On Why Our New Year’s Resolution Doesn’t (Really) Work, and How I Created Mine (in A Slightly Different Way)

I think it’s fair to say that this one is not going to be a quick read, so if you’re in a hurry, you may want to revisit this post later on. But if you’re ready, let’s roll!

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 8.34.03 PM“So, what’s your New Year’s resolution?”

You might have heard this–or being exposed to this question. Especially now that we’ve gone through our first few weeks in the new year. You may scoffed at that question. Or you may simply be reminded of your own New Year’s resolution. The one you made on New Year’s Eve.

I was one of those people who did both (scoffed at the question, but actually wrote down my New Year’s resolution). I no longer scoff at that question now, but I still–to some extent, write down my New Year’s resolution in a slightly different manner (after reading The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte).

But we’ll get back to that later.

My point is, I have written down my New Year’s resolution probably since I was 12. And I didn’t really feel like it was (ever) ‘working’–whatever ‘working’ is supposed to mean in this context. I was simply scribbling mine ecstatically; and in the following year realised that, hey, I didn’t achieve those thingsbut who cares?

So I forgot about it and moved on with life.
But that was when I didn’t know any better.

Now, before we continue…

Let’s do this experiment just for the fun of it. I want you to write 5 things you’d like to do, achieve, or have this year. In other words, your New Year’s resolution. You can write down whatever you like. If you can think of 10 or 30 things, just pick 5. If you can only think of 1 thing, try to add more until you get 5, just to stretch your mind a bit.

Probably you’ve written down stuff like getting healthier. Losing weight. Getting married. Having a new car. Traveling to exotic places. Quitting your job. Being fluent in Italian. Spending more time volunteering. Learning how to become a professional chef. Whatever they might be, just write them down freely now.

Done? OK. Keep that note with you for a while (it will come in handy later!)

In the mean time, I think these could be the 3 most plausible reasons on why my (or your) New Year’s resolution doesn’t work.

1. We don’t really want those things. We only think that we should want them.

Probably we don’t really want a new job. We don’t really want to pay a down payment for a house. Maybe we are not really into traveling, and actually prefer to stay at home, doing our hobbies or spending time with our families.

But we sometimes write down the things we don’t really want, simply because our circle of friends or families (or societies) believe that we should want those things. Because our parents think of those things as the epitome of success. Or because our friends told us that quitting our job to travel is the coolest thing to do–ever! Or because society believes that it’s indeed very respectable to climb the corporate ladder.

2. The things we desire may be fun to have, experienced, or achieved, but actually they are not really important for our lives.

When we created our New Year’s resolution, we may wrote down so many things we wanted to have, experience, or achieve. Now, from all those things, how many of them are truly important?  Or let me rephrase: if we can’t have, experience, or achieve them, how would our lives be affected?

If our lives would still be (relatively) fine even when we couldn’t get those things we want to have, experience, or achieve, it means those things are not that important to us. And it is exactly because we don’t think of them as that important, we don’t have enough drive, inspiration, or motivation to go for it.

3. We don’t really know why we want certain things.

There were times when I looked back to my previous New Year’s resolutions, and felt like I needed to pat myself kindly. Have we ever looked at our New Year’s resolution and asked ourselves why we actually want those things?

Why do we want to have a girlfriend? Or why do we want to get married this year? Or why do we want to quit our job? Or why do we want that new phone? Or why do we want to lose weight? Or why do we want to make more money?

When we are asking these questions–and be honest with ourselves while answering them, we will be able to understand what it is that we truly want. Why we want the things we want. Keep asking why until you’re lost for words.

For instance, if we’d like to lose weight, keep asking ourselves about why we actually want to lose weight.

  • Maybe it’s because we think we would feel more confident being in our skin
  • Maybe it’s because we want to feel lighter when we’re exercising, thus we can feel more comfortable doing it
  • Maybe it’s because we’ll be in a dangerous medical condition if we’re not losing weight, thus we are afraid that we’ll get seriously ill
  • Maybe it’s because we think losing weight will make us look more attractive, hence, we’ll have better possibilities of finding a romantic partner, and in the end we can finally feel loved and enough

The underlying reasons behind why we want the things we want could actually give us more clarity on the things we really desire.

Having a boyfriend, for instance, had made its appearance numerous times (if not every year) in my New Year’s resolutions (not this year, though!).

But why do I want to have a boyfriend?
Because it will make me feel

OK. Stop right there!

Now I want you to just go back to those 5 things in your New Year’s resolution you’ve prepared a while ago.

After asking yourself why you want each of the things you want, look closely at each one of them, and ask yourself, how would it make me feel if I actually achieved, experienced, or get these things I want?

  • Probably by owning a house, you would feel proud, powerful, or accomplished.
  • Probably by losing weight, you would feel confident, attractive, or healthy.
  • Probably by traveling around the world, you would feel excited, adventurous, or liberated.
  • Probably by quitting your job, you would feel courageous or spontaneous.
  • Probably by elevating your career, you would feel energetic or productive.
  • Probably by getting married you would feel secure or loved.


Just explore the range of feelings you’d feel if you get all the things in your New Year’s resolution. You may have the same feeling keeps popping-up and repeating itself. For instance, having a house, getting married, and elevating your career… all three makes you feel secure. It’s okay.

Now I want you to examine all those feelings and group the similar feelings together. Choose 5 (or less) frequent or recurring feelings that appear on your note. At this stage, you should have a list of 5 or less feelings instead of 5 things on your New Year’s resolution.

A year ago (and up to this day), that’s how my New Year’s resolution looked like.

A list of feelings.

What I do next, is simply asking myself, what can I possibly do (in my everyday life) to give myself all those feelings?

Let’s say I want to feel ‘loved‘. For me, (as we’re all experiencing love in different ways), I could evoke the feeling (that more or less resembles the feeling of) ‘being loved‘ by:

  • sending a sweet text message to myself (really!),
  • gifting myself small gifts (a new notebook, a flower, a short weekend-getaway),
  • treating myself for a nice meal or a nice cup of coffee,
  • meeting my friends and laugh with them,
  • standing in front of a mirror, smile at myself and say, I-love-you or You’re-beautiful
  • hugging my dog…

and many more.

Just some small, simple, (and maybe kind of silly) things that I can do for myself to feel (or at least get close to) the feeling I want to feel.

And after that?

I started doing these things to other people, too. I send sweet text messages to my friends, gift a colleague small things, treat someone for a nice cup of coffee, say yes to my friend’s invitation to meet up, tell a friend that I love & appreciate her… and anything that comes to mind.

How does it change me?

I have to say that now I have more clarity in understanding the reason behind why I want the things that I want. I no longer stressing myself out or wasting my time to chase the shadows, because now I know the underlying motives on why I desire something.

I also started to be more in-the-now. I feel like I don’t have to wait for something big to happen before I could feel or experience what I want to feel. I feel much lighter knowing that I can achieve my New Year’s resolution–now that I design it that way.

I only need to do these little things every now and then and feel the feeling I want to feel!

Furthermore, I am not solely concentrating on myself or being totally absorbed in what I want to feel, but I also start thinking about how other people can feel the good things I want to feel.

In a nutshell, creating my New Year’s resolution this way feels like a better fit for me these days. I don’t know if this resonates with you, too–but feel free to try, and let me know if it (somehow) changes you!

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*) on another note, I like this post Your Goals are Overrated (another take on New Year’s resolution issue) & 7 Strange Questions that Help You Find Your Life Purpose by Mark Manson. So maybe you want to read it next!

Leave your traces here. I want to hear :)