Have You Already Given Up on Your New Year’s Resolution?

By Jacquelyn Buffo, MS, LPC, CAADC

March 18, 2024

Ny Resolutions

Strategies to Help You Get Back on Track

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is long over and spring is quickly approaching. If you’re one of many people in the world who had every intention of committing to their New Year’s resolution but have found yourself abandoning your resolution far sooner than expected, you are not alone. Many people find themselves abandoning their New Year’s resolution within days after the ball drops.

Common New Year’s resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are extremely common; however, evidence-based information on them is lacking. New Year’s resolutions can range and are different for each person. Perhaps you have (or had) a resolution to cut out sugar from your diet, exercise more, or save a certain amount of money. Research shows that the most common New Year’s resolutions include:

  • Improving physical health
  • Losing weight
  • Developing healthier eating habits
  • Quitting smoking
  • Improving relationships

While limited, the current research suggests that Americans are more likely to set New Year’s resolutions than people who live in other countries. For example, 44% of United States citizens report setting a New Year’s resolution, with only 12-18% of individuals living in Sweden making New Year’s resolutions. If you’ve found yourself committing to a resolution for the upcoming year, you are not alone; almost half of the U.S. population has done the same thing.

Why do we choose the new year to set goals for ourselves?

But why do we collectively choose New Year’s as the time to set these goals? What is the lure of New Year’s? Studies show that when people are looking to make a change in their lives, using a temporal milestone is attractive because it provides a “fresh start effect.” If you’ve ever set goals for when entering a new semester at school or after you’ve given birth to your first child, you are utilizing the “fresh start effect.”

How quickly do we give up on our New Year’s resolutions?

Take a moment to consider how long you kept your most recent New Year’s resolution before resorting back to old habits and behaviors. Was it a week, several weeks, a month, or longer? Did you even make it to one week into the new year before the comfort of familiarity took hold and you found yourself engaging in the same behaviors you did in December? You are not alone if at any point in, the new year you fall off course and stop working toward your goals.

A study of 200 people who set New Year’s resolutions found that:

  • 22% of them did not keep their resolution after the first 7 days.
  • 45% stopped working towards their resolutions at the 1-month mark.
  • 67% had fallen off course by the 3-month mark.
  • 60% of participants were no longer working towards their resolutions at the 6-month mark.
  • 81% were no longer striving for their resolutions at the 2-year mark.

By the 3-month mark, the majority of people stopped working toward their goals, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you have struggled to stay on track with your resolutions.

Why do some people achieve their resolutions while others do not?

Even if you have struggled with following through with your resolutions for the upcoming year, you have been able to set and achieve goals at some point throughout your lifetime. The question then becomes, why are some people able to see their resolutions through while others struggle?

In the above-mentioned study, researchers found that individuals who had significant willpower, used positive reinforcement along their journey (rewarded themselves for small achievements), and had greater stimulus control (altering their environment to support their goals) were able to stay on track and achieve their resolutions. Additionally, having the necessary skills to change, self-efficacy (the belief in yourself that you are capable of making the change), and overall readiness to change contributed to positive results.

Reasons why many resolutions fail

Why did you decide to set a resolution for the upcoming year? Was it to achieve something significant to you? Did you feel like you had to hop on the trendy train and come up with a resolution because, well, why not? One of the biggest reasons resolutions fail is because the resolution isn’t set out of an internal desire (a need) but is instead set out of respect for tradition. Without internal motivation, it’s hard to stay on track when the path toward goal achievement gets hard. Setting a resolution because it’s the normal thing to do come January 1 isn’t enough to stay the course when the journey becomes challenging.

Many times the resolutions we set are far larger than what we can reasonably accomplish in a respectable time. It’s okay to set large goals; however, be sure to break the overall goal down into smaller objectives. That way, when you achieve those objectives you can reward yourself along the way (positive reinforcement) and maintain healthy levels of motivation throughout your journey. For example, if you have an overall goal of losing 50 pounds, break it down and reward yourself along the way for every 5 pounds you lose.

Expect (and plan for) challenges and obstacles that can get in your way of success. Change isn’t easy, which is why we have all struggled at some point or another with achieving our goals. Challenges will present themselves, so take some time to figure out where challenges can arise, strategies to minimize the challenges, and ways to help you overcome them.

Accountability is key! Hold yourself accountable for your resolution. You can hold yourself accountable by telling a friend or family member about your goal, hiring a professional or life coach, using a tracker to help you stay on top of your resolution, or joining an accountability group. Another strategy is to write down your resolution. Studies show that people who write down their goals are twice as likely to achieve them.

Your approach to your resolutions can make all the difference: a psychological framework

It is important to also consider the type of resolution you are setting for yourself. Are you eliminating a behavior from your routine or adding something to your routine? The style of resolution you choose can have a significant impact on whether or not you are likely to achieve it. There are two different types of goals to set: avoidance or approach-based goals.

When you think of approach-based goals, the goal you set helps you get closer to your desired results, whereas avoidance-based goals help you avoid undesirable outcomes. For example, a positive-approach-based mindset might say that they are going to add a serving of fruits and vegetables to each meal to help you lose weight. Whereas an avoidance-based goal would sound something like you are going to not eat carbohydrates or bread, time to figure out where challenges can arise, strategies to minimize them

Psychological research has found that approach-based goals tend to lead to better outcomes because of how they impact your thoughts and feelings. Approach goals are linked to increased positive feelings, self-evaluations, thoughts, and greater overall mood. Not surprisingly, avoidance-based goals are associated with greater negative emotions and fewer positive thoughts. Therefore, setting approach-based goals can more effectively help you achieve your resolutions than avoidance-based ones.

How to increase your chances of achieving your New Year’s resolutions

No matter what resolution you choose, the process of change is hard, and you are likely to experience trials and tribulations along the way. Key points in helping you achieve your New Year’s resolutions include:

  • Identifying a resolution out of a need to ensure internal motivation is present
  • Breaking down your larger goal into smaller objectives
  • Rewarding yourself along your journey when you achieve your objectives
  • Holding yourself accountable to your goals
  • Setting an approach-based goal

Additionally, remember that failure is a part of the journey, and do not take it personally. Just because you experienced a challenge along your journey doesn’t mean that you are a failure. It is part of the process of change. If you need assistance achieving your goal, reach out to a coach or a licensed mental health professional. Together, you can work to create a plan for goal-achievement and even explore underlying factors that may be getting in the way of you achieving your goals, like medical or mental health disorders and other lifestyle factors.

If medication is part of your behavior-change plan, WellRx can help you save money on your prescription medications. By using the WellRx free prescription savings card, you can save as much as 80% on your medications.

Jacquelyn Buffo is a mother of 3 boys and a Licensed Professional Counselor with the State of Michigan. She has an extensive history working with individuals struggling with substance use disorders, children, and most recently with the perinatal population. She works for Henry Ford Health and runs a small private practice. She has been a freelance writer for over 10 years.


  1. Andersson, G., Carlbring, P. & Oscarsson, M. (2020). A large-scale comparison of New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals.Plos One, 15(12).
  2. The Ohio State University. (2024). Why Most New Year’s Resolutions Fail.
  3. Bailey, R.R. (2019). Goal setting and action planning for health behavior change. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 13(6), p.615-618.
Save as you go
Save on the Go

For your convenience, use the ScriptSave® WellRx mobile app. Now savings are well in hand, right at the pharmacy counter. Save on your family's prescription medicines.

Learn More
Get a Prescription Discount Card

Your choice. Get a ScriptSave WellRx Savings Card. Or Download the free mobile app from the App Store or Google Play Store

Get A Card
Save on your medications today!
Grocery Guidance

ScriptSave WellRx Grocery Guidance leverages leading-edge nutritional data science to help you know which food products on your grocery store shelf are truly good for YOU.

Healthy Foods For You

Struggling to afford your medications? Search to compare the cash price at pharmacies near you. You may find prices lower than your insurance co-pay!

WellRx on TrustPilot ©

Log In

You need to log into the site to use this feature

Create A Free Account To Use Medicine Chest

This feature requires registration. Sign up or log in to your free WellRx account to gain access to this and other tools to help make managing your medications and wellness easier.

Benefits Include:

Store & manage your medication list
Medication pricing updates
Import medication from your pharmacy
Medication information
Pill & refill reminders
Medication journal & mood log

Sign up to use Medicine Chest

Create A Free Account To Use this feature

This feature requires registration. Sign up or log in to your free WellRx account to gain access to this and other tools to help make managing your medications and wellness easier.

Benefits Include:

Store & manage your medication list
Medication pricing updates
Import medication from your pharmacy
Medication information
Pill & refill reminders
Medication journal & mood log

Sign up to use this feature

You will be redirected to your program in 5 seconds.

Hi there.

Our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy have recently been updated.

Learn More

I Accept

By declining you will be logged out of your account