Should You Bother With New Year’s Resolutions?

A case can be made for and against making New Year’s resolutions. One size doesn’t fit all, so which is wiser for you?

A case for making New Year’s resolutions

It’s hard to look inward, to be honest with oneself and say, “I need to improve on X,” so we tend to suppress that uncomfortable thought and just keep on keepin’ on. But the New Year is the time when you almost can’t help but think about new goals—Even though most people break resolutions, they talk about making them again, the triumph of hope over experience.

A case against making New Year’s resolutions

New Year’s resolutions aren’t make-or-break, they’re make-and-break. How many people do you know who keep their New Year’s resolutions beyond Jan. 10? The time to set goals is when you’re motivated to keep them, not because the calendar flipped to 2022. That way, you have a better shot at keeping them rather than having failure again slap you in the face, perhaps making you less likely to set and keep goals not just at the New Year but at any time.

Boosting your chances of keeping a resolution

Would any of the following make you more likely to keep your resolution at least for a while?

  • Looking at psychological reasons you might break the resolution. Perhaps you feel unworthy. Or you feel driven to self-soothe even if it hurts you long-term. That desire can occur because of troubles in your current life or the lingering effect of past trauma.
  • Looking at practical barriers to keeping your resolution. For example, if you know you need to be more of a doer and less of a procrastinator but your live-in partner is rather inert, that’s not the best role model. Or s/he abuses substances and you’re trying to cut down or quit.

Then there are behavioral approaches to keeping a resolution:

  • Breaking your resolution into baby steps.
  • Telling a friend your resolution. You might be more motivated to stick to it because you don’t want to have to tell your friend that you failed.
  • Daily or weekly, report your progress or lack thereof to that friend or on social media.
  • Use the Stickk app. Here is how it works: If you don’t achieve your goal by your selected date, the money you’ve committed goes to the friend or nonprofit of your choice.
  • At least for starters, do you want to choose an easier goal?
  • Do you want to limit yourself to one resolution, so your efforts can be focused?

The takeaway

Of course, making a New Year’s resolution is no guarantee you’ll keep it, but my clients, friends, and I have generally found that, especially if we use some of the techniques in this post, it’s worth making and trying to keep them. And if you don’t, there’s always 2023.



This article was written by Marty Nemko Ph.D. who is a career and personal coach based in Oakland, California, and the author of 10 books.

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