7 Things to Do Right Now If Your New Year’s Resolution Is Already Slipping

A therapist's guide to getting your goals back on track

managing your schedule

Verywell / Jiaqi Zhou

You may have heard the grim statistic that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. That statistic came from a 1989 study that followed 200 resolution setters to see whether they could reach their goal. Resolutions were abandoned at a pretty steady decline–with many people giving up by the end of January. By the two year mark, only 19% of people said they had stuck with their resolution long-term.

While I’d like to think our resolution achievement has improved over the past 30 years since that study was conducted, I don’t think that’s the case. Despite the apps and gadgets that promise to help us crush our goals, electronics also distract us from our tasks. After all, who hasn’t missed out on a workout because they were scrolling through their phone? 

Fortunately, you don’t have to give up on changing your life just because you’re struggling to keep the resolution you established. Instead, you can identify the problem now and pivot to a better plan. Here are seven ways to recover when your resolution begins to slip:

Reassess Your Goal

As a therapist, a big part of what I help people do involves setting healthy goals for themselves. Quite often, our first step is rewriting an existing goal to create something that’s more manageable and measurable.

Resolutions are often vague declarations like, “I want to be healthier,” but without a clear definition of success, you’ll likely flounder. Identify the behavioral changes you want to see. Rather than “be healthier,” make your goal to “work out for 30 minutes 3 times a week.” Then, you’ll be able to assess whether you’re on target.

So don’t be afraid to give your resolution a complete overhaul. Create a measurable, achievable goal that you can begin working on now.

Make sure your goal is within your control too. For example, you can’t necessarily make your boss give you a promotion this year but you can commit to going to two networking events each month.

Establish Short-Term Objectives

Whether your goal is to organize your home or pay off your car, break that goal down into short-term objectives. Identify what you want to accomplish this week.

You’ll be more likely to save money if you set out to save $100 this week rather than $5,000 this year. Short-term objectives help you resist the temptation to procrastinate and they can help you start chipping away at a big goal one small step at a time.

Prepare to Create Change

Many resolutions are declared late in the day on December 31st, without much thought about how to actually make change happen. You’ll increase your chances of success when you actually have a plan. It’s better to launch your goal in February with a good plan than to launch it on January 1st without any strategies in place to help you succeed. 

You’ll increase your chances of success when you have a clear plan. Decide what steps you’re going to take to turn your goal into a reality. Identify what action steps you’ll take and when you’ll take them.

Anticipate Obstacles

There are going to be obstacles that will threaten to derail your success. A family gathering might tempt you to eat unhealthy food. Or an extra cold winter might mean higher heating bills, which may make paying off your debt more challenging.

Many obstacles are predictable and planning for them can make a big difference to your overall success rate. Spend time thinking about how you’ll handle the inevitable challenges that will be thrown your way.

Being prepared for the expected obstacles can help you feel more confident about managing the unexpected obstacles you might encounter as well. When you know that your plan has a little flexibility, you’ll likely feel better about your ability to adapt when you encounter a problem that couldn’t have been predicted.

Track Your Progress

Find a way to hold yourself accountable. It could be as simple as placing an X on the calendar on the days you go to the gym. Or it might involve using an app to help you track how much money you’re setting aside.

A visual representation of your effort can help you stay motivated. When you don’t feel like you’re doing enough, review the steps you’ve taken and you’ll see that over time, your effort really adds up.

Get Support

It’s tough to create change–especially when you’re doing it all alone. You’ll likely do better when you have some support.

Support can take many forms. An online community of people who are also working on a similar goal might help you discover new ideas or to feel less alone in your struggle. Or, you might just join forces with a friend so you can both work on holding one another accountable.

You might also consider hiring someone to help you. Hiring a nutritionist, financial advisor, personal trainer, or life coach might help you reach your goals faster than if you try to do it on your own.

Practice Self-Compassion

Mistakes are part of the process. View them as an opportunity to learn and then, move forward with even more knowledge than before.

Talk to yourself the same way you’d talk to a trusted friend. Be kind to yourself when you mess up and focus on how to do better next time without beating yourself up for making a mistake. A little self-compassion can go a long way toward helping you stay on track for the long haul.

If you’ve created a nearly impossible resolution for yourself this year, cut yourself some slack. Identify smaller, more realistic changes that you want to incorporate into your life. Keep in mind that you can keep growing and changing throughout the year, regardless of the date on the calendar.

1 Source
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  1. Norcross JC, Vangarelli DJ. The resolution solution: Longitudinal examination of New Year's change attempts. J Subst Abuse. 1989;1(2):127–134. doi: 10.1016/s0899-3289(88)80016-6

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.