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Christy Matta, M.A.Christy Matta, M.A.
A Blog on Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness and Stress Reduction

Why Can't I Stick to My New Year's Resolutions?

Christy Matta, M.A. Updated: Jan 3rd 2013

Do you plan to change your life each New Year?

handwritten list of resolutionsIf you have big goals and make resolutions to have more fun, relax and reduce stress, spend more time with family, eat better or exercise more, then you are like the majority of American's, according to a University of Scranton study.

Popular magazines and television shows certainly have noticed that American's like to make resolutions. This time of year it's hard to miss articles with titles focused on our resolutions to change, such as How to Lose 12 Pounds this Month or How to Boost Your Energy This Year.

But, if you're like nearly half of the people who make resolutions, you are unsuccessful in keeping them. Many of people abandon their efforts soon after the resolution is made.

So what interferes with our ability to achieve our goals? And how might that knowledge help us stick to our resolutions?

Reasons for abandoning New Years Resolutions:

  • The goal was too hard
  • You set a goal because you feel it's something you 'should' do. In this case the goal is important to other people, but not intrinsically important to you.
  • You have no plan on how to reach your goal. For example, you may want to relax and reduce stress, but you don't identify what you will do each day to reduce stress.
  • You don't have a plan for persisting in your goal when times get tough. It is rare to choose to pursue something and not run into an obstacle or two. If you want to each healthy, for example, you will need to anticipate how you will handle eating out, work lunches, boredom or other triggers specific to you.

So, if you want your resolutions to be more effective this year, consider the following steps:

  • Choose a goal that's right for you. Before you commit to a goal, think about whether it's something you want to do.
  • Consider how hard it will be to achieve your goal. You don't have to give up on hard goals, but you will need to break big goals down into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Make a plan to reach your goal. You may want to have more fun this year, but you need to plan how you will do that. Will you have friends over once a month, plan a vacation in February, set Friday evenings aside for a hobby or join an outdoor adventure group and commit to going on one adventure a month? These specific details can be the difference between making progress towards your goal and giving up.
  • Anticipate obstacles. When we're trying to achieve a goal and our efforts are thwarted, it's easy to get impulsive and sabotage ourselves. When thwarted you might get angry or stuck in unhelpful thinking, such as "it's not fair." Expecting to meet roadblocks and planning to move around or through them will help you keep to your goal.
  • Plan to acknowledge progress and small steps towards your goal frequently. We're much more likely to continue a new behavior if it is reinforced with something positive.

When you run into obstacles, you may want to simply abandon your goals, but don't. Yes, there are many obstacles to overcome when you pursue a goal, particularly one that is big and life changing, but research also shows that you're much more likely to lose weight (or reach any goal) if you set a goal to lose weight than if you do nothing.


Christy Matta, M.A.

Christy Matta M.A. is a trainer, consultant and writer. She is the author of The Stress Response: How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Can Free You from Needless Anxiety, Worry, Anger, and Other Symptoms of Stress. She is intensively trained in DBT and has designed and provided clinical supervision to treatment programs, including a winner of the American Psychiatric Association Gold Award. Matta has a Master of Arts in counseling psychology from Boston College. For more on her consultation and trainings visit her web site For more tips and mindfulness tips and strategies visit her blog

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