‘Resolutions are a bit like puppies’ - What not to do for New Year’s

“Ask yourself ‘Who’s going to hold me accountable?"
Ellen Kenny
Ellen Kenny

08.00 1 Jan 2024

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‘Resolutions are a bit like pu...

‘Resolutions are a bit like puppies’ - What not to do for New Year’s

Ellen Kenny
Ellen Kenny

08.00 1 Jan 2024

Share this article

January 1st brings a lot of resolutions for the new year and, according to life coaches, a lot of people who can’t follow through. 

Leadership coach and author of The Inner CEO Shane Cradock can pinpoint the near-exact time people give up. 

“The third week of January,” he said. “You see it from experience, and there's a bit of research around to show that literally by January 21st, most people have fallen off. 


Life coach Mark Fennell said people often only commit to new goals for the sake of New Year tradition. 

“It's like when someone gets a puppy at Christmas,” he said. “People are like, ‘All right, it’s New Year's.” 

“I hate that phrase ‘new year, new me’ - you just kind of invent this amazing transformation that’s going to happen, and it's very hard to kind of stick and succeed in that.” 

Just like a new puppy isn’t just for Christmas, New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for January – but both life coaches agree most people fail to continue their plans because of simple, avoidable mistakes. 

Beyond the advice of setting measured, timed and achievable goals, there’s also plenty of advice on what you shouldn’t do. 

Don’t have 'New Year’s resolutions’ 

While January might be as good a time as any to set new goals, both Mr Fennell and Mr Craddock agree you shouldn’t imagine them as ‘New Year’s resolutions’. 

“If you’re doing it for the sake of January – most likely, a weak ‘why’ will never survive,” Mr Fennell said. 

“You've got to have a deep-rooted reason; ask yourself the question ‘Why do I want this? What am I going to be at the end of the year?’.” 

"It’s great when we’re all recharged after the holidays, and it's January, so we’re all high level... but the motivation is not going to be consistent.” 

Mr Craddock suggested setting concrete goals for years, not just for New Year's. 

“Instead of doing the traditional resolutions for the year, step back for a second; look at three years and think about your overall life.  

“Ask yourself what would be great to be seeing in three years’ time; behaviours generally have a bigger impact over time than just having a resolution.” 

Picking the wrong resolutions 

Along with not choosing the right time to set goals, Mr Craddock said people can often choose the wrong resolutions. 

“One of the biggest mistakes probably in setting resolutions is not picking the right ones or picking too many,” he said. 

He recalled one client he worked with for years who had been floundering in his goal to quit smoking. 

“A lot of his other goals, he had achieved,” he said. “And I said, ‘Look, will you just take it off the list’. 

“Don’t be putting things in that you don’t really want to commit to because a lot of the time we put things in because we feel we have to or somebody else said we should.” 

Person writing list of aims in a notebook. Image: Josie Elias / Alamy Stock Photo Person writing list of aims in a notebook. Image: Josie Elias / Alamy Stock Photo

Mr Fennell also said people who pick the “classic” resolutions are doing so without real thought into how they’ll make it work. 

“Changing eating systems never last,” he said. “A lot of people will try and just without extra knowledge will just try to lose weight for the summer. 

“They're usually destined to fail because there’s still a few mince pies in the press. 

“You’ve got to think in terms of when you start this journey... is your lifestyle going to support it and what changes do you need to make to do that.” 

Don’t do it alone 

While you shouldn’t set New Year’s resolutions for the sake of someone else, Mr Craddock emphasised the importance of having support. 

“I think the single biggest reason why most resolutions don't happen is because of a lack of accountability,” he said. 

“Ask yourself ‘Who’s going to hold me accountable? What’s my system, what’s my plan?’.” 

A recent study by Forbes Health found only 8% of people stick with their New Year’s resolutions beyond January. 

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