new years resolutions

New Years Resolutions

It’s that time of year again when millions of people around the world are setting New Year’s resolutions. From losing weight to learning a new skill, these promises to ourselves symbolize a fresh start and a chance to make meaningful changes.

But have you ever wondered why some resolutions seem to stick while others fade away before spring arrives? What if science could provide insights into making and keeping these annual commitments?

Imagine understanding the psychological and social factors that influence the success of your resolutions. Picture yourself not just setting goals but achieving them, guided by evidence-based strategies.

In this article, we’ll dive into the scientific research behind New Year’s resolutions, focusing on peer-reviewed studies that shed light on this fascinating practice.

Whether you’re setting resolutions for the first time or looking to improve your success rate, this comprehensive guide offers valuable insights and practical tips.

Key Takeaways
  • The Nature of New Year’s Resolutions: Exploring what resolutions people make, their success rates, and the factors that influence their achievement.
  • Psychological Insights: Understanding the psychology behind goal pursuit, including the role of motivation, habit formation, and subjective well-being in New Year’s resolutions.
  • Social Sustainability and Goal Setting: Investigating the connection between social sustainability in the workplace and personal goal setting, including New Year’s resolutions.

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The Nature of New Year’s Resolutions

The Nature of New Years Resolutions

What Resolutions Do People Make?

A study involving 1066 participants from the general public revealed that the most popular resolutions often revolve around physical health, weight loss, and eating habits.

These goals reflect a common desire for self-improvement and well-being1.

Success Rates and Influencing Factors

  • 55% of participants in the study considered themselves successful in sustaining their resolutions at a one-year follow-up1
  • Approach-oriented goals (focusing on achieving positive outcomes) had a success rate of 58.9%1
  • Avoidance-oriented goals (focusing on avoiding negative outcomes) had a success rate of 47.1%1
  • Participants who received some support were exclusively and significantly more successful compared to others1

Psychological Insights

Psychological Insights

Goal Pursuit in Daily Life

Understanding the daily pursuit of goals, such as New Year’s resolutions, can provide insights into subjective and objective well-being. Research on ordinary goal pursuit has shown that motivation and habit formation are associated with subjective success.

The three most common resolution outcomes at the end of the year were achievement (20% to 40%), continued pursuit (32% to 60%), and pursuit put on hold (15% to 21%)4.

Subjective Well-Being (SWB) and Resolutions

The science of SWB has grown significantly, and factors such as optimism, resilience, self-esteem, and support from family and friends have a direct effect on SWB.

These elements can be related to the success of New Year’s resolutions and overall life satisfaction.

The study among Mexican medical and psychology students concluded that there exists a direct effect of optimism, resilience, self-esteem, family support, and friends support on SWB2.

Social Sustainability and Goal Setting

The concept of social sustainability in the workplace can be linked to goal setting, including New Year’s resolutions. Sustainable job design and pro-sustainable job attitudes and motivation are key constructs that can be applied to understand the success of personal and professional resolutions.

A systematic review from 2016 to 2022 identified these constructs, emphasizing the importance of sustainable job behavior and pro-sustainable organizational policies and practices3.


New Year’s resolutions are more than just a tradition; they are a reflection of human psychology and social behavior. Scientific research provides valuable insights into the factors that contribute to the success or failure of these resolutions.

By understanding the underlying psychology and applying evidence-based strategies, individuals can make informed and achievable resolutions, leading to lasting effects even at a one-year follow-up.


  1. Oscarsson M, Carlbring P, Andersson G, Rozental A. A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goalsPLoS One. 2020;15(12):e0234097. Published 2020 Dec 9. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0234097
  2. Leopoldo DG, José MR, Cirilo Humberto GC, and Adrián VO. A Predictive Model of Subjective Well-Being Among Medical and Psychology Students. 2022- 4(1) OAJBS.ID.000390.
  3. Kobal Grum D, Babnik K. The psychological concept of social sustainability in the workplace from the perspective of sustainable goals: A systematic reviewFront Psychol. 2022;13:942204. Published 2022 Aug 15. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.942204
  4. Höchli B, Brügger A, Messner C. Making New Year’s Resolutions that Stick: Exploring how Superordinate and Subordinate Goals Motivate Goal PursuitAppl Psychol Health Well Being. 2020;12(1):30-52. doi:10.1111/aphw.12172
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