Holidays, Personal Finance

Why You Should Skip Making New Year’s Resolutions

making new year's resolutions
It’s that time of the year again. My guess is that you’re beginning to think about putting together a list of New Year’s resolutions if you haven’t already begun to do so. If you have started and you’re planning to make some this year, I think you should consider skipping them. That’s right. Don’t even bother making them. Take a stand and boycott the whole tradition. Refuse to get suckered into a yearly game that gives the impression that it’ll help you do the things you want, but actually does you more harm than good. How do New Year’s Resolutions hurt? Let me explain the ways:

They’re a Delay Tactic

First and foremost, these resolutions are nothing more than a delay tactic. They’re an easy way to delay something that you know you should start the moment you think about it instead of waiting until the beginning of the year. Think about it. If it’s important enough that you want to make the change and resolve to do so, shouldn’t it be important enough to begin right that moment? Instead, you’ll wait until the New Year. I believe that if something is important enough to make as a New Year’s Resolution, then it’s something that’s important enough to begin working towards the minute you decide it’s that important. Learn to begin goals immediately. Once you have decided the change you want to make, commit to begin planning how to reach the goal starting that day rather than delaying them to some arbitrary date in the future.

There’s Too Easy an Out

Even worse than the delay, these resolutions provide you with an easy cop-out which allows you to quit and not feel bad about it. The problem is that most people never follow through with the New Year’s Resolutions they make, and everyone knows it. The result is that nobody will hold you to any resolutions you make because they don’t expect you to keep them. At the first sign of difficulty, you’re in an easy position to give up and nobody will say a thing. It’s different if you make solid goals and announce them to friends and family. In this case, they are much more likely to ask about the goals and try to hold you to them. This is especially true if you ask for friends and family to support you in trying to reach them. When you do this, it makes it much more difficult to quit, and you’re more likely to work through those difficult stretches than if you simply make a resolution.

There’s a Lack of Preparation

Another problem with resolutions made at the beginning of the New Year is that they are often made without the proper preparation needed to succeed. The fact is, making successful changes to your life requires a lot of work, stamina and discipline. If you don’t do the initial research and preparations to make sure that your resolution succeeds, you’ll likely never achieve it. Most New Year’s Resolutions are simply statements made without any of the proper planning in place which makes them much more likely to fail.

They’re Too Broad

When the proper planning hasn’t been done, the resolutions people make are often unrealistic because they’re so broad. Achieving goals isn’t instantaneous. You don’t get to the top of a mountain in a single step. It takes a lot of planning, effort and small steps along the way. No matter how much you wish, you aren’t going to be able to wipe out all the credit card debt which has been building for years in a couple of months. You’ll need to work at it one step at a time, chipping away at each of the debts that need to be retired. If the resolution remains broad without any focus on the important steps needed to reach the ultimate goal, the resolution will almost always end in failure.

They’re Often Absolute

Another problem is that these resolutions tend to be absolute with little to no room for the obstacles that are bound to happen. This makes giving them up easy the first time an obstacle arises, since they’re often made as “all or nothing” statements where any deviation means you fail. Life, unfortunately, often deals a number of setbacks on the way to reaching a goal. If there is no recourse on how to proceed when an obstacle occurs, then the goal will likely be abandoned. For example, if the resolution is “I will save $100 a month,” then failing to save a $100 any month can be seen as a failure. If, however, you make a goal to save $1200 with an average of $100 a month, it doesn’t matter if you only save $80 in January as you can make up for it by saving $120 in February.

They’re Made for Wrong Reasons

Too many New Year’s Resolutions are simply made for the wrong reasons. If you’re 100% committed to accomplishing something, then it is a goal worth pursuing. If you are making a resolution because it’s something that you would like to change, but aren’t willing to put in the time and effort needed to make it happen, then it’s going to fail. For many, New Year’s Resolutions are nothing more than things they wished they could change without having to make any effort. In order to succeed, you’ll need the passion that will only come from you firmly wanting to reach the goal. If you aren’t, it’s better not to make it until you’re ready.

It’s Bad Timing

January is a terrible time to start your resolutions. Granted, there will likely never be a perfect time to begin, but the New Year can be one of the worst times to be making major changes. You’re tired after the holidays. Instead of resting, you make drastic changes when you may not have the physical or psychological energy to make them work. Piling on resolutions with all of the other issues that need to be dealt with at the beginning of the New Year can make it that much harder for them to succeed.

There are Too Many Made

This leads to another major problem which is that people make too many resolutions all at the same time. Achieving the goal of getting your finances in order is a monumental task in itself, but making it work while losing 20 pounds, exercising an extra 2 hours a day, reorganizing your house and quitting smoking makes success impossible. It’s important to prioritize your goals and work on them as time permits rather than mixing them all together at the beginning of the New Year.

They Have a Negative Impact

Over time, New Year’s Resolutions have a negative impact on your motivation and success. When you make resolutions year after year and the resolutions fail year after year, it becomes easy to believe that they can’t be accomplished. These failures at the beginning of each year compile to the point where it’s easy to simply give up on your goals entirely after a while.

They Don’t Work

In the end, New Year’s Resolutions simply don’t work. They are far too often made without the commitment needed for them to work. If you have goals, take the proper steps to do your research, set up a step by step plan, measure your progress, understand there will be setbacks, and make sure that you truly achieve what you set out to accomplish.

Here is a challenge you aren’t likely to see much at this time of year. I challenge you to not to make any New Year’s Resolutions for 2014. Instead, take the most important goals and begin laying the groundwork on how you can achieve them this very minute. That way when 2015 arrives, instead of rehashing the same list you are currently thinking about, you will be checking off a list of goals that you managed to accomplish during the year

(Photo courtesy of Jennuine Captures)

6 thoughts on “Why You Should Skip Making New Year’s Resolutions

  1. My New Year’s Resolution is … to not make any more New Year’s Resolutions.

    Last year I made a list of 11 Resolutions and stuck in front of my desk. The list haunted me all year.

    I achieved only the very last Resolution: to lower my expectations of myself. Deep down I must have known I was being completely unrealistic!

  2. I almost always make resolutions, and almost always forget all about them by February. For me, the best reason not to make resolutions is the way they make me act before the new year actually begins. I’ve been eating like a complete pig during the last few weeks because I know January is coming and I’m planning on cutting back starting on 1/1/08. However, I do enjoy the clean slate feeling that comes with a new year, and even if I only diet for a few weeks, that’s better than nothing, right? That will at least help me undo the damage I did in December. 🙂

  3. Very good! The New Year’s Resolution tradition defies one of the key ways to make certain goals are actually met … do them because they are IMPORTANT TO YOU, rather than societally expected. There’s the first “duh.” How many people will ask you, throughout the month of January: “What are your New Year’s Resolutions?” After 51 years of hearing that, I’m inclined, this January to respond “To not call you an ignorant and interferingly rude imbecile for even asking … OOPS! Blew it!” But then … its a difficult morning. I plan to NOT resolve anything this New Year’s Eve. The images of curling up before a warm fire, knowing that the harvest is in and that this is a time of quiet reflection and warm fuzzy feelings is hardly apt in today’s complex (and largely non-agrarian) United States, and the fallacy of the contemplative process needed for true reflection begins to fall apart there. Thank you for this highly supportive and very sensible article!

  4. I much prefer making my new year’s resolutions on my birthday, and I choose goals related to personal growth with the end goals based on my starting point. Because these goals are made in conjunction with MY new year (not the calendar’s!) and I don’t share them with others, there’s no societal pressure or desire to pick unattainable goals. It feels more personal and less like a sheep activity to me this way, and I like sitting down to review what I’ve accomplished in the past year and planning my forward progress from there.

  5. I don’t make resolutions either, partly because I think they are dumb. If you know that you need to do something, then either do it or not. Why say I’m going to start doing it at the beginning of the year since it is a New Year’s resolution? That being said, I’m not against having goals for the year to work through and so I did write up a goal list. I also as I thought about it, did a few things to help on the taxes and also for once had the money to pay the home and auto insurances in full instead of spreading them out and paying a $4 fee each month x 10 months for both of them to pay monthly, so in one swoop I ‘saved’ $80 on fees. What was the point in waiting until the first to do that bit of savings? Also having those bills paid off now means I don’t have to come up with around $160 a month for 10 months. Yes, we need to be saving towards next years bill, but as self employed people, it is great to have less ‘have to pay this week’ bills when income can be erratic.

    At the beginning of a new year, many companies promote things that can help with the passive savings if you take advantage of them. No point resolving to do that, just do it. I’m a great believer in passive savings. Things you put in motion and never have to think about again and yet you are ‘saving’ or at least not spending the money yearly. Making our IRAs paperless and only accessing the account via the computer saves us $25 each year in and year out AND because they normally would take that $25 directly out of the IRA I have no clue (as I don’t have high enough math skills) how much we are saving by not chewing away at the balance, even for that $25 each year.

    In August I decided it would be beneficial to have a net worth statement each month to better track how we are doing. Now I could have put it off until January, but I started it then. If you don’t do this, I highly recommend it. You are able to see if you are blowing money, saving money, increasing your wealth, which for us will be helping keep us solvent in our ‘retirement’ years not because we think eventually we will be worth a million dollars. Some people resolve to earn more money or save more. Many of my goals for 2014 involve earning money but most are an extension of what we are already doing but putting a fire under me to push even more. Many think that since $10 doesn’t seem like much, you might as well spend it on a pizza, but I have seen first hand this past year how saving consistently each month even if small amounts and also depositing ‘surprise’ money into my Roth IRA, it has gone up $1000. If you asked me on the 1st of January last year to make a resolution to save $1000 in my IRA this year, I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but it was and there was no reasons to wait for the 1st of January to start doing it.

    Sorry to be so long winded, but I find it more beneficial to just start whenever the urge to change something in your life hits you, than wait for some arbitrary day on the calendar.

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