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 being against you to this extent, people still set new year’s resolutions anyway.

Setting those resolutions can look like a token effort for making 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?

There are multiple reasons why new year’s resolutions fail. The following are only some of them:

  1. You buy something right away to help you do 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 accomplish them. You haven’t set 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 keep track of your progress and celebrate your victories.
  6. You don’t have systems in place, including accountability.
  7. You’re too harsh with yourself, and you don’t believe in yourself.
  8. You give up.

Another reason for new year’s resolutions failing is that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach. And any other cliches you want to throw in there. Basically, 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 next year to try again. And fail again. Rinse and repeat. The cycle continues.

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

Yes, 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 languages of the world or reach billionaire superstardom before you turned 25, there’s something else you can do instead.

You can stop indulging in fantasies.

Yes, of course, 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.

And here’s the best part:

The only one preventing you from being unleashed is you.

Which 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 that each day brings. Not only each year. Each day.

This offers you a lot 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, and given enough time and effort, you will see results.

And no matter how much you think you might have failed today, you get to try again and do 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 here to make sure 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 that 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 the word “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 the number of unwritten rules that society has. It’s where the sun never shines and you’re always 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 are some things that come to mind for me when the word “resolution” comes around. If you use the word “resolution,” it’s like you’ve already lost before you’ve even crossed the starting line. The word itself seems to conjure images of failure. So why sabotage yourself in the first place?

You might not be aware of it consciously, but our choices of the words we use really do matter.

Reality arises in language, so you might as well use language that creates a reality you enjoy.

Pick Your Word of the Year

“Resolution” is a word that perhaps has entirely too much baggage associated with it, 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, now 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 isn’t a one size fits all approach. The word would be one that describes how you want to be for the year.

For 2020, my word of the year is “gratitude.” I keep being confronted with the fact that 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 on a constant, consistent, daily basis.

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 on a regular basis. 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 an article that Marla Tabaka wrote.

“I identify a word of the year. Yes, 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 that you need or want to equip yourself to move to the next level of success.” – Marla Tabaka

Marla goes on to tell of how the word that she chose, clarity, really did work for her. She kept repeating the word “clarity” to herself throughout the day in various ways, and she made sure that she kept seeing the word as well. Then after enough time had passed of doing these things, she received the clarity she was seeking.

“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?

Doesn’t matter what time of the year it is when 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 you can pick a different word then.

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 all the time.

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

You are a champion, dear reader. You really are.


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

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

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

As you’ve seen, there are many reasons for why new year’s resolutions fail. Now that you know what some of them are, 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 that you are capable of so much more. Your potential is unlimited, and you simply get to live up to more of it. And that’s exciting.

Tell me what your word of the year is in the comments section below. Also, share some smart goals that you’ve set for yourself. I’d like to hear from you.

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Until next time,

James Barnett

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