If Resolutions Don’t Work, Try New Year’s Principles

Published on 1/5/2023

It’s that time of year again, friends.

When everyone fills awkward gaps in conversations by asking what your New Year’s resolutions are. When everyone posts photos of their trainer-clad feet in a gym, claiming they’re off to a great start. When people pretend they’ll last 30 days without meat, alcohol or their drug of choice.

I’m not really a New Year’s resolutions gal. I have yearly goals, that focus on my writing career and reading ambitions, but I would never class these as New Year’s resolutions, instead they’re a way of staying on track.

When it comes to resolutions, they seem destined to fail. And I think many of us go into them with that expectation. We don’t actually plan to work out every day for the year, just for two weeks or the first hint of abs. We have no intention of staying sober, just being able to smugly refuse a drink at the first trip to a pub.

We are planning for these to be temporary, and so they become exactly that.

Why do New Year’s resolutions fail?

The issue with New Year’s resolutions is three-fold.

Firstly, as mentioned previously, we often don’t intend for them to last. We want to start the year ‘well’ with a nice challenge or life change, but we don’t plan for it to last. For example, we plan to give up alcohol for a month, but then instead of readdressing our relationship with alcohol we go back to ‘normal’. We plan for them to be shocks to the system rather than the start of something bigger.

This also comes from only setting goals at this time of year, so we’re not accustomed to them. I have goals for each month, everything from how often I want to go to spinning classes to how many articles I’ll write or books I’ll read. Every 1st of the month is a new chance. Every Monday is a new chance. Even each morning could bring new efforts. Don't fall for the once-a-year crap to become a better version of yourself.

Secondly, we go all-in. I don’t know much about gambling, but I’m guessing going all-in doesn’t usually end well. I’ve known many people who go from never exercising to deciding they’ll visit the gym daily. And they do at first. They complain about being sore, but they go for three, four, five days in a row. Then they skip a day, and another… and they give up. Because it was too hard to keep up.

You can’t expect yourself to keep up a habit that is incompatible with your lifestyle and needs. You also simply don’t need to work out that much. Instead, practising moderation would’ve allowed you to sustain it once the initial excitement passes.

Finally, we don’t believe in our resolution. If you’re working out to lose weight, you likely won’t ever be satisfied with the results. Whereas if you’re exercising to be healthy and have more energy, the results are more tangible. Surface resolutions lead to surface results. You need a reason to act; you need a guiding principle.

What are New Year’s principles?

Instead of setting resolutions, try setting New Year’s principles. Don’t wait until the 1st of January to set yourself goals and expect them to last, but rather decide how you’ll live this year.

If you look back, each year can be marked by a lesson. There might be pain and difficulty, but something emerged. For me, 2022 was marked by one of my most difficult bouts of depression in years, but it was also the year I began setting boundaries with friends. 2021 was the year my long-term relationship ended, but it was also the year I discovered how much I adore being single, and how good it is for me. 2020 was a big flop for us all, but it was also the year I started to take myself seriously as a writer and begin publishing online.

Go into the new year with a guiding principle, a way you choose to live. You might want to live graciously. Or do you want to live passionately? Maybe 2023 will focus on the people in your life. Or it could be centred on exploring.

What would make this year one you can look back on with pride? What change do you want to see in your life?

Choose your principle, and everything else will follow. Choose your principle and then follow it with the actions you need to sustain it.

It’s about priorities. Consider what matters to you or what you need to work on.

For me, 2023 is all about being self-assured. I am done fearing rejection. I will no longer overthink everything and soak myself in doubt. I choose to act, each and every time. I want to do scary things over and over until they’re no longer scary. And with my social anxiety, the smallest things terrify me. But yesterday, I went to a comedy show and actually approached the comedian after to compliment their set - big win over my anxiety!

Don’t do it for anyone but yourself. Make it matter to yourself, and then you actually have a shot at succeeding.

What will be your guiding principle for 2023? Let me know in the comments!



Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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