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15 New Year’s Resolutions That Are Impossible to Stick To

Most resolutions fail because they’re more like dreams than goals. Ditch these pie-in-the-sky promises for a better, healthier year to come.

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1. To Be More Positive

It’s sounds simple, pleasant, and easy enough, but setting an arbitrary resolution to be “better” at something is too vague to yield actual results. “Emotions and responsiveness to life can vary from day to day, so what’s more positive one day could be totally different the next,” says Amber Hurdle, certified life coach who works with female entrepreneurs. “Instead, resolve to choose gratitude and happiness daily, focusing specifically on replacing negative habits and thoughts with positive ones.” Try reading motivational, personal, or professional development books, spiritual novels, listen to inspiring podcasts, or watch uplifting videos online to work your way out of a negative head space.

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2. To Spend More Time with Family

This is certainly a noble and amicable resolution for anyone, but there will likely be behaviours and obstacles getting in the way of your ability to see it through. “Having ‘more time’ to spend with loved ones unfortunately comes down to logistics and priorities, which are changing constantly as the time available in our schedule changes,” says life coach Jennifer Horton, MS. “So promising that you’ll miraculously have more time available to designate to your family come January 1 is not really fair to yourself or your loved ones.” Instead, take the time to assess and evaluate your life from an outside perspective. Based on how you spend your time, what is obviously important to you? Determine your true priorities—whether they match how you’re spending your time or not—and devise ways to devote time and attention to pursuing them. Delegate those time wasters that eat up valuable time, even if that means hiring people to take over tasks such as housekeeping and yard work that distract from your chosen priorities. Even an hour or two per week can dramatically add time to your schedule to focus on more important things.

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3. To Improve Relationships with Friends or Family

Ultimately, improving your relationships improves your overall satisfaction in life, but simply stating that you want to improve your relationships leaves too many variables in the hands of others. The one thing you can control is how much forgiveness you show, because you aren’t hurting anyone but yourself by holding on to anger and resentment. “Sometimes it’s easier to forgive someone else than it is to (really) forgive yourself,” says Hurdle. “So set out to work on showing yourself grace for things like making a bad financial decision, entering into the wrong relationship, eating too much over the weekend, or whatever you beat yourself up over. Forgiving others—and yourself—paves the way for better relationships across the board.

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4. To Fall in Love or Find a Relationship

Having love in your life is always a beautiful intention, however, allowing the natural process to unfold is even more beautiful when the intentions are pure. “For one to have a healthy intimate relationship with another, one must first have a healthy relationship with one’s own self first and foremost,” says Horton. “When we’re ‘looking’ for something, it infers that we’ve lost something, but a relationship cannot be lost when it is not yet discovered.” Instead, make a resolution to become more aware of your strengths and values, and develop a plan to meet more people within a certain time frame. When you’re content with yourself, you often stop seeking out that soulmate and, when you do that, often the right person arrives in your life anyway.

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5. To Get Divorced or End a Relationship

If there’s turmoil in your relationship, try intending to receive kindness, understanding, and love in your new year instead of focusing on a single goal to destroy what you’ve built. Sure, maybe this person truly is not right for you and you would be happier without them in your life—but pinning the idea on a new year’s resolution that will dramatically happen with a change in season can be tricky. “Instead, if you’re in the midst of a challenging partnership, you might make the resolution to research three options for improvement, for instance setting an appointment with a marriage counselor or a communication coach,” suggests Kelsey Patel, a Beverly Hills, California-based life coach. “Prolonging such a huge decision allows you ample time to truly contemplate the final results of such a split.”

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6. To Quit Your Current Job

It might sound tempting to ditch your job on a certain date, but don’t rush to draft your resignation, experts say. “The moment you make that decision, you may feel more lost than ever—or relieved!—but is that risk worth it?” asks Jessi L. LaCosta, resilience advisor and board-certified leadership and life coach. Instead of focusing on the part of your job that you dislike—your work, your boss, your commute—make an effort to meet the right people and start working on passion projects that may end up redeeming the job for you. “When you focus on your happiness and your desires, everything else around you can easily and gracefully shift in your favour,” LaCosta says.

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7. To Travel More

Making a resolution to travel more can take you many wonderful places. But if you truly want to travel abroad, for example, simply saying you want to travel more can lead you to the same tired vacation spot you’ve gone to since childhood. Instead, make concrete plans to take your dream trips. “Take action as if your desired trips are without question going to become a reality,” suggests Hurdle. Do you want to travel the world with your family? Update your passports. Start learning the language together. “When you take your dreams seriously and actually believe that they can become a reality, you can start turning an ambiguous ‘travel more’ resolution turn into actual life-changing experiences,” Hurdle says.

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8. To Have a Child

Deciding to start a family is an undoubtedly exciting and momentous experience, but it comes with its own pressures and unforeseen factors. Certainly you can begin trying to get pregnant if that’s on your agenda for the new year. But make other plans too. “If you feel a strong desire to be a parent, make a resolution to enroll in a parenting class or become a mentor—something that has a high certainty of happening and applies considerably less pressure,” LaCosta says.

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9. To Totally Re-Invent Yourself

Discovering a new you can be a great idea, unless you don’t have a grounded, substantial reason for doing it. “Instead, resolve to define and develop your own personal purpose and place a time frame around that,” suggests LaCosta. “Tell yourself that you will develop a one-to-three sentence statement that defines who you are, the value you bring to others and the impact you intend to make for your family, community, or even the world.” This way, you are re-inventing yourself with an authentic intention and actual implementation.

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10. To Stop Procrastinating

Arbitrarily saying that you’re going to stop procrastinating may seem like a great resolution that can help many future goals. But where’s the game plan to make this mindset shift actually happen? “Instead of committing to end procrastination in theory, put the commitment to action by building accountability into your life through support environments,” suggests Hurdle. “You can join a support group, a mastermind for your business, a financial class, or even an organization like Alcoholics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous.” Connecting with people who will support your goals can help you achieve whatever you set your mind to without the temptation to put it off.

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11. To Lose Weight

This might be the most popular New Year’s resolution, but experts warn that it’s the worst. “There are too many factors at play when it comes to someone’s body weight,” says Hurdle. “Body composition can dramatically change with limited-to-no change in the actual number on the scale. Also, you may have to uncover digestive, hormonal, or other health challenges, for example, before you can start seeing any results.” A more practical approach is to start building healthy habits one at a time, like committing to join a gym; then finding a workout buddy or an awesome class you enjoy. If you commit to going three days a week, people will miss you if you aren’t there and encourage you when you make progress. Resolving to establish the foundational practices that lead to weight loss will produce ongoing wins and keep you focused and hopeful to ultimately slim down for good.

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12. To Quit Smoking

This commendable resolution is also a tough one. “Anyone who’s battled addiction knows that the process involves many steps—certainly more than just ‘quit’,” says Jennifer Dene, celebrity health coach and Pilates instructor. “The first step typically involves the smoker determining why they developed this unhealthy coping mechanism in the first place and work toward satisfying those urges in healthier ways.” In lieu of the resolution to quit smoking directly, resolve to find a support group that will get the ball rolling on this effort. “An accountability partner, just like a sponsor, helps you learn to live with your addiction without indulging,” says Horton.

Check out these ex-smokers’ tips on what helped them quit for good.

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13. To Be More Outgoing or Extroverted

We’d all love to be the life of the party, but the reality is that our personalities are unique—and that’s fine! “Instead of resolving to be more outgoing, resolve to become more aware of your own strengths and values, as well as the types of people and activities you are drawn to,” says LaCosta. In this way you may slowly find yourself becoming more active around others when you’re comfortable.

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14. To Manage Stress Better

Here’s another seemingly simple resolution with no real “how to” behind it. “This should not be a resolution, but instead an everyday agenda that starts by kicking the Negative Nancys and Negative Neds out of your life,” says Hurdle. “Just because you’ve been friends (or even family) for years does not mean you have to choose to spend your limited time with complainers or people who are constantly stirring the pot.” By phasing out the time you spend with people who create stress for you, you will be better able to manage the natural stresses of life.

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15. To Stop Arguing All the Time

Conflict, when aggressive and one-sided, can be mean-spirited, damaging, and toxic. Yet conflict itself can also inspire groundbreaking thinking, innovation, and even healing. “Instead or trying to remove all disagreements from your life (which is fairly impossible), maybe resolve to learn more about your own triggers and emotions when it comes to frustration and anger—and also when it comes to acceptance and appreciation,” suggests LaCosta. “Finding a better way to respond to things is more beneficial than trying to remove arguments and conflict altogether.”

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest