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The Most Common New Year’s Resolution Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

✓ Fact checked by: Dr. Glen M Doniger, PhD

At the start of each year, people worldwide are asking themselves the same question: “How do I keep my New Year's resolutions?“

If you’re wondering what the difference is between people who stick to their resolutions and those who don’t, keep in mind that it’s not about willpower or motivation. It’s about creating the right habits.

But why is it so hard to stay consistent? In the book Atomic Habits, author James Clear identifies the most common mistakes people make while developing new behaviors and offers solutions to prevent slip-ups.

Mistake #1: Not knowing what’s driving you to make a change

Developing habits is much more than saying you want something to happen. If you clearly define what you want and understand why you want it in the first place, your odds of success will increase.


  • Find your “why”. Think about why developing a new habit is worth your time and effort. How will it improve your life? Be specific. For example, is quitting smoking going to help you become more active and enjoy something like hiking in a way that you weren’t able to before?

  • Write down your resolutions. The physical act of writing down a goal makes it real and tangible.

Mistake #2: Starting multiple habits at once

Every habit consists of three components: a cue, a routine, and a reward. The cue is a trigger that reminds you to perform a habit, a routine is an action you do, and the reward is the payoff you get. The more you repeat a behavior, the more automatic it becomes.

While the process might sound simple, creating habits can take a lot of mental energy, especially in the beginning. You can save mental energy by focusing on creating one habit at a time.


  • Pick a keystone habit. A keystone habit is a routine that pulls the rest of your life in line.

For example, by choosing regular exercise as your keystone habit, other areas of your life might improve. You might start eating healthier. Or sleeping better and waking up with more energy. Keystone habits create a domino effect and reprogram other routines.

Mistake #3: Starting too big

The most challenging part of developing a habit is starting the behavior.

For example, it's not easy to do a 30-minute workout session every morning, but it's easier to do ten pushups.

The idea is to start small and make your new habits non-threatening. That way, it's more likely you'll follow through.