How to Turn New Year’s Resolution Failure Into System Success

How to Turn New Year’s Resolution Failure Into System Success

January is the traditional time of year when we reflect and look forward to the year ahead of us. It’s a popular time to set resolutions.

Why don’t resolutions often work?

Setting a new year’s resolution can feel good because it gives you the chance to start anew with a clean slate. At the beginning of setting new year’s resolutions, motivation may be high. Before you know it though, you’ve gone off the rails and already fallen back to your old ways. Why is this?

  • Relying on motivation is not effective. Motivation is difficult to sustain over a long period of time and tends to fall off quickly.
  • Resolutions tend to be more sticky if they are written down, however most people skip this step.
  • Setting the resolution may be too broad and not specific enough. For example, saying this is the year you will get organized isn’t specific enough. What area in your life do you want to improve your organization? Is it in your office, kitchen, closet?

Set Systems Instead of Resolutions

Instead of setting resolutions, set systems. Setting a new year’s resolution can be a great first step to improving your life this year. If you are serious about your resolution and really want change, here are steps you can take to improve your success outcome.

  1. Create a system composed of routines to carry you through when your motivation and willpower are low. If you want to be successful, you need to plan for when that inevitably happens.
  2. Commit to your resolution. Be specific with it and write it down. Behavior change can be hard, but you can make it easier. Expect to revert back to old behaviors once in a while, because that’s normal. You will fall down and that’s ok. When that happens, forgive yourself and keep going.

Habit Stacking

Chances are that you are already doing some things that are habits already working in your life. Habits can sometimes be hard to identify because they are behaviors you do that are automatic and take very little to almost no thought for you to accomplish them.

This will require you to set aside some time to identify habits you already do that support you in your life towards your end goal, or habits that work against you in your life that take you further from your end goal.


Keep it realistic. If you’re trying to start a brand new behavior, it will help to be realistic. We may live in an instant gratification society, but this isn’t realistic for long term goals. Creating a stretch goal can be a great technique to keep up motivation, and you may end up achieving it.

But realize even if you don’t achieve your stretch goal, you can achieve a realistic goal. If you end up accomplishing your realistic goal, you can always set a new, higher one to continue to level up. Adjusting your expectations to what’s realistically possible can be a huge ally in keeping your motivation going.

We may live in an instant gratification society, but this isn’t realistic for long term goals.

Michelle Rosen

Enroll a Buddy

Another way to ensure success is to enlist the help of a friend or accountability buddy. Studies show you are more likely to show up and stick to something when you know someone else is counting on you. Make sure this is a person who will support and encourage you. This is someone who will be there to celebrate your successes big and small, and encourage or simply listen when things go off track.

Write it Down

Studies have shown that when you write down your resolution you have already significantly increased the likelihood that you will be successful in achieving it. But don’t just write it down and then file it away in your desk drawer. Keep your resolution visible to yourself where you will see it daily. This will reinforce you constantly on the challenge you have set for yourself.

Phrase it Positively

Do you want to stop doing something instead of starting something new? For example, do you want to resolve to stop impulse shopping when you are online or at a store? Instead of phrasing what you don’t want to do, turn that phrase around to what you want to do instead. 

Turn “I resolve to stop impulse shopping” to “I resolve to look at my shopping list before buying without intention.” Try to identify a behavior, thought pattern or visualization you could substitute.

Taking the example of impulse shopping, you could create a list of the items you need or want, then when you feel the urge to purchase, substitute the action to look at your shopping list first. If the item isn’t already on there, immediately click away from the page or walk away from the item in the store. Then, contact your buddy and celebrate with them that you just had a small victory and did not give in to your impulse.

Push Against Your Comfort Zone

In order to stretch beyond your current habits you’ll need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You can’t expect different results with the same behavior. Change can feel strange at first. But then you get used to it and it becomes part of you.

Ever learned to ride a bike? At first you were wobbly and probably wrecked a few times. Before you knew it though, you were racing along like it was nothing. Make it a practice to embrace your wobbly moments because that’s when you are growing.

Keep It Visible

When you are trying to do something new and it might take some effort, keeping your reminder out and looking at it daily will help keep you on target and focused. There are many ways you can keep your resolution front and center. Use a sticky note on the bathroom mirror. Set it as a daily reminder on your phone. Write it at the top of your planner. Do what works for you.

What is Your Why?

Another reason resolutions often don’t work is that they are really half-hearted. If you are serious about achieving your resolution then link it to why you want to achieve it, and be specific. Do you want to exercise more so that you will be in better shape to have fun, fit into your favorite jeans, look more attractive, or be more healthy and happy?

Track It

Keeping track of your progress is one of the best ways to keep your motivation going. It allows for a short feedback loop that systematizes your path to resolution success. Keep that chain going as long as you can.

Yes, there will be days or times when the chain is broken. This is completely normal. If you have set your expectations realistically, you won’t be deterred. Celebrate and share your tracking success with your buddy.


Celebrating success is vitally important. Celebrating small successes is just as important as celebrating the bigger milestones. Big successes don’t happen without many small ones along the way. A celebration can be a high five, listening to your favorite song, calling your buddy or taking a walk. Whatever it is you decide to do, remember to celebrate your small successes along the way. Your motivation will stay intact.

Michelle is passionate about supporting and motivating people to live the lives they envision for themselves. As the owner of Hop To It Organizers, LLC and a pro organizer, she achieves this by collaborating with clients to deliver customized solutions. Her clients enjoy her empathetic and positive-minded nature when working with her.