New Year’s Resolutions Are Pointless

Making superficial commitments at the beginning of the year only leads to more stress, and it’s time we put the practice to rest


The first activity my elementary school teachers would have us work on after winter break was always to make a New Year’s resolution. We would write a goal on a piece of paper and draw a picture reflecting it, then return to the rug and share our answers. Usually, an eager classmate or two would raise their hands and share things such as brushing their teeth, eating their vegetables or cleaning their rooms. Everyone seemed to make the same resolutions year after year. Nothing changed.

In middle school, I made what ended up being my final New Year’s resolution: jogging in Central Park every weekend. In theory, I appreciated the idea of a good workout, but after a few weeks of January, I realized that keeping this resolution meant placing this reminder on an already long and nonsensical iPhone to-do list. There was something insincere about this resolution. I knew I could exercise whenever, and there would be no real consequences if I didn’t. It was then that I decided to stop making New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve never felt the need to make another again. 

Americans participate in this tradition in an unreasonable manner. Statista found that America’s most common resolutions for 2023 were either to exercise more, eat healthier or lose weight. Making these resolutions is a perfect example of what not to do. Similar to my middle school resolution, these goals could benefit our everyday lives. The problem is the stress created about them, which can discourage people from completing their goals. 

While we shouldn’t shy away from self-improvement, we need to make sure that any goals we set for ourselves are realistic.

I soon realized that I am not the only one who is frustrated and unfulfilled by this annual tradition. Experts agree that for some, making an unrealistic commitment at the beginning of the year can be challenging at best and counterproductive at worst. 

Mia Wiston, a clinical psychologist based in New York City, explained that, “Setting resolutions can increase stress in someone who’s had a hard time with goal-setting at other times of year.” 

She added that the ambitious but vague resolutions that we often have can make it difficult for us to achieve them, which can lead to self-criticism and disappointment. While we shouldn’t shy away from self-improvement, we need to make sure that any goals we set for ourselves are realistic. 

Nutritionist Rebecca Brownstein also reminded students not to try to juggle too many difficult resolutions. 

“While it is great for someone to have goals to give up smoking, drinking and lose weight in the next six months, doing many things at once can be difficult,” she said.

Many members of Generation Z are at an age that requires big, life-changing decisions. That may not be the best time to be adding on more broad, unrealistic and stressful resolutions.

Many members of Generation Z are at an age that requires big, life-changing decisions. That may not be the best time to be adding on more broad, unrealistic and stressful resolutions. Despite this, Forbes Health reported that “Gen Z feels more pressure to set a resolution than any other generation.”

A New York Post survey from 2020 suggested that a lack of discipline, busy schedules and the time needed to successfully meet resolutions are the top reasons people abandon them. These factors are especially prevalent in the lives of college students. Additionally, many of us still feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether we lost someone to COVID-19 or continue to struggle after years of remote learning, some still find themselves lacking the willpower to complete daily responsibilities concerning academics, jobs and other obligations. While it can be beneficial to set a goal for ourselves, it is essential to focus on the basics, especially if we are already overwhelmed with other responsibilities.

We should refrain from forcing ourselves to fit our goals into our busy schedules. College is a time of constant stress, and if we pressure ourselves into something, it is counterproductive to the goal of creating a healthy, stress-free lifestyle. Instead, we should be more aware of the reality that time is finite. No matter how much I want to read 500 books in a year, I know that is impossible given my other responsibilities at school and at home. 

Since resolutions aren’t disappearing anytime soon, a few changes are necessary to make this obsolete tradition more fulfilling.

If you do want to make a resolution, it’s important to be realistic. Brownstein noted that “resolutions should be achievable and create moments to learn something about ourselves.” She encouraged students to sit down with a calendar and make bullet points for goals they’d like to accomplish yearly, daily or even hourly, such as incorporating vegetables into one meal a day or participating in a few practical workouts per week. Those actionable goals on your calendar can then be revisited when you need motivation. 

Wiston echoed this point, saying that “Reframing resolutions as lifestyle changes that people are mindful of throughout the year will likely lead to more success.” 

Even a simple rephrasing of resolutions as lifestyle changes will create a better outlook on how we see our goals. Following Brownstein and Winston’s suggestions will create better results than setting broad goals, allowing us to build stamina toward creating healthier lifestyles. 

Rather than trying to keep yourself accountable for overly broad resolutions— which can easily lead to frustration if you miss a day or lose some progress— it is more productive to share your goals with people you trust, like family or friends. This approach gives you a better support system, and increases the likelihood that you’ll meet your short- and long-term goals. Who knows, you may even inspire your loved ones to join in on your self-improvement journey.

When we set goals for the new year, we must remember that taking care of ourselves is most important. This means focusing less on New Year’s resolutions and more on permanent lifestyle changes and meaningful decisions for our well-being.