Why I’m Not Making New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again—the time when millions of people start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions. People latch onto January 1st as the perfect time to start working on any goal they want to achieve—whether it’s losing weight, quitting an unhealthy habit, or checking something significant off their bucket list.

There’s just one problem: most of these resolutions fail.

This isn’t just my opinion. One study suggests that only 8% of people of people actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions. That means 92% of people don’t reach their New Year’s goals. Some experts estimate that 80% of all New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February.

Mine failed long before February. As I type this, I’m looking at a habit tracker I drew in my bullet journal last January. I failed to stick to my habits more days than I succeeded, to be honest, and throughout the year, I didn’t accomplish a single goal I set for myself.

What went wrong? I did everything you’re supposed to do when setting goals. I took my time setting goals; I put a lot of thought into them. I broke every goal down into smaller steps. I made sure my goals were SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-based.

And yet, I failed.

Some of this isn’t my fault. I experienced an unexpected major life change halfway through the year that completely threw me off balance. But if I’m being honest, I wasn’t making great progress on any goals before then, either. Looking back, I can see three reasons why I failed to achieve my goals in 2018:

#1: I focused on outcomes.

I framed a lot of my goals as outcomes, like “complete X project” or “lose Y number of pounds,” and I chose habits that I thought would lead to those outcomes. Even when I stuck to a habit, though, it didn’t always lead to the outcome I wanted. Focusing on the results I wanted to see made it too easy to fail.

There came a point when I was so far behind there was no way I could achieve my goals, no matter what I did. Failure is demotivating—I ended up focusing on how far behind I was, and this focus on failure made me less motivated to keep working on my goals.

#2: I tried to do too much.

I set eight goals at the beginning of 2018–and then I tried to work on all of them at once. On paper, it didn’t look like too much. Most of them weren’t huge time commitments—they were little habits I wanted to cultivate, and I technically had the time to work on all of them without overcrowding my schedule.

Here’s the thing, though: learning new habits takes mental energy, and trying to form eight or more habits at once took mental energy I didn’t have. I couldn’t even remember what all my goals and habits were half the time, much less revamp my daily routine to include them.

#3: Life is unpredictable.

At the beginning of 2018, I had no idea that my home country would suddenly be plunged into violence and chaos. When I set my goals, I never dreamed that six months later I would be moving 4,000 miles away. A lot of the things that were important to me in January just weren’t that important in July.

Many of the goals I set at the beginning of the year were too specific to adapt to my changing circumstances. Even the goals that were still relevant took too much energy: I was homesick and still reeling from the suddenness of the move, and I didn’t have energy to spare on goals that, frankly, just weren’t that much of a priority anymore.

What I’m Doing Differently

This year, I have a lot I want to accomplish. I plan to finish my bachelor’s degree this summer. I have a job. There are a few projects I would like to make progress on.

But I’m not setting goals for 2019. Here’s what I’m doing instead:

Emphasizing progress.

Instead of focusing on the results I want to see, I’m focusing on the direction I want to be moving. I came up with an intention for each major area of my life—a phrase that summarizes what kind of progress I want to be making in that area. As long as I make some progress—no matter how small—I will have succeeded.

Narrowing my focus.

I identified eight major areas of my life. All of these areas are important to me, and I don’t want to neglect any of them—but there’s no way I can focus on all of them at once. Instead, I’m going to focus on making progress on only one or two intentions each month. Narrowing my focus will keep me from biting off more than I can chew.

Leaving room for the unexpected.

Okay, so I am setting some goals in 2019—but I’m not setting them for the whole year. I have no idea what my life will look like six months from now. There’s no way I can guarantee that the goals I set today will still be helpful to me next July—but I have a pretty good idea what kinds of goals will help me right now. This year, I’m only setting specific, measurable goals for the month right in front of me. As my life changes, so can my goals.

Are you setting resolutions, goals, or intentions for 2019? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be sharing more about my intentions for 2019 (including some specific examples!) in my newsletter tomorrow. Make sure you’re subscribed to get the newsletter delivered to your email inbox!



  1. Marian said:

    Can you tell me what system are you making use of on this web site?

    March 8, 2019
    • Amy said:

      I use BlueHost for hosting and WordPress to design the blog. Does this answer your question?

      April 17, 2019

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