The Top 5 Mistakes People Make with New Year's Resolutions

by Yvonne Ellis

How long did you manage to keep your New Year resolutions this year – a day, a week, a couple of weeks? Maybe you didn’t make any resolutions since you know you can’t trust yourself to keep them. Or perhaps you’re still hanging in there - trying to lose weight, get fit, go to the next level in your career, create a financial plan, become a better person or whatever your personal goal is, but are struggling and don’t know how much longer you can keep going.

Every year, at this time, millions of people berate themselves for failing to live up to their New Year ideal. Yet many never give themselves the chance to succeed, setting themselves up to fail from the very start.

Here are the top five mistakes people make in setting goals (whether at new year or other times) and how to fix them:

  1. Mistake: Setting a goal that is too vague. For example a popular new year resolution is “I want to be a better person this year”, but what does that really mean? A better person in just one area or many? And how will you know when you achieve it? Vague goals, rather than inspiring you, can actually de-motivate and contribute to a feeling of overwhelm which inevitably leads to giving up.

    Instead: Be specific. Hone in on exactly what it is that you want to improve. You want to be a better person in what way exactly? Is it that you want to volunteer your time at a homeless shelter or other charity? If so, how often and how long? Is it that you want to be nicer to people? If so, what does ‘being nice’ mean to you? How would you know if you were being nice? Now word your goal in these terms.  

  2. Mistake: Not believing in your own ability to succeed. Setting a goal that has you feeling like you’re going to fail before you even start. If your new year resolution is to give up smoking, but you’ve tried to give up smoking before and failed, then you are likely to feel discouraged and pessimistic about your chances.

    Instead: Either choose a goal that you can believe in or word your goal in such a way that it is much more believable to you. For example “Filling my lungs with fresh clean air” would likely be believable (not to mention positively focused) for most people even those who have tried and failed to quit smoking 10 times before. It also allows for a transition to non-smoking as you gradually let go of your resistance and align your vibration with your new view of yourself as someone who says no to smoking and who instead fills their lungs with fresh, clean air.

  3. Mistake: Wording your goal in such a way that it focuses your attention on what you don’t want rather than on what you do want. For example the goal to “give up smoking’ has the focus well and truly on smoking. Likewise “don’t eat sugar ‘ is focused on sugar, “lose my belly fat’ is focused on belly fat and “stop yelling at my loved ones” is still focused on yelling.

    Instead: Word your goal positively, in terms of what you do want. For example, if you weren’t yelling at your loved ones, how would you be communicating with them? Lovingly and compassionately? Happily and enthusiastically? Whatever your answer, that is your goal. If your goal is  ”to lose weight”  try changing it to  “become slim”  And for a powerfully motivating goal, focus on the reason you want to lose the weight like looking fabulous, feeling great, being a 10/10, feeling vibrantly healthy and so on

  4. Mistake: Setting a goal that doesn’t inspire you. If you’re not passionate about your goal, ask yourself why. Do you really want this? Or does someone else want it for you? If your partner wants you to get fit for example, but you feel just fine the way you are, you are likely setting yourself up to fail, either consciously because it’s not a real goal for you, or subconsciously as a form of rebellion at being told what to do.

    Instead: Set another goal that does inspire you or find a new way to look at the goal, a new angle, that you can be passionate about. So instead of getting fit for your partner, how about “looking so sexy that my partner can’t keep their hands off me” or “falls in love with me all over again”. The idea is to find the payoff for you in the goal – what is it about achieving this goal that will have you feeling excited and inspired?

  5. Mistake: Getting overwhelmed before you even start. Thinking that the goal is too big or you don’t know how to make it happen or worrying that you won’t have enough time or energy to give to achieving it and deciding to not even try.  When a child learns to walk, they don’t try to figure it all out in their head first ... ‘Ok, lift left foot, balance on right foot, now move left foot slowly forward while...”.  No! If they did, they would probably give up too! Rather, they just know they want to move on two legs (because they see how much faster that is) and just keep trying until they figure it out. And they do.

    Instead: Focus on the end result of what you want to achieve and just take the next logical step that feels right to you. Take the action that you feel inspired to take, even if you’re not sure how it will help you to reach your goal. For example you may have a goal to publish a book and, as you focus on your goal, you feel inspired to phone a friend that you haven’t spoken to in ages. As you speak to them. you may discover they now work in publishing or have contacts in that industry they would be happy to put you in touch with. If you feel inspired to do something – do it, even if it doesn’t seem relevant. The universe is always conspiring on your behalf. You don’t need to know the whole plan – only the next step


Yvonne Ellis is one of the authors of

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