Portrait of Marisha Gordan, junior lecturer at BMT College

New Year’s resolutions are a 4,000-year-old tradition started by the ancient Babylonians. If the Babylonians kept to their resolutions, their gods would bestow favour on them for the new year, and if not, they would fall out of the gods’ favour—a place no one wanted to be.

Despite the tradition’s religious background, New Year’s resolutions are mostly a nonspiritual practice today. These resolutions are made to improve yourself and succeed in the coming year. Although New Year’s resolutions may be waiting on a long to-do list, they are never realised. As life happens, circumstances tend to get in the way, studies keep us busy, and work gets busier.

Why do New Year's Resolutions fail?

Graduate looking on fireworks display

Reason #1

Unfortunately, optimism alone does not realise resolutions. Einstein once said that we could not solve a problem on the same level of consciousness that created it. He suggests that to solve a problem or achieve a goal, and we need to shift our perspective or level of understanding beyond the current one.

Reason #2

Goals start at a time of change or when change is needed. Many resolutions are set because it is tradition, resulting in a lack of motivation. Life changes can also be worrying, and it is easier said than done. You may consciously want to achieve a particular goal, but if you’re internally scared to achieve it, you just won’t let yourself do it.

Reason #3

Accountability. We don’t generally make significant changes alone, as most of us need some outside help and an ongoing accountability structure to keep working towards our goals. Studies show that people who set up a way to be accountable for their goals will be twice as likely to achieve them.

Intentions and their importance

Definition of Intention
Source: Merriam-Webster

Intentions should be what you intend to do, a determination to act in a certain way, and identifying what is essential or significant to you. The forces that drive behaviour and what motivates a person are known as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Internal motivation results from within oneself, while external motivation arises from outside forces. Intrinsically motivated people will be engaged in behaviour because they enjoy doing it. If you are extrinsically motivated, you will be motivated by rewards or praise. By identifying how we are motivated, setting intentions will be much easier.

Setting Intentions

Tip 1:

Focus on becoming a better version of yourself rather than worrying about ticking the box next to the list of resolutions. Going to the gym for at least 30 minutes daily (resolution) vs. Living an active lifestyle (intention).

Tip 2:

Approach New Year’s resolutions backwards. What do I mean by this? Identify what went well, what has not, and what exceeded your expectations in 2023 and do more of what’s already working. Did you follow your monthly budget? No – then instead focus on spending habits (intentions) as sticking to the budget (resolution).

Tip 3:

Do what makes you happy – cheesy, I know. Intentionally set yourself up for success by doing things that make you thrive and incorporating them into the lifestyle you envision for yourself. Intrinsically motivated people would benefit most from having a fulfilling lifestyle.

Tip 4:

Be intentional about growing and achieving. Is it your intention to finish your final year at BMT College? Excellent. Is it your intention to get out of the house more often? Well done.

Wrapping up

New Year’s resolutions are a tradition that should not be easily disregarded but adapted to fit your aspirations and objectives for the new year. By using this blank slate wisely, good intentions for the year will help you not fall into old habits and behaviour patterns that leave you in 2023.


This year, I will… set intentions.

Sources of Inspiration:

Batts, R. (2023, February 2). Why most New Year’s resolutions fail. Fisher. https://fisher.osu.edu/blogs/leadreadtoday/why-most-new-years-resolutions-fail


Cherry K. (2023, December 13). Intrinsic motivation vs. extrinsic motivation: what’s the difference? Very well mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/differences-between-extrinsic-and-intrinsic-motivation-2795384


McRae, A. (n.d.). Setting New Year’s intentions. Ana McRae Coaching. https://anamcrae.ca/setting-new-years-intentions/


Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Intention. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved January 3, 2024, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intention


Morris, L. S., Grehl, M. M., Rutter, S. B., Mehta, M., & Westwater, M. L. (2022). On what motivates us: a detailed review of intrinsic v. extrinsic motivation. Psychological medicine, 52(10), 1801–1816. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291722001611


Pruitt, S. (2023, December 19). The history of New Year’s resolutions. History. https://www.history.com/news/the-history-of-new-years-resolutions


Wells, R. (2023, December 31). Six steps to set New Year’s resolutions for 2024 like a leader. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelwells/2023/12/31/6-steps-to-set-new-years-resolutions-for-2024-like-a-leader/?sh=1c75e2062703

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