Recharting Your Course – When New Year’s Resolutions Go off the Rails

How are those New Year’s resolutions going? Resolutions can be helpful in moving towards a healthier lifestyle as well as in other areas of life, but sometimes things veer off course and we feel “stuck” or even like we have failed. These resolutions don’t have to fizzle out long after the New Year fireworks and champagne are a distant memory.   Re-charting one’s course may be needed to be successful with resolutions. You CAN get back on track and on course!   

Before venturing too far into what didn’t work, let’s look at some of the most common resolutions. 

A recent Forbes survey (Davis, 2023) found that the most common resolutions for 2024 were:

Less common resolutions included traveling more (6%), meditating regularly (5%), drinking less alcohol (3%) and performing better at work (3%).  Another study by You Gov (Ballard, 2023) was similar to the Forbes (Davis, 2023) survey in priority areas for those making resolutions: finances, physical health, and mental health.    Making changes in any of these areas may not be easy but can have a big impact. 

Regardless of the focus of your resolutions, what happens if those resolutions fizzled faster than the fireworks and celebrations?  You are not alone if your New Year’s resolutions or progress towards goals fell apart and you’re back to where you started, or maybe you made some progress but are not close to where you want to be and just got off course.  There are multiple observances dedicated to this very common challenge with New Years Resolutions, such as the January 17th “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day” (National Today, n.d.) observance.    or “Quitters Day” (National Today, n.d.) every second Friday in January. You are not alone with your struggles

One study (Verplanken & Roy, 2016) tells us that 41% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions but only 9% feel they were successful in keeping them, which means if you line yourself up with seven of your friends, only one of the eight will have been successful in accomplishing what they resolved to do.  Another poll by YouGov (2023) found that 34% of Americans said they had a goal or resolution they wanted to achieve in 2024. Of those making resolutions, 36% think it’s very likely they’ll keep their resolution through 2024 with men (40%) more likely than women (31%) to say it’s very likely they will keep their resolutions. Also, by the way, the YouGov study was similar to the Forbes (Davis, 2023) survey in priority areas: finances, physical health, and mental health.

The Forbes Health/One Poll survey (Davis, 2023) found that the average resolution lasts just 3.74 months.  The survey also found that 8% of respondents tend to stick with their goals for one month, with 22% lasting two months, 22% lasting three months and only 13% lasting four months.

While the stats may sound discouraging, you don’t have to give up on your resolutions.  Below are some suggestions to help you get back on track and re-chart your course:

  1. Reevaluate and make your resolution a GOAL: Take a moment to revisit your resolutions. There is a difference between a goal and a resolution.  Which is yours?  A goal is specific, while a resolution is usually somewhat broad.  For example, a resolution may be “I am going to get fit this year,” while a goal is “I am going to walk 3 miles a day for at least 5 days a week every morning before work.”   A goal may lead to greater success if you are struggling with keeping your resolutions.                                        

I like to follow the SMARTER model when setting goals, which is the topic of a future article. I learned of this model (Doran, 1981) decades ago and has been adapted and modified over the years and use it in my personal and professional life (Doran, 1981).  It works!   In a nutshell, goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and relevant, time-focused, evaluated, and re-adjusted. Re-framing your resolution as a goal may make all the difference in being successful.

Remember that setbacks are often part of the process of making changes.  Following some of the suggestions above may be just what is needed to re-chart your course towards better health and wellness or in any area of life. You can become that one out of eight in your circle that can claim “success” with your resolutions and goals and maybe even be a positive influence on others. Re-chart your course and get ready for success!


 Ballard, Jamie (2023).  What are Americans’ New Year’s resolutions for 2024?   You Gov.

Davis, Sarah (2023). New Year’s Resolutions Statistics 2024. Forbes Health.

Doran, G. T. (1981). “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”, Management Review, Vol. 70, Issue 11, pp. 35-36.

National Today (n.d.).  Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day, January 17th, 2024.

National Today (n.d.). Quitters Day, January 12, 2024.

Verplanken, B., & Roy, D. (2016). Empowering interventions to promote sustainable lifestyles: Testing the habit discontinuity hypothesis in a field experiment. Journal of Environmental Psychology45, 127.

 [CC1]Karen, can you link to the February 2024 post when it publishes?