How Not to Make New Year's Resolutions

If you make these missteps while setting New Year's resolutions, your plan could go up in smoke like these fireworks. (Photo: Aleksandr Simonov/

I love that “new year” vibe I get as the calendar starts over again. Whether it’s the turn of a new day, new month or a new year, that newness gives us a fresh start and the chance to do life better. It’s an inspiring feeling, and that feeling can lead you to better your life and your choices.

But there is a downside as well. If we make resolutions or set goals that we don’t meet, it can discourage us further. For example, say you’d like to lose weight, so you decide to set the lofty goal of losing a lot of pounds before February. You fall far behind in that goal in January, get discouraged, and then spend the rest of the year trying to binge-eat your way into happiness. Resolutions can be very powerful, but they must be used correctly or they can have a negative effect on our lives.

Here are a few thoughts on what NOT to do.

Don’t make goals impossible to meet

As inspiring as it is to set next-to-impossible goals, make sure your goals are actually attainable and reasonable — especially if you get easily discouraged. Your goals shouldn’t set you up for failure, but should be ones that you can thrive at striving towards. Be honest with yourself about what goals you can actually attain. It feels so good to actually meet a goal, so don't miss out on the opportunity by making goals you can't possibly hit.

Don’t make overarching resolutions or goals

Any goal that you make should be broken into bite-sized pieces. For example, say you have a long-term goal to learn Japanese. What’s the first step you need to make? Make your first goal something like, “Complete a Japanese class at the local college.” It’s specific and doable, and you'll know exactly when you’ve met your goal.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

Did you make a goal you didn’t meet? Don’t be so hard on yourself! Did you know that some business investors consider it a positive for a business owner to go through failure and not just experience success? Once you’ve learned to work through failures, it shows that you have what it takes to become a success. Every failure is an opportunity to learn. Don’t waste it, don’t let it discourage you, but learn from it.