A psychotherapist says there are 3 common reasons so many people's New Year's resolutions end in failure

Jonathan AlpertJonathan Alpert.
  • Many people make New Year’s resolutions, but few people actually see them through.
  • Psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert told Business Insider three of the biggest reasons why our New Year’s resolutions fail.
  • People often don’t make their resolutions specific enough, they’re worded too negatively, and they’re not relevant to the individual, he said.

Millions of people in the US make New Year’s resolutions each year, but only a small fraction of them manage to keep them.

If you struggle to keep your New Year’s resolution, one expert says you might not be setting the right kind of goal.

Business Insider spoke with psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert, author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days,” who broke down three of the biggest reasons people fail to complete their resolutions each year.

Here’s what he said:

Your resolution isn’t specific enough

One of the biggest reasons people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions is because they’re not specific enough, Alpert told Business Insider.


Read more:
15 real people share their New Year’s resolutions, from ‘sober January’ to home renovations

For example, resolving to “exercise more” or “lose weight” are easy ways to set yourself up for failure, as they lack ways to mark progress and are unlikely to keep you motivated throughout the year.

Instead, try making your goal specific, like running a particular 5K you have circled on the calendar or losing 10 pounds by a certain date.

“It’s easier to drop out or walk away when you set goals or resolutions that are vague,” Alpert told Business Insider. “When it’s really detailed and specific, it’s harder to walk away from it.”

Having a timeline on your resolution is helpful, he said, so think of short-term, medium-term, and long-term benchmarks that will let you know you’re on track to achieving your goal.

“What do I need to do this week, what do I need to do over the next month or so, and what do I hope to accomplish over the next several months?” Alpert said.

You aren’t framing them positively

Another problem people face when making resolutions is framing them with negative language.

When people resolve to stop wasting money or stop eating junk food, for example, it often backfires because it makes them think about the very thing they’re trying to avoid.

“It’s almost like I say to you, ‘I don’t want you to think about what a zebra with pink and blue stripes looks like,” Alpert told Business Insider. “You kind of have to think about what that would look like not to think about it, right?”

Try framing your goal in positive language instead.

“So much of how we talk to ourselves impacts our actions and our behaviour,” Alpert said.

“We need to feed ourselves positive self-talk. Instead of telling ourselves ‘Don’t eat junk food,’ we should be telling us the behaviour we desire, like ‘Eat carrots and peanut butter as a healthy snack.'”

Your resolution isn’t about you

Another major obstacle people face is the tendency to make New Year’s resolutions that don’t reflect what they actually want.

The biggest culprits are dieting and exercise trends, Alpert said. But it can apply to any number of goals, like a career-related goal inspired by what you think other people expect of you.

“Goals need to be made for the individual,” Alpert said. “So often, people seem to be influenced by their friends, their family, what they see in society.”

“I think it’s important for people to set goals that are for themselves and unique to themselves.”

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