Some traditions outlive their usefulness, and making New Year’s resolutions seems to be one. Do an online search for “no resolutions 2021” and you’ll find videos, blog posts, articles, lists, and advice on ditching the resolutions.

If you’ve ever resolved to start doing something, or stop doing something, or set a specific goal, then you’re familiar with the optimism at the beginning, and probably also the depression at the end, when it didn’t work out the way you planned.

Why Resolutions Fail

One survey from Franklin/Covey found that more than three-quarters of people who make New Year’s resolutions will break them. A third won’t even make it to the end of January. In an interview with Business Insider, psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert cites three main reasons our New Year’s resolutions fail:

  • Your resolution isn’t specific enough
  • You aren’t framing your resolution positively (instead of “stop” or “don’t”, think in terms of “do”)
  • Your resolution isn’t uniquely about you but may be influenced by friends, family, or society

What to Do Instead?

Marelisa Fabrega, lawyer and entrepreneur lists 10 alternatives to New Year’s resolutions on her blog, Daring to Live Fully. These include:

  • Create a bucket list for the new year
  • Create a list of things to look forward to
  • Choose one word to guide you throughout the year (like joy, serenity, discipline, flourish)

When you keep your goals smaller, they are more achievable. And, just like with exercising, if you have a buddy you connect with, you’re more likely to succeed. You don’t have to have the same goals in order to help encourage each other to stick with your own.

Instead of going to the gym, or losing weight, a survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Affirm found that the majority are focusing on learning life skills, or saving money. 53 percent want to spend more time with their family, and 49 percent want to travel more. And nearly 60 percent want to cultivate a more positive outook on life.

Ditching Resolutions Could be Good for Your Health

If you are making resolutions out of pressure or obligation, either self-imposed or from others, you are setting yourself up for failure, according to Dr. Sophie Lazarus, a psychologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She contends that 2020 was a challenging year for most everyone. Instead of putting extra pressure on yourself for 2021, if you absolutely want to adopt a “fresh start” mentality, start small. Instead of “quit eating junk food, period”, for example, pick one day a week where you give yourself permission to eat something you shouldn’t. The weekly relief valve not only gives you something to look forward to, but it helps you stay on track the rest of the week.

But if you’re determined to make a change, increase the odds of being successful by starting small with something you know you can accomplish. As an old and wise Jedi Grand Master once said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”