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Most Resolutions Fail. Here's How to Help Keep Yours in Focus.

It's mid-January — do you know where your resolutions are?

January 10, 2022

If you’ve failed to follow through on New Year’s resolutions in the past, you’re not alone. A University of Scranton study revealed that only 50% of its participants could keep up a resolution just three months after making it. 

In December 2020, the Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center published one of the largest and most comprehensive studies on New Year’s resolutions yet. 

To help you figure out how to keep a New Year’s resolution this year, we’ll tap into the research center’s findings in addition to other insights, to share why many resolutions fail. We’ll also illuminate how to avoid these common pitfalls in 2022 and beyond.

SMART goal setting

Vague goals are tough to accomplish.

SMART goal setting creates a framework that gives you a better chance of achieving a goal. To use the SMART approach, make your goals:

  • Specific: Quantify your goal, whether that means dollars saved or miles run a day.

  • Measurable: Make it easy to gauge success through some means of measuring.

  • Achievable: Be realistic instead of setting yourself up for failure.

  • Relevant: Goals need to matter to you, the resolution maker. If you’re making a resolution because you think you should (or someone else thinks you should), but your heart isn’t into it, then it’s less likely to succeed.

  • Time-Bound: When you attach a timeline to your goals, you can work backward to create smaller, more attainable milestones.

Learn more about SMART goal setting or check out a SMART goals template.

Avoidance versus approach resolutions

Researchers discovered that people who use the avoidance approach in goal setting are less successful.

Create approach-oriented resolutions instead of avoidance-based goals. So, what’s the difference? 

According to the National Institutes of Health, approach goals help you take steps towards the outcomes you want, while avoidance goals focus on moving away from those you don’t. 

Suppose you want to heave a healthier diet in 2022. An avoidance goal might be “I’m not going to have junk foods as a snack,” while an approach goal could be “I’m going to enjoy low-fat yogurt for my snacks.” Although the overall goal is the same, framing it differently can boost your chances of success. 


Number of goals

Juggling too many resolutions all at once. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests changing one behavior at a time. It takes time to develop unhealthy behaviors and so it can take time to replace them with healthy and productive ones. 

If you’re having trouble achieving your resolutions, prioritize and focus on changing one habit at a time. Then, once that’s achieved, APA shares, you can use your freed-up willpower to reach the next goal.


It’s easy to put too much pressure on ourselves. When this happens, moving towards goals can feel like an internal battleground.

Some psychologists suggest a balance between the notion of challenging yourself to meet your goals with being kind to yourself. As The National Counselling Society explains, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach your goals right away, even if this means they fall by the wayside. Instead, you can decide if this goal is still worth pursuing. If so, “learn from the experience and formulate more achievable ways of researching your goals.”

Size of your goal

The goal is so large that it’s hard to know how to get there.

When trying to figure out how to keep a New Year's resolution that’s big in scope, break it down into short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals. 

Train for a marathon one mile at a time or use the debt snowball method to get your credit card balances under control can get you on track and moving forward. 

An expert being interviewed by the APA adds a twist to supercharge this advice. Early on, keep your focus on what you’ve accomplished so far, not on how far you have to go. 

The start date

January 1 isn’t a magical date. 

The reality is that change won’t happen until you’re ready to embrace it. Although January 1 feels like a perfect day for a fresh start for many, if you know that you need to mentally prepare for the change or do more research on the best strategies, that’s okay. 

Although that may simply feel like procrastination (and be honest with yourself if that’s what you’re doing), according to an expert at Psychology Today, setting yourself up for success starts with the appropriate preparation. Giving yourself the necessary time and space can give you more willpower and your resolutions a better chance to succeed. 

Accountability and support

It can be hard to keep on track all by yourself.

Dr. Mitchell Brown notes how making your goals public can boost your levels of commitment. Having friends and family cheer you on can keep you on track, and they may offer great goal-setting advice or just help you keep up the momentum. 

One classic study by Norcross, Ratzin & Payne discovered that positive reinforcement is a key aspect of keeping New Year’s resolutions. Another study from 2012 reveals that when believing in change becomes a habit, then change becomes real — and the upbeat cheerleaders you surround yourself with can play a crucial supporting role.

The reality is that positive reinforcement and accountability are intricately tied together, with the first serving as a building block for the second. One University of Warwick study found that when someone feels positive about themselves, their brain functions better. An optimally functioning brain can help you keep resolutions and create a better life (with your cheerleading support team continuing to help you).

Just say “no”

If you’re spending too much time and energy pleasing other people, then you won’t have enough for your commitments. 

Psychiatrist Rashmi Parmar suggests that you slow down long enough to make a logical decision about a commitment that someone else wants you to make. Use the rational part of your brain when making these types of decisions and, when it just makes sense to say “no,” then do it.

Pulling it all together

Achieving financial goals can be hard, with failure being expensive and disappointing. By using these strategies, though, you can set an optimal amount of SMART goals at the right time for your unique situation, build a support team, and otherwise make steady progress towards achieving your goals. 

If your New Year’s resolution involves paying down credit card debt, consider Tally†. Tally is an intelligent credit card debt repayment tool, helping you pay down high-interest debt quickly and efficiently. 

When you leverage these techniques, you may be able to pay down credit card debt, freeing yourself up to spend and save in ways that achieve your hopes and dreams.

Trying to figure out how to keep a New Year’s resolution about paying down debt? Here’s

​​†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.