Do New Year's Resolutions Work?

Posted by Sam Griffin in Personal Finance on 24 December 2019

Before launching yourself into a New Year’s resolution, it’s worth treating the age old tradition like any other product or service – check out reviews from people that have already tried it, see if it’s worth the effort and – crucially – find out whether or not it will actually work.

The truth is that New Year’s resolutions remain popular but that there are more reliable and effective ways of meeting your goals. If New Year’s resolutions are supposed to improve quality of life, then unfortunately they fail right out of the gate. Success rates have a proven track record of nosediving before February and the failure only makes people feel bad about themselves (don’t worry, this article does have a happy ending).

How many New Year’s Resolutions fail every year?

Every year around one in four of us will embark on a New Year’s resolution, with high hopes it will return dividends later on. YouGov shows that younger people are more likely to make a resolution and women are more likely to take part than men. Interestingly, those in London are 50% more likely to make a resolution that those in Wales - but are no more successful.

Resolutions are simply a focus on our health and happiness. Like planting a seed early in the year that should grow into something beneficial – more savings, a healthier body, drinking less alcohol – further down the line. The trouble is that, while the concept of keeping to our resolutions may sound good, the reality is very different.

According to Bupa, 80% of UK New Year’s Resolutions fail before March. Even so, Brits are actually among the most successful at keeping to their resolutions – Americans abandon more than 80% of attempts before February.

Less than 8% of Brits achieve their overall goal. Try flipping a coin and landing heads four times in a row – it’s about as likely, but you (hopefully) won’t have spent a couple of months focusing on it.

Why do we fail New Year’s Resolutions?

Resolutions don’t work because we don’t want them. And we don’t want them because they don’t work. It’s a cycle likely to spit you out within the first couple of months, feeling a bit dejected with no real progress.

One of the main reasons for resolutions routinely failing so early is that we feel overwhelmed by the lofty, unrealistic goals we set for ourselves. On the surface, it makes sense to think that setting high expectations lets you enjoy real, measurable improvements. People also tell themselves that, if they fall short of the moon they may land on a star – but in truth it’s far more likely they’ll come crashing down to earth with bruised self-esteem.

It doesn’t matter how impressive your goals are if they’re not being realised. Meeting the goals isn’t half the battle – it’s the whole thing.

A lack of clarity also feeds the failure rate. Common UK resolutions include ‘get a better work-to-life balance’ (12% of people polled by YouGov) and ‘find more me time’ (12% again). The problem with these types of goals is that the attainment of these resolutions isn’t measurable – there’s no real way to know whether or not you’re meeting or missing them because they’re so vague. Find more ‘me time’? How much more and how would this be achieved?

If a resolution wants to stand a chance at success, it needs clarity so you can tell whether you are doing enough (or too much) to achieve your goal. After all, you can pump your life full of ‘me time’ by leaving your job, thereby smashing the New Year’s resolution, but you’ll have a host of new problems to contend with.

The game is rigged from the start and each failure (however small at the beginning) only naturally makes you more discouraged. When you fail to meet an unrealistic goal, your faith and focus start to waver which means you’re likely to fail more, which in turn leads to more discouragement. You’ll be left wondering why you ever bothered in the first place. Which, to be fair, is a good point.

Why invest time and effort in something with such a massive failure rate? If your cars brakes failed 80% of the time, you’d rightly get them sorted. Persevering with dodgy brakes simply because the concept of having brakes is a good idea shouldn’t be enough on its own.

What should I do instead?

The concept behind New Year’s resolutions is a great one. To focus on yourself and find areas for improvement is important to grow as a person. The practicality of undertaking and maintaining these lofty goals though is a different story.

The most reliable way to effect positive change is via small, easy decisions that bring a good amount of benefit. Say you’re looking to focus on your finances. Instead of bogging yourself down with an overwhelming, foggy idea of ‘getting your money in order’, you can instead check your Credit Report each month. It’s easy to achieve, inexpensive, and fulfils exactly what you’re looking for. Unlike resolutions which are usually to be abandoned within a couple of months, it’s easy to get into the habit of checking your Credit Report regularly, which means you’ll actually see some benefit.

Your Credit Report shows how your credit accounts are managed, the status of any Court Records, and your Financial Associations, to name just a few examples. This is important for you because it shows what a potential lender will see should you apply for credit – this way you’ll know exactly where you stand before you commit to an application.

If your Credit Rating could do with improvement, you’ll be able to plan how and when that might happen and if for any reason you spot an error, it’s painless to get it sorted.

How do I check my Credit Report?

You can save time and gain peace of mind by using checkmyfile. Our Multi Agency Credit Report is the most detailed in the UK, showing your complete information from all four Credit Reference Agencies in one easy-to-use format, so it’s the only service you’ll need to be fully informed about your Credit History.

Try us free for 30 days, then just £14.99 per month. Sign-up is quick and you can cancel online at any time. If you’re unsure about anything, our professionally qualified UK Credit Analysts happy to help through your account.

So say goodbye to fad diets and flimsy financial promises and look at the long-term. Your finances will thank you.

How Far Back Can I get my Credit History?

For your recent payment history information, your Credit Report has everything you need; that’s why it’s given so much importance by lenders whenever you apply for credit. But if you’re looking for information that’s six years old or more, it’s probably not be the best place to start.

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