1.  The psychology and history of New Year’s resolutions


  • Old ritual which apparently stems from ancient Babylonian traditions
  • 2000 BC… Babylonians celebrated the New Year during a 12-day festival (Akitu)
  • This started the farming season to plant crops, crown their king and make promises to pay their debts.


  • Rooted in a desire for self-improvement.
  • Idea of a fresh start and a sense of renewal.
  • Activates hope and expectations for what we hope to achieve going forward.
  • The start of a new year serves as a psychological marker, motivating people to set goals and make positive changes to their lives.
  • Allow for you to reflect and refocus.
  • It can provide clarity of goals.
  • Google searches for diets, gyms and goals setting increases.

2.  Why do people feel pressured to start a year with resolutions?

  • We almost feel compelled to set New Year’s Resolutions due to the following:
  • It’s culturally ingrained.
  • Social expectation and symbolic transitioning to a new year contribute to the pressure.
  • Due to the significance of starting afresh… the “fresh start affect.”
  • The psychological allure of a clean slate…. “New year, new me”
  • Humans are resilient… there is always hope for change.
  • Studies show that we are more likely to tackle new goals when significant milestones pass, such as the outset of a new week, month, year… “tomorrow is a new day.”

3.  Can resolutions be harmful?

  • Called “fell off the wagon!”
  • Can be harmful if the goals are unrealistic or create excessive stress.
  • Unrealistic goals may lead to disappointment and low self-esteem… reminding people/ trigger memories of previous failures in life.
  • The pressure to achieve resolutions can negatively impact mental well-being.
  • We compare ourselves to others who seem to reach all their goals (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) … feels like a failure.
  • More positives than negatives… better to set one goal and reach half of it than setting no goal at all.
  • An average person with clear goals is more successful than a genius with none
  • Prof Johns C Norcross’s … research between 1978-2020:
    • After one week, 75% successful
    • After 2 weeks, the number drops to 71%
    • After one month drops again to 64%
    • After 6 months, 64% of people who make resolutions are keeping it… vs only 8% of people who set similar goals but no set resolution are still successful after 6 months.

4.  What are some of the things that one must take into consideration when making new resolutions?

Contemplate the following…

  • An average person with clear goals is more successful than a genius with none
  • “Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even should they rarely stick to their plan…” Winston Churchill
  • Planning is the most important skill for success.
  • Hallmarks of great goals:
    • Internally driven = YOUR GOALS… invested in it
    • Holistic and balanced… no fight between your goals… entire life
    • Fully aligned …no pull in different directions (travel vs financial/ works vs family time)
    • Purpose-driven… come from you… your WHY is clear
  • Needs to be specific.
  • Creating a clear plan… for you and nobody else
  • Setting realistic goals… fit in with your lifestyle… not someone else’s … Instagram.
  • Do not fall into the “happiness trap” of Instagram, Facebook, and social media.
  • Seeking social support
  • Being adaptable and flexible

5.  What is the correct way to go about achieving reasonable goals throughout the year?

  • Give yourself some time to reflect on your life (2023) and your life vision(2024 and beyond) your life now and how you want your life to be… set out a specific time for that every year
  • Use a tool like The Wheel of Life… reflect on different areas in your life…rate each area on a scale of 1-10…
  • Social, financial, career, relationships, spiritual, health and fitness, emotional, etc
  • In each area consider your (Premise, purpose, vision, plan) … Why? What? How? Plan/process? (SMART)
  • start with the 1/2 areas and concentrate on those areas.
  • set SMART goals:
  • Should be SMART goals.
    • Specific: I will walk for 30 min 3x per week
    • Measurable: I will use a fitness app or timer to track the duration
    • Achievable: Ensure the goal is realistic based on your current fitness level.
    • Relevant: Align the goal with your overall fitness and health objectives.
    • Time-bound… set a specific time frame, such as “for the next 3 months.”
  • Take small steps… Breaking larger goals into smaller, actionable steps to make progress more manageable. Expl: Want to run a 5km marathon… start running 10 minutes every day…
  • The 5-second rule… do not give yourself time to cop out… set your alarm and do it!
  • Do not make all the changes at once… one at a time.
  • Keep it simple.
  • 100% commitment… not 99% … always a reason to cop out…
  • Staying consistentcreating habits… some experts say it takes at least 21 days for a new practice to become a habit. Use reminder apps to help you stay on track.
  • Be realistic about your commitments to increase the likelihood of success.
  • Set positive goals: “ I will create a gratitude list and write down 3 things I am grateful for every day” instead of I will not complain this year…
  • Reassess and adjust your strategies as needed monthly
  • Buddy up: link with others who share your goals to provide accountability and motivation. For example, meeting a friend for a walk every morning.
  • Celebrating small victories along the way… rewards
  • Visualise/envision your success… Pinterest board, walk visualisation.
  • Have a backup plan… consider things that might get in the way of accomplishing your goals and build in ways to overcome these obstacles.

6.  Feelings of failure at the end of the year when one doesn’t stick to their goals.

  • Common to feel a failure (Lifebook example re exercise)
  • It can be mitigated by:
    • Self-compassion
    • Reassessing and adjusting
    • Talk to a trusted friend.
    • Acknowledging the progress made… even if it falls short.
    • Concentrate on the small positive changes.
    • Accept some losses… achieving big goals will involve some pressure and discomfort… some gains and losses.
  • Go back to the drawing board… ask yourself why you did not reach your goal.
    • Was it someone else’s goal?
    • Do I have too many goals?
    • Do all my goals align… saving money vs travel?

7.  How useful are resources such as vision boards or accountability partners?

  • Vision boards help visualise goals… meditate, think, visualise yourself being the person.
  • Accountability partners provide support and encouragement.
  • Wheel of life… reflect on different areas in your life…rate on a scale of 1-10… start with the one area with lower score…
  • Social, financial, love, spiritual, health and fitness,
  • Success ultimately depends on personal commitment and determination.