New Year Resolutions Don't Work

New Year’s resolutions don’t work. Yup, we said it, and you probably know it’s true, too. You may have read that gym memberships, especially at box gyms, surge in January, and then decrease each month until their low point in March. Maybe you’ve even been one of the 88% of people each year who has made a New Year’s resolution, felt determined, optimistic even, about making it happen, and then ended up feeling like a failure when, by March, you’re smoking again, or eating sugar again, or not exercising again. Most of us have gone through that process at least once; we certainly have. And so the question becomes: what can we do instead to achieve these positive lifestyle changes that we want for ourselves?

Here’s our answer in a nutshell: don’t wait for January 1st! Don’t let an arbitrary date control how you live your life. When we do that, we’re putting the locus of control on an external factor—a date—instead of doing the important work we need to do to make a sustainable change. Here are some tips we’ve come up with to help you make changes that you will stick with:

– Know yourself. If you hate jogging, don’t resolve to start jogging every day. If you don’t like working out, don’t join a box gym and expect yourself to work out by yourself every day. Instead, consider what you enjoy doing, and find a way to incorporate that into your life.

– Do your research. Once you’ve identified some activities you enjoy, find out what’s available in your town and explore your options. Go observe a class, talk to members or students who take that class or belong to that gym, and read testimonials online. Talk to the owner/trainer/teacher and make sure you feel comfortable and confident in his or her ability to help you achieve your goal.

– Use the buddy system. Research shows that we’re much more likely to stay committed to something when we’re accountable to someone else. Plus, it can be a lot more fun! And by the way, if you already have an exercise routine you’re consistent with, maybe you can become someone’s buddy by encouraging him or her to join you! Find out if your gym has a bring-a-buddy week, and if it doesn’t, suggest it!

– Along with your workout friend or buddy, use other accountability systems that help motivate you to show up. While year-long, locked-in memberships often end up draining people’s bank accounts with nothing to show for it, online class sign-ups, monthly memberships and punch cards can be more reasonable ways to keep you on track on days when you’re feeling a little less than motivated.

– Set reasonable goals. We often set huge, vague and/or unrealistic goals for ourselves, and become discouraged before we’ve had a chance to make any progress. Instead of vowing to get in shape this year, commit to exercising three times a week. With each manageable goal that you are able to achieve, your sense of mastery and confidence will grow, and eventually you will have made the large changes you wanted to make in the first place.

– Just do it. It’s true. That’s what it comes down to, but it only works if you’ve followed the steps listed above to set yourself up for success. Instead of making an impulsive, emotionally-charged decision to join a gym on January 1st, choose a specific activity, gym, or training program that you will enjoy, do your research on options available to you, figure out how to keep yourself accountable, commit to reasonable steps you can take, and then just do it! We’re not saying that it won’t work if you do start on January 1st, but we are saying that you don’t have to wait until then to implement changes in your life. Do the work to set yourself up for success, and then begin!



John Ford and Nicole Ford own Manic Training RI in Wakefield and East Greenwich.  They have dedicated their careers to helping people become healthier and happier.  John is a personal trainer and runs many of the classes at Manic Training, and Nicole is a holistic health counselor.  She provides nutrition counseling to the members of Manic Training and also has a therapy practice in East Greenwich.  They have two healthy, active children, and do not plan on making any New Year’s resolutions, although they are always working to improve the quality of their lives.

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