Making New Year’s resolutions that don’t make me miserable

New Year’s resolutions don’t work for me. And it turns out I’m not alone. According to a study described on the website Statistics Brain, after one week 25% of people have dropped their resolutions, and by the end of the year, fully 92% have dropped.

graph depicting percentage of resolutions which fail
Percentage of resolutions which fail

Actually, the study reported on the success rate of people in regard to their resolutions, which puts the success rate at the end of the year at a measly 8%. I prefer to turn the statistics around and look at the percentage of resolutions that failed, not people.

Every year I made myself miserable by setting overly ambitious goals and then failing. Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve learned a new approach to making resolutions.

My healthier, saner approach to resolutions

  1. Reflect on what I did right last year.
  2. Reflect on what I would like my life to look like in the coming year.
  3. Make just a few resolutions.
  4. Make suggestions not commandments.
  5. Let go of the guilt.
  6. Give myself permission to change course.

Reflecting on what I did right

I find it helpful to take some time to jot a few notes about what I felt good about in the preceding year. What could I be proud of at work? At home? About my mind? My body? My spirit? Last year I finished up the required coursework for my thesis and started working out at a gym. Nothing earth-shattering, but good, steady progress. Being generous here makes the next step easier.

Reflecting on what I would like to be different

At this point I don’t set specific goals. Instead, I just think about what I would like my overall life to look like in the coming year. Would I like to have more toned muscles? Yes. Would I like to broaden my musical tastes? Maybe. Would I like to set aside more time for R & R on the weekends? Definitely. The idea here is to get a general impression of how I want things to be, and to keep it simple.

Making just a few resolutions

More is not always better, especially when it comes to setting goals. Setting too many goals divides my focus and my energy. I’m much better off making just a few resolutions. Again, simplify.

list of ten New Year's resolutions
Making too many resolutions divided my focus and energy

Making suggestions, not commandments

The very best kind of friend to have is one who offers suggestions which are prompted by concern and respect. Such a friend does not boss you around and give you commandments. Instead, a really good friend wants you to live well, take good care of yourself, and be happy. To create helpful resolutions for my life, I asked myself what a good friend would suggest for me.

a list of 3 simple resolutions
The kind of resolutions a good friend might suggest

Letting go of guilt

In my world, which is filled with competing demands on my time and energy, rigid rules don’t work. I need wiggle room. And I don’t need guilt. So I work on letting that go. After all, if I’m not keeping a resolution, maybe the fault is not in me, but in the resolution. Which leads me to my final step.


Giving myself permission to change course

If I’m not sticking to a resolution, I ask myself why. Is it unrealistic? Is it not likely to improve my life? Does it bore me? Depending on the answers to these questions, I might need to tweak a resolution, or replace it with a new one, or drop it altogether. And that’s okay. The point is to improve my life, not follow rules blindly.

If you’d like to read more about making attainable New Year’s resolutions, read Logan Chierotti’s 5 Hacks to Help You Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? How are they working?



Author: wiseabundance

I'm a technical writer trying to simplify my life and learn to live in abundance.

4 thoughts on “Making New Year’s resolutions that don’t make me miserable”

  1. Excellent post and welcome back!

    I did away with the traditional resolutions years ago for the very reasons you describe. Over the last few years, I’ve also come to believe that the dead of winter is a terrible time to attempt change. Our energy levels tend to be lower so spending time at the gym can feel like an insurmountable wall. From an evolutionary viewpoint, we’re “programmed” to take in more calories to help keep us warm at this time of year—so a resolution to lose weight or cut down on fats is likely to fail.

    I’ve found that setting goals or challenges for “the new year” works best around my birthday. I think many of us subconsciously structure our “year” around that time anyway, and for those of us not born in the depths of winter, we might have a better chance of meeting our goals and challenges.


    1. You make some excellent points. I hadn’t really thought about the low energy of deep winter making change difficult. You’ve given me a new perspective on the folly of setting ambitious goals in January (or any other time we’re feeling less than perky). And I really like your idea of setting goals around our birthdays. Of course, if your birthday is in mid-winter you might want to use your half-birthday. Excellent idea.Thank you for sharing your wisdom. 🙂


  2. This sounds like a very balanced and nurturing way of making resolutions. Like JM, I use a different cycle – my new year is at Halloween, but I use the winter for dreaming and planning – spring is for putting those dreams into practice. I like your new look by the way 🙂


    1. Thank you for sharing how you approach the cycle of the seasons. I’m intrigued by the idea of starting the new year at Halloween. I’d love to know what led you to that. Happy winter dreaming! 🙂


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