, at parties or tastings. And this leads us to the next mistake when planning changes.

  • Avoiding quick debacle

Many authors of new promises give up after the first defeat. Having broken their own word (for example, having missed visits to the gym for one week), people decide that it doesn’t work. But this is far from the case: it is not the failure to miss a couple of sessions – the rejection of all further visits is.

Many people have heard that any new habit is formed within 21 days. Those familiar with this rule decide that if after three weeks they have not been able to adapt to something, it will not become easy for them in the future. So, they abandon their undertakings. But the study that claimed 21 days for forming a habit was conducted in the 60s of the last century. In 2009, the European Journal of Social Psychology published other data refuting the old numbers: on average, people need 66 days to form a new habit.

  • Writing your plans down

Most promises are mental, and that is their vulnerability. Psychology professor Gail Matthews was able to find out that it is much more efficient, firstly, to write down your goals and to detail a plan, and secondly, to tell someone close, for example, your friends and family about your resolution. You can also use social media to attract the attention of like-minded people. Having fulfilled both of these conditions, 76% of the participants in the study achieved their goals or confidently followed them at the time the experiment was completed. The expert also concluded that it is most effective to monitor your progress weekly. When it comes to those who only think about their plans without telling anyone about them, less than half of them achieved success because they didn’t stay motivated.

  • Don’t scare yourself away

Tori Higgins, a professor of psychology and business at Columbia University, divides resolutions into promotional and preventive. The expert revealed that people are more inclined to observe preventive promises. The essence of both may be the same, but the motives differ significantly. For example, if a person planned to lose weight, the promotion goal would be: “Lose weight to look good in fashionable clothes and on the beach.” The preventive version is: “I need to succeed in weight loss in order to avoid diabetes and heart problems in the future.” The second version sounds more imperative.

The Most Popular Desires and Their Fulfillment

Experts have tips on each of the most popular desires.

  • Proper nutrition

This is not only the most popular but also the most difficult goal. As already mentioned, on average, more than a third of people refuse their promises by February. But this period is much shorter for those who decided to lose weight from January 1. In fact, several studies have confirmed that approximately 40% of dietary neophytes finish their experiments with the diet within a week.

Many take up the matter too zealously: they throw out all the “bad” food and try to stick to a diet more suitable for a rabbit. Having excluded from the menu not only certain products but also their whole groups (sweet, flour, dairy), the enthusiasts sometimes do not even know what can be prepared from the assortment left at their disposal, and the food seems tasteless and unusual to them (and so it is). It is not surprising that these radicals can last on this diet only a few days. Nutritionists advise eliminating junk food little by little in order to adapt and avoid stress. It is better to start with the simplest: to slightly reduce everyday portions, abandon unhealthy snacks between main meals. But instead of abandoning harmful food groups, it’s better, on the contrary, to start adding useful ones to the diet, and they will supplant all undesirables. And most importantly: tune in for the long run. Experts don’t believe in dietary breakthroughs like “minus 20 kg per month”.

Nutritionist and physiologist Rebecca Scritchfield advises to constantly remind yourself what it has been decided to go on a diet for (several times a day is fine). Her recommended mantra: “It is too useful for me to stop.”

  • Fitness goals

There are interesting statistics from the University of California at Berkeley about visiting fitness clubs. Americans spend an average of $ 58 per month on a gym membership. 67% of these people never use their membership cards. And those who attend sessions don’t do this often enough for the subscription to pay off: 4.3 times a month. It turns out that financial losses do not stop procrastinators.

Popular lead consultant, lead podcast writer, and best-selling author Jocko Willink is tough on such frivolity. As a former Marine, he is confident that lazy fitness cardholders simply lack self-discipline, and the rest is nothing more than excuses.

A clear plan and a tough daily routine, like in the army, are needed for someone who hasn’t reached the gym again, Willink believes. In his opinion, it is impossible to discipline yourself in relation to one issue and remain slack in the rest. There are the following recommendations:

  • Set an alarm at an earlier than usual time. Get ready and go to bed not so late to get enough sleep.
  • Training clothes should be prepared and packed in a bag in the evening.
  • Make a to-do list for the next day in the evening.
  • Get used to the idea that this needs to be done not once and not three days out of seven but repeatedly and constantly.

“You can't get better in one day. It takes weeks, months, years of effort,” says Jocko.

  • Saving money

Pay yourself first

This is the golden rule that you will find in any material on planning your personal budget. It means that having received a salary or other income, you must first separate the amount that you want to save for the future and only then proceed with monthly expenses (pay others).

Promise yourself that you will save money regularly, regardless of income and expenses. Do you think that your expenses are cut as much as possible? Well, there is the only way out: it's time to think about how you can increase your income.

Start on January 1st

It is wise to start planning your personal budget for a year in January: that way, you will not be surprised either by car insurance ending in June or by a tax receipt sent in November. You need to prepare for large expenses in advance.

At the beginning of each year, Tony Liddle, head and financial adviser at Sark Investments, sits down at a computer with his wife. Together they make a plan of expenses and incomes for the whole year. By the way, the amount of savings is necessarily included in the plan. Liddle recommends everyone to follow his family’s example: do not try to keep everything in mind, make sure to have the budget visualized. Special mobile applications for controlling finances will help you, as well as ordinary files in Excel or Google spreadsheets.


Experts insist that savings must be automated. For example, create a separate account for them and set up monthly auto payments on the day you receive an income.

Getting rid of consumer loans

It makes no sense to save as long as credit card debt exists and consumer loans are not repaid. In this case, direct your efforts to get rid of this financial yoke and refuse new loans. 

Values, Not Resolutions

Experts advise realizing that your promises mean new values and life guidelines that will help you to become better, gain new personal qualities rather than just losing weight or quitting smoking. But at the same time, if a plan was not implemented for some reason, this should not affect self-esteem and deprive you of optimism: there will certainly be another chance.

How to Make a Resolution Work

We have compiled a list of tips to help you make promises to yourself. Read and draw conclusions.

  1. Choose one thing. If you want to change your lifestyle, do not immediately try to do it all. It won’t work. Instead, select one of the things that you want to change. If everything goes smoothly with the first paragraph of the program, then only after that it will be possible to take a closer look at other aspects of life. Make yourself realistic!
  2. Think more specifically. “From January 1, I promise ...”: quit smoking, go on a diet, use social networks less, run, don’t get nervous about trifles, meditate in the morning, start your own business (underline as necessary). The list goes on and on. If you look closer, you will see that any of these desires is too abstract. It seems like it is a bad work contract: the rights and obligations of the parties are not spelled out. Specify your impulses and plan tasks! For example, instead of saying, “I’m sure to lose weight,” write: “From January 20 to May 20: my goal is to lose six kilograms, so I go to a fitness center for yoga on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 19:00; January 23: I signed up for a meeting with a nutritionist who will help me choose the best diet. Oh, yes! I leave the car a kilometer from the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays and go to work on foot in any weather.” Make sure to stock up everything you need by the specified day: buy a form for asanas and find out the schedule, learn about parking lots and made inquiries about the best nutritionist in the city. You will have no excuses to break loose. Adhere to a clear plan, and everything will run smoothly.
  3. Choose a date. Let’s speak about the “20th” from the previous paragraph. When it comes to vows, it’s very important to choose the right date. And this does not have to be the 1st of January (and not even January!). If you really want to make important changes in your own life, choose a beautiful number or day for this. Appreciate your strengths: your body and head should be fully prepared for the assignment.
  4. Write down your promises. An important rule: a resolution must be written on a piece of paper and kept in a conspicuous place. This may be one deep phrase that is convenient to keep in your wallet, in your car or on a mirror in the bathroom. The most daring can post it on their profile on social networks because it is three times more likely that you will stand by your every word given publicly.
  5. Learn from failure. If you smoked a cigarette furtively, missed a workout or screamed at your children, do not panic and do not cross the whole resolution. This is not the end! It is important for you to learn from the breakdown. Try to analyze: what exactly made you break the word? And try not to step on the same rake anymore. Persistence is the key to success. Try again, and you will achieve it.
  6. Enjoy! In addition to serious tasks and goals for the year ahead, come up with a couple of more informal ones and be sure to add them to the official list. For example, learn to dance the tango until April, cook a non-nutritious, yet delicious cake, meet with a classmate who has many children, go to a ballet at the theater and have sex three times a week.
  7. Make a reward plan. So, the most enjoyable and obligatory part of swearing off is a reward. You must have a specific incentive that will help to restrain yourself in the very first difficult days. You can come up with a great and valuable gift that will be waiting for you in the finale, or you can pamper (read – “support”) yourself once a week with the help of basic things, for example, going to the theater or cinema. Remember, you deserve all of this!


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