Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and the Word of the Year Alternative

New Year’s resolutions are well known for not working out. How many don’t work out?

At least 4 out of 5. And the ones that fail typically don’t make it as far as the end of January. Even with the odds against you to this extent, people still set new year’s resolutions anyway.

Setting those resolutions can look like a token effort to make changes in your life. “Well, I tried, didn’t I? Better luck next year. Maybe.”

But that doesn’t have to be you. You can set yourself up for success instead of failure.

Your comeback story starts with asking the right questions.

Why do new year’s resolutions fail? And is the word of the year an alternative you can apply?

New Year, New You?

New Year’s resolutions fail for multiple reasons, including:

  1. You buy something immediately for your resolution instead of starting with what you already have. Buying something right away – before you’ve built up a new positive habit – can feel like you’re making progress, enough to distract you from pursuing your resolution further.
  2. Your resolutions are too vague, so you don’t know what to do to accomplish them, and you won’t be able to tell if you do. You haven’t set (SMART) Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound resolutions.
  3. You use the word “resolutions” instead of the word “goals.”
  4. You’re focusing on a time frame that’s too far away instead of focusing on the present moment and what you can do now to bring about your desired results.
  5. You don’t track your progress or celebrate your victories.
  6. You don’t have systems in place, including accountability.
  7. You’re too harsh with yourself and don’t believe in yourself.
  8. You give up.

Another reason new year’s resolutions fail is that you’re trying to do too much all at once.

Some people only try to make positive changes in their lives once a year. They fail because it’s comforting. It’s what they know. Then they wait until the following year to try and fail again. The cycle continues.

It’s the hamster wheel mind trap. Spinning in circles and going nowhere. As if being busy is ever good enough. What are the rewards for all that effort?

You can look forward to each new year that you get to experience, and you can also protect yourself from getting overwhelmed. You will stumble. You will fall. So what?

That isn’t the end of the story. You get to pick yourself back up again. That’s because …

New Day, New You

Each day is another chance to succeed.

Instead of beating yourself up because you didn’t learn all the world’s languages or reach billionaire superstardom before you turned 25, there’s something else you can do instead.

You can stop indulging in fantasies.

You can still aim high in life. You can still have your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground. You can still embrace each moment and make the most of it.

Look at today and all the other upcoming todays as fresh new starts. You have a choice. Either you can doubt yourself because you see yourself as a helpless child, or you can believe in yourself because you’ve realized that you’re a powerful cosmic force waiting to be unleashed.

The only one preventing you from being unleashed is you. This means that as soon as you choose to unleash yourself, then you’re unleashed.

You didn’t have to get anyone else’s permission. You didn’t have to have someone else declare you as being worthy. And you didn’t have to die with the music still inside you.

You get to embrace the opportunities each day brings. Not only each year. Each day.

This offers more forgiveness and room for growth than only trying to change your life once a year. Now, you can change your life every day.

Start small and apply a small change daily. Be consistent about it; given enough time and effort, you will see results.

And no matter how much you think you might have failed today, you get to do it again the next today and the next today after that. That’s something worth living for. You get more chances to succeed the longer you live.

Using The Word “Resolution”

There’s something to consider to ensure you’re giving yourself a higher chance of succeeding in improving your life. It’s a certain detail about new year’s resolutions that kept showing up in some of the research I did while looking for what angles to cover in this post. And it’s the word “resolution” itself.

The word “resolution” sounds so stiff, right? Imposing and unfriendly. It’s like you’re supposed to fail and be frowning the entire time.

When I think of “resolution” and other words like that, I think of the Land of No Smiles. It’s where you might get banished if you break any or too many of society’s unwritten rules. It’s where the sun never shines, and you’re constantly plagued with nightmares. It’s where every shadow might be out to get you, and everything is always dreary.

The Land of No Smiles is a phrase to describe a way of thinking and a way of life. One that insists that things have to be a certain way. Or else. Or else what? Exactly.

No freedom. No positive change. No happiness.

Those things come to mind when the word “resolution” comes around. If you use the word “resolution,” it’s like you’ve lost before you’ve even crossed the starting line. The word itself conjures images of failure. So why sabotage yourself in the first place?

You might not be aware of it consciously, but our choices of words matter.

Reality arises in language, so you could use language that creates a reality you enjoy.

Pick Your Word of the Year

“Resolution” may have too much baggage, so what word can you use instead?

Instead of “resolution” or “resolutions,” you can use the word “goals.” For a guide for setting smart goals, you can read an article by Ramit Sethi about that.

Once you’ve got your smart goals in writing, you can pick your word of the year. What is the one word that can help you achieve your goals?

Your answer can be any word you like. The guidelines are that the word has to be positive and inspiring. The word describes how you want to be for the year.

For 2020, my word of the year is “gratitude.” I keep realizing I’m not typically all that grateful. I’ve written about gratitude and being grateful in multiple posts on this website, so I have some awareness of how powerful gratitude is. All that remains is to embody it constantly, consistently, daily.

Picking your word of the year can free you from the resolution mentality. It can liberate you from the Land of No Smiles and bring you to a place where there are bright colors and sunshine regularly. It can introduce you to a life of realized dreams and real friends you didn’t know you had.

I learned about the word of the year concept from a Marla Tabaka article.

“I identify a word of the year. … A single word that reminds me how I can fully support myself in creating a positive life change and achieving my most important goals. A word of the year can also identify something … you need or want to equip yourself to move to the next level of success.” – Marla Tabaka

Marla tells of how the word she chose, “clarity,” worked for her. She kept repeating the word “clarity” to herself throughout the day in various ways and ensured she kept seeing the word. Then after enough time had passed of doing these things, she received the clarity she sought.

“Within three weeks, I woke up with the answer. As the solutions occurred to me, I knew, with absolute faith, that these changes would work. Within days, I’d made the adjustments to my business model, and they began to work almost immediately.” – Marla Tabaka

Now it’s your turn. What’s your word of the year?

It doesn’t matter what time of the year you’re reading this. Pick a word that describes what you seek and how you want to be. One word to transform your life. One word for this year, and you can either use the same word next year or pick a different word.

Which word do you choose? “Gratitude” or “clarity” or something else?

Once you’ve identified a word that gently and happily pushes you toward your goals, you can display it where you’ll see it regularly and repeat it throughout the day. Have fun with your word as you learn to embody it more constantly.

Also, tell people you trust your word of the year and enlist their support in helping you embody it. Focus on your word of the year enough, and the plan for achieving your goals will come through. Then as you take action to carry out your plan, you’ll wake up one day and realize a magnificent truth.

You are a champion, dear reader.


Since you are a champion, you’re strong enough to tackle and conquer changes that you know you need to make. Changes that you desire and want to make.

Change can be scary. It’s unfamiliar and risky, but that’s okay. You’re an adult. You can handle the unknown with all the dangers it might or might not present.

Typically, the worst that can happen is you could get embarrassed. If you avoid the risk of embarrassment, you could miss out on the different kinds of riches that await you.

As you’ve seen, there are many reasons why new year’s resolutions fail. Now that you know some of them, you can be armed to create success for yourself.

Set smart goals instead of resolutions. Start small. Make changes consistently. Track your progress. Celebrate your victories. Follow a system that works. Ask those you trust to help keep you accountable as you work to accomplish your goals.

Pick your word of the year. Tell it to yourself throughout the day and see your word wherever you can.

Allow yourself to believe you are capable of so much more. Your potential is unlimited; you can live up to more of it. And that’s exciting.

Please tell me your word of the year in the comments section below. Also, share some smart goals you’ve set. I’d like to hear from you.

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Until next time,

James Barnett

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