Site logo

How to stay on track if your New Year’s resolutions have gone awry

 Only February and you’ve failed most of your New Year’s resolutions?

Failed your New Year’s resolutions already? You’re not alone. The good news is getting back on track is easy – with these proven steps.

“So here I am, making my way through 2024…we’re only two months in, and I’ve broken all of my New Year’s resolutions,” writes Samantha Armytage in her column in Sunday Telegraph’s Stellar magazine. And Sam’s not alone. In fact, studies show that up to 80% of adults fail their resolutions by February. So if you’ve already tucked into that second pack of Tim Tams, missed more gym classes than you want to count, take heart – there are some simple ways to get back on track.

According to Ella Tremaine, registered psychologist at Untangled Psychology, Leichhardt, one of the reasons so many people botch their New Year’s resolutions is timing. Whilst the beginning of the year encourages a fresh start, the reality is not everyone is ready and organised to make big changes come January 1.

“Some people might set goals with good intentions but aren’t fully prepared for the mental and emotional adjustments needed. And you know what happens then? Sticking to those goals becomes a bit trickier,” says Ella.

So what’s holding most people back from achieving their resolutions?

Ella, a clinical psychologist who specialises in helping people navigate their emotional well-being, says that lacking self-belief, a perfectionist mindset and having broad and undefined objectives are amongst the main hurdles to achieving our goals.

“A common pitfall is the pursuit of all-or-nothing thinking,” says Ella. “We tend to view a minor setback as a failure and when this occurs we can abandon our goals altogether as they can be perceived as “unachievable”.

Podcast host and author, Jay Shetty, agrees. On his award-winning wellness podcast, On Purpose, Jay emphasises that what can impact people the most is how they feel after they do something. Unfortunately, when we fail at something – like not going to the gym or over-indulging in the wrong foods – our tendency is to fill our heads with negative talk.

Image courtesy of Judit Peter,

So how do we set better goals?

Before embarking on new goals, psychologist Ella Tremaine suggests going back to your ‘why’ – reflecting on why the change is important and what our motivation to change is.

“A goal without motivation is like a car without petrol – it won’t go anywhere,” says Ella. “When setting a goal, we need to ask ourselves why is this change important? Setting goals that align with your personal values and motivation increases your chance of commitment.”

According to Ella, there are three easy ways to set goals that we can actually keep.

🌟Be realistic: Whilst it’s tempting to set lofty goals and expectations, research shows that effective goals should be challenging enough to motivate you, but not so impossible that they’re unachievable. So if you want to increase your fitness but haven’t picked up a dumb-bell in years, competing in an Ironman comp might not be the most realistic goal to set in your first six months of re-starting exercise.


Image courtesy of Gabin Vallet,


🌟 Set specific defined goals: Most of us have been involved in a work-related meeting or workshop where the SMART acronym has been rolled out when setting objectives. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound goals work just as well in business as they do in personal life because, let’s be honest, broad, general goals are hard to achieve. How do you know you’ve lost those Xmas kilos if you don’t know how much you actually need to lose? (Ok the jeans test might work for this one but you get the drift!). Specific goals can provide a clear roadmap and help us to track and measure our progress.


🌟 Set interim goals: To paraphrase human rights activist and bishop Desmond Tutu, achieving big, ambitious goals is like eating an elephant – one bite at a time. Breaking down large goals into small, manageable steps provides a continuous sense of achievement and increases your motivation. As anyone who has run a marathon will tell you, it’s starting those first 5kms that makes all the difference.


So what can you do if you’ve broken every resolution you’ve set – and it’s only February?!

According to Jay Shetty, cognitive restructuring – a technique that helps people notice and change negative thinking patterns – can help us to stay focussed when we don’t hit our goals. In the On Purpose episode, “8 Scientifically Proven Ways To Stay Motivated Before You Get Off Track (When Things Get Tough),” Jay outlines that through cognitive restructuring we become aware of the dialogue that’s going on in our minds and how that dialogue has changed.

Jay Shetty (image courtesy of Armchair Expert)


When we’ve failed at something – whether it’s bingeing on a tub of ice cream or hitting snooze when we’re meant to be hitting the treadmill, Jay encourages us to reappraise our inner voice and to consciously choose a different thought process. For example, instead of berating ourselves over a missed workout, we can reframe this dialogue as, “I needed some time for recovery. I’m going to be so excited and enthusiastic to get back to it tomorrow because I had a well-deserved break.”

According to Jay, you’re not telling yourself that you made the right decision or that everything is perfect. Instead framing or reframing the situation that you went through in a way that makes it a healthier belief can help get you back on track.


Image courtesy of To a Heftiba,


Psychologist Ella Tremaine shares a similar view and suggests we look at set-backs in a different way. Seeing problems as temporary bumps or challenges that can be overcome, rather than a permanent failure, can help us when the going gets tough. And if progress feels challenging, Ella suggests the following research-based strategies.


🌟 Exercise self-compassion: Remember, we’re human, not robots. Ask yourself, would you criticise a friend for falling back into old habits? Encourage yourself, acknowledging that setbacks are a normal part of the change journey and part of your own personal growth.


🌟 Reassess strategies and goals: British actress and activist Jameela Jamil once said, “Every twist and turn in life is an opportunity to learn something new about yourself.” To take a leaf out of her book, treat setbacks as learning opportunities. If you’ve hit a snag on landing that dream job or achieving your target fitness level, take a moment to reflect on whether your goals are realistic and achievable given your circumstances. Once you’ve assessed potential barriers and considered solutions, you can recalibrate as required.

Image courtesy of Ask Abayev,

🌟 Seek External Support: There’s a reason why support groups like the AA work. It’s proven that being surrounded by like-minded people and sharing your goals (and setbacks) can provide the encouragement we need to overcome difficulties and keep us accountable. So find a coach, mentor, counsellor, personal fitness guru, even an accountability group – these are the folk who will celebrate your wins and help you get back on track when those road bumps pop up.

Want more? Read counsellor and register nurse Helen Reese’s thoughts setting meaningful goals here.


Do you set resolutions? If so, how have you managed to stay on track? Leave a comment below on how you’ve stayed on track or, if you’ve slipped up along the way, how have you gotten back on the path to achieving your goals?


About Author


  • No comments yet.
  • Add a comment

    Sign up to our Newsletter to be the first to know of
    upcoming events, competitions and everything Inner West!

    You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

    There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

    Inner West Mums will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.