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5 ways to fail at your New Year’s resolutions

by Headspace

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If resolutions get a bad rap, maybe it’s because the majority of them are designed to fail. By setting impossible goals, and going about them badly, we give ourselves an excuse not to change anything.

We tried, but it was just too hard. There’s no way we can give up smoking/carbs/ compulsively-eBaying-at-work, or not this year anyway. Perhaps we’ll try again in 2017, a comfortingly long time from now.

But let’s be honest, a resolution that we don’t intend to keep, is really just a recommitment to our old behavior. No wonder people tend to take them with a pinch of salt.

So welcome to the Headspace guide to failing at your resolutions.

  1. Make it sudden. Ahh, the bracing sting of cold turkey. Best to take yourself by surprise, because that’s just what the human limbic system likes best: the sudden withdrawal of endorphin-releasing behavior. Don’t set a date to prepare yourself for the change (lol, who does that?) Just ambush your lizard brain on January 1st with the prospect of no chocolate for the rest of your life.
  2. Do it alone. It’s going to be hard to eat less pizza in 2016, but it’s going to be even harder if you don’t know a single other person who doesn’t eat pizza. If you want to make it extra hard, continue to attend your regular Thursday night all-you-can eat pizza buffet, but nurse a salad in the corner, mumbling at your pizza-bros that you’re done with that whole pizza-eating thing. It’s just possible that you know a few people who don’t eat pizza. Never contact them.
  3. Make it negative. If you’re planning to give something up, why replace the behavior with something healthy? Don’t eat carrot sticks instead of chocolate, or read in bed instead of surfing social media on your phone at night, just fill the yawning gap in schedule by thinking about whatever it is you’ve given up. You’ll be back to Snickers bars and Instagram-induced insomnia in no time at all.
  4. Undercommit. The science shows that it takes around two months to develop a new behavior, but who listens to those guys? Instead of setting out your goals over three months, to give yourself time acclimatize, try just judging your performance on the first week or so. If you haven’t managed to commit to your new yoga regime by January 6th, there’s really no point is there?
  5. Judge yourself harshly. There’s nothing like the cycle of guilt that comes from a failed attempt at giving up Parma ham to drive you back into a compulsive charcuterie binge. If you really want your sodium levels to skyrocket, make sure you pile on your self-judgement. It’s all you deserve.

Of course, if you’re interested in a sustainable resolution, that’s relatively easy to keep, I’d recommend a Headspace subscription, accompanied by the exact opposite of everything in this list. Happy new year.


The Headspace app has been downloaded more than 30 million times. It will teach you the life skill of meditation in just 10 minutes a day. Here on the Orange Dot, you'll find stories, advice, and features that will support you on your journey to a healthier, happier life.

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