19 Popular New Year’s Resolutions Experts Say to Never Ever Make
Don’t want to be a February Failure this year? Here’s how to make resolutions that will make you a happier, healthier, and more productive person—for this year and beyond.
“I’m going to lose weight this year!”
Losing weight is one of the most common resolutions people make and it’s also one that’s most likely to fail. “When you make such a general goal, you’re doomed before you start,” says Stephanie Lincoln, a licensed mental health counselor, specializing in eating psychology, and a certified personal trainer.
Smarter resolution: “I’m going to log my food every day, aiming to cut enough calories to lose two pounds a week until I reach my goal of XXX pounds.” Or, skip the emphasis on the scale and say, “I’m going to go from 35 percent body fat to 20 percent body fat.” These are the 12 resolutions health professionals hate the most.
“I’m getting that big promotion!”
Resolutions that aren’t entirely under your control—i.e. your boss has as much of a say in this happening as you do—can be tricky to achieve, says Steve Saah, executive director for Robert Half Finance & Accounting. Instead, consult with your boss about what you need to do then make a list of action items you personally can accomplish this year, rank them in order of priority, and identify specific steps needed to reach them, he says. Breaking it down like this will make it more achievable.
Smarter resolution: “I will complete X items on my list by my mid-year review.” Don’t miss these 27 inspiring New Year’s resolutions you’ll want to keep.
“This is the year I get healthy!”
What does that even mean? This common refrain is so vague that it’s practically meaningless, Lincoln says. To be successful, you need to hone in one or two aspects of your health you really want to change and make resolutions specifically for those. “A good resolution is S.M.A.R.T.—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-constrained,” she explains.
Smarter resolution: “I’m going to cut out all sweetened beverages for 90 days.” or “I’m going to exercise for 30 minutes five days a week.” Check out the 12 resolutions that help you live longer.
“No more procrastinating, I’m writing my book this year!”
Do you have a repeat resolution that always shows up on your New Year’s list but never gets accomplished? Whether it’s starting a business, writing a book, making a job change, or another big goal in your life, if you’ve been procrastinating doing it, simply resolving to make it happen won’t work, says Ana Jovanovic, a psychologist and life coach with Parenting Pod. “There’s a reason for why you are delaying and that reason must be dealt with if you want to make a change,” she explains. “Maybe the activity is making you feel anxious. Maybe it’s confronting you with a fear of failure. Maybe it’s boring you, or maybe you are nervous about the consequences.”
Smarter resolution: “I’m going to look at why I have made this resolution every year and resolve any underlying issues.”
“I’m going to follow this popular diet and lose 30 pounds in 30 days!”
While this resolution is definitely more specific, diet fads that promise extreme weight loss are an extremely bad idea, Lincoln says. “Even if you do manage to stick to such a plan and lose weight, it’s unlikely you’ll keep it off as that 30-day lifestyle is not sustainable,” she says. “In addition, the methods used just are not safe for your health in the long run.” It’s important to set reasonable weight loss goals, based on research and your particular lifestyle needs, she says.
Smarter resolution: “I’m going to eat 500 calories less per day than I burn, to lose one pound a week.”
“I’m going to pay off all my debt this year!”
While getting out of debt is an admirable and important goal, making a resolution this extreme is very hard to stick to and can make your life miserable in the process, says Kathy Longo, a certified financial planner and founder of Flourish Wealth Management. “Although it’s possible to make improvements in either reducing debt or increasing savings, you need to set realistic goals otherwise the New Year’s resolution is doomed to failure,” she explains. Financial goals should be specific, doable, and have some flexibility for your life, she adds.
Smarter resolution: “I’m going to limit eating out to once a week and pay an extra $200 on my credit card every month.” These are the 15 most popular New Year’s resolutions.
“I’m going to get married this year!”
Resolving to get married or find a loving relationship is great but as this goal relies on someone else’s actions to accomplish it, it’s likely to lead to heartbreak. “You need goals that you can achieve, like improving your social networking, finding new hobbies, learning to love and accept yourself, and being open to a relationship,” says Amy L. Stark, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and author.
Smarter resolution: “I will meet X new people each month” or “I will go to a therapist to help overcome my social anxiety.”
“This year I’m not going to stress over the little things!”
“You are unlikely to stop stressing out over ‘little things’ because they are not little—we stress about things that mean something to us,” Jovanovic says. “Those ‘little’ things are usually tied to your feelings of self-worth and safety, your perception of others, or your values and ideas.” Hint: Here’s how perfectionism can ruin your resolutions.
Smarter resolution: “I will find ways to cope with stress effectively” or “I will arrange my priorities differently.”
“I should start exercising this year!”
Getting regular exercise is a great resolution but if it starts with “I should” it’s not going to be effective, says Noelle Nelson, Ph.D, psychologist and author of Happy Healthy…Dead. “The problem with “should” is it is not of your own will or conviction,” she explains. “It’s not coming from you, it’s what you think you ought to be doing based on what others may have told you or what society tells you.”
Smarter resolution: “I’m going to go for a jog three days a week and lift weights at the gym at work two days a week.”
“I’m going to pay off my house!”
Making extra mortgage payments with the goal of paying off your house early is a goal Charisse Mackenzie, president of Saturn Wealth, says she hears often. Unfortunately, while it makes emotional sense, it doesn’t make financial sense, she says. “Say you have a low interest rate, like four percent. If you are taking cash out of the market that could earn you six to eight percent on average then you are actually losing two to four percent in interest per year plus losing the tax write off,” she explains. You’re better off investing your money.
Smarter resolution: “I’ll put my mortgage on auto-payment and invest $XXX extra in my retirement account each month.” Use these 50 tricks to make your resolutions stick.
“I’m giving up sugar!
Completely cutting out treats can make you feel deprived and even lead to bingeing on the forbidden foods, says Lindsey Toth, a registered dietitian with Swanson Health. “Extremes of any kind are hard to stick to, and what you add to your wellness routine is just as important and sometimes even more important than what you take away,” she explains. Focus on positive changes you can make like eating more fruits and veggies and getting enough protein every day, she says. Choose one small change you can do every day until it becomes a habit and then add in another one.
Smarter resolution: “I won’t have any treats until I’ve eaten three servings of green vegetables today.”
“I’m going to fit into my jeans from high school!”
Focusing strictly on size instead of health can be frustrating and counterproductive, especially if your goal is extreme. “Trying to fit into your skinny jeans or other clothes that are too small isn’t a good resolution, life is more important than starving yourself into a certain piece of clothing,” says Libby Parker, a registered dietitian and eating disorder specialist. “A far better resolution would be to make peace with the body you have. You can enjoy life now or keep waiting until you lose the last ‘x’ pounds. Don’t wait for weight.”
Smarter resolution: “I’m going to listen to my body and eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.”
“This year I’m going to quit smoking, repair my relationship, lose weight, and make more money!”
Any of these goals on their own may make a good resolution but taken all together are a recipe for failure by February, says David Essel, a master life coach, counselor, and author. Lots of people decide that this year their whole life is going to be different but having multiple large goals simply means you won’t have enough time or energy to devote to all of them and will give up quickly when you don’t see any results, he explains. Stick to one goal at a time and once that’s achieved, make a new resolution—and you don’t have to wait for the next New Year’s if you finish faster!
Smarter resolution: “I’m going to go 90 days without smoking.”
“I’m going to be happy this year!”
Everyone wants to be happy—and they should, it’s a basic human need. But simply stating your intention to “be happy” without any idea of what you need to change in your life to feel happier will only make you more frustrated and sad, says Nancie Vito, MPH, a life coach and health education specialist. “While the intention to be happy is important, it’s not going to happen on its own,” she says. “It is helpful to know your underlying motivations and create a plan of action for behavior change.”
Smarter resolution: “I’m going to find a new job so I can quit the one that’s killing my spirit.” Check out the 14 New Year’s resolutions that can actually make you happier.
“Bye bread, I’m quitting carbs!”
With the popularity of the ketogenic, paleo, and other low-carb diets, many people have gotten the idea that carbohydrates are the devil but nothing could be further from the truth, says Jeanne Tiberio, a nutritionist and health coach with Varsity Tutors. “Our bodies are designed to eat a variety of healthy “whole” foods, including carbs,” she explains. “There are more nutritious and less nutritious carbohydrates but a whole food group isn’t ‘bad’ or ‘good’.” In addition, when you say you’re going “on” a diet that implies that there is a time you will go “off” it—and when you do, you will regain the weight, she says.
Smarter resolution: “I’m going to limit processed junk and eat whole foods first.”
“I’m not going to fight with my spouse this year!”
Unfortunately, part of being in a relationship is having disagreements and saying you simply won’t have them is unrealistic. “As a family lawyer I’ve learned that you shouldn’t need a New Year’s resolution to be nicer to your significant other, it should be something you work on every day,” says David Reischer, Esq., attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com. Instead, focus on developing the skills needed to resolve arguments in a mature way, based out of genuine love, he says. Even the closest couples can benefit from a couple of sessions with a therapist to help them learn to fight fair. Instead, make the 16 relationship resolutions every couple should make.
Smarter resolution: “This year I will commit to marriage counseling with my spouse.”
“I’m running the Boston marathon!”
If you’re already a good runner, this may be a good resolution for you but many people who resolve to run a marathon haven’t run further than around the block and committing to something as intense as 26.2 miles can be harmful to their health, says Clare Morrison, MD, of MedExpress. “This may make you push yourself far beyond what your body is ready for and you will likely fail as your body won’t be fully prepared,” she says. “You will need to build strong muscle mass, stamina, and a healthy respiratory system, all within a relatively short time frame which can actually put you at a higher risk for injury and heart problems.”
Smarter resolution: “I’ll run a 5K in May, a 10K in July, and a half-marathon in December, using a running program.”
“This year I’m going to be more positive!”
Telling yourself not to feel something is like telling yourself not to pee; emotions, including negative ones, are a natural part of life and change from day to day, Morrison says. “If you constantly think you have to be positive every day you will run your emotions into the ground and become obsessed,” she says. “Instead, have a daily practice of gratitude which will automatically turn your focus to positive things.” Try these 22 ways to remind yourself you’re worthy.
Smarter resolution: “I’ll write three things I’m grateful for in a journal every day.”
“I’m quitting my job to travel the world!”
“As tempting as it is, never rush to quit a job that is allowing you to live a comfortable and secure life,” Morrison says—even if it’s not your dream job. Instead of focusing on the part of your job that you dislike—whether that’s your boss, the commute, or colleagues—make an effort to meet the right people and start working on passion projects, she advises. This could help you find a different job you like better or help you learn to like your current job. And if you really do want to travel the world? Come up with a concrete plan and start saving monthly until you have enough to do it safely.
Smarter resolution: “I’m going to take a month off and going to Bali in 2022.” Read on for 50 ways to make your New Year’s resolutions stick.