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.