January is always the most optimistic time of the year, as millions of people make resolutions to improve themselves. Whether it’s better health, smarter spending, career progress or learning a new skill, changing the calendar provides a fresh start for a better future.
All that optimism fades quickly, however. Most people never achieve their New Year’s goals. One study found that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February.
Why there’s debate
It’s clear that the typical way we go about making resolutions doesn’t work for most people. What’s less obvious is whether resolutions can still work with the right adjustments or if the entire concept is inherently doomed to fail.
Many experts say that simple changes in how you approach your resolution can significantly increase your odds of success. The most common advice includes focusing on simple measurable goals, being realistic about what’s possible, emphasizing process over results and avoiding abstract resolutions like “eat better.”
Others argue that we should abandon New Year’s resolutions entirely. Choosing an arbitrary point on the calendar to declare sweeping lifestyle changes is completely antithetical to self-improvement, some psychologists say.
For those who are motivated by a little friendly competition, you may only need to last a few weeks to do better than the average resolution maker. The fitness app Strava analyzed its data to find the date when users are most likely to give up on their new exercise routines. In 2019, “Quitter’s Day” came on Jan. 17.