Why New Year's resolutions don't work (and tips to make sure yours do!)

SCENE: Local Gym — the first week of January

Our HERO enters, dressed in fetchingly fashionable new workout attire, shiny new gym membership card in hand. Our hero surveys the wall of similarly fashionable men and women occupying every available machine and free weight.


                                        Forget this!

Our hero quickly exits, promising to return at a later time.



Spoiler alert! Our hero never goes back. Meanwhile, the gym is back to normal capacity by March while that membership card collects dust on top of the refrigerator.

If this has ever happened to you, raise your hand. (Just kidding — put your hand down. You look crazy sitting there with your hand up.)

The truth is, according to a study by the University of Scranton, less than 10 percent of resolutions end up making it to the finish line. So don’t feel bad about any of your past letdowns.

There are a lot of reasons resolutions don’t work out, but understanding where your past resolutions came up short can go a long way towards making sure you reach your 2013 goals!

Don’t make resolutions just for the sake of making them

There’s something very symbolic about the beginning of a new year.

For starters, you get to buy a fresh, new calendar (I always vote for kittens in a basket, but I’m willing to be talked into babies dressed as asparagus). Also, you can look forward to writing the wrong date on your checks for the next three weeks (don’t look at me like that — I can’t be the only one who still writes checks).

So, it’s easy to get caught up in the exciting newness and possibility of it all! … but try not to.

What I mean is, don’t tell yourself “It’s the New Year — I have to make a resolution!”

Personal growth and positive change are always welcome, but ask yourself this: “Would I be making this pledge if it was July 1 instead of January 1?”

If the answer is “no,” put it on the backburner. Because if your heart isn't in it, then you're likely setting yourself up for failure. And that's no way to start a new year.

Resolutions are goals, and goals need plans

The trouble with resolutions is that they’re usually 100 percent result-oriented.

Every year, one of the most popular resolutions is to quit smoking, which is a great goal! But how’s that going to happen? Are you quitting cold turkey? Using the patch? Puffing on those crazy electronic cigarettes they advertise at 2 in the morning?

Simply setting a goal — especially a big capital G kind of Goal — can be daunting (and severely anxiety-inducing) without a clear step-by-step plan. Once you have a plan in place, you can focus on the steps in front of you, rather than a sometimes distant end-point.

Focusing on the immediate — on the things you can control and change right then and there — will help see you through the rough patches you’re bound to encounter.

You can’t succeed in a vacuum

New Year’s resolutions are usually promises we make to ourselves and ourselves alone. We tend to shoulder those burdens alone because we believe that we should be able to handle them all by ourselves.

And while you may be able to (who am I to question your skills, young samurai?), you don’t have to.

In most cases seeking help can make all the difference. That help can be something as small as talking to a friend about your goal and how you plan to conquer it. Just hearing a second perspective can help clarify your goals and improve your game plan. Plus, bringing in a friend creates a sense of accountability — now that someone else knows about your resolution you’d better stick with it!

Sometimes though, you need a lot of help. When that’s the case, don’t be afraid to turn to professionals.

If you want to lose weight, consult with your physician or a personal trainer. If you want to find your way to a new job, consult with a career planner. And if you’re struggling with bills and mounting debt, consider speaking with a qualified credit counselor at a nonprofit agency such as Money Management International (MMI).

As the nation’s largest nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, we offer educational programs to improve your financial IQ, debt and budget counseling and Debt Management Plans to bring your debt under control.

Whatever resolutions you make this year, make them count!

Make a plan, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you do, I have a good feeling 2013 could be your best year yet!

Jesse Campbell photo.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, with over ten years of experience creating valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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