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What To Do With Failed Resolutions

As I write the I just got back from the gym. It’s been about 3 weeks since the New Years Holiday so the crowds are now beginning to thin. You know the drill, people sign up for New Years Resolutions and 3 weeks later they’ve failed to deliver on their resolution. The question becomes what do they do next with their failed resolutions?

Before you proceed any further you should evaluate why you failed to meet your resolution.  Based on those findings you can then choose your action.

There are really four things you can do when your resolutions fail.

    1. Re-Evaluate or Change Your Goals
      The first option is to attempt to re-evaluate or change your goals. This is a great approach if you’ve been at it for a while and realize your expectations are not in line with reality. It is also a good path if some learning has led you to different conclusions or goals. But it can also become an excuse to walk away from a legitimate goal. You shouldn’t be doing this 2 weeks in to a yearly goal, even if you fried your yearly budget on day 2.
    2. Redouble Your Efforts
      The second option is to redouble your efforts and try to still make your yearly goal. I’m not a big fan of this for one big reason, goals should be stretch goals to begin with. They should challenge you while being obtainable. If you can fail for 2 weeks and still reach your goal for the year you didn’t set your first goal aggressive enough. And if you continually fail to reach your goal you will eventually become disenfranchised and abandon the endeavor altogether.
    3. Reset Your Time Frame
      Which brings us to option 3, the option I prefer. This is to reset your time frame to start from today with the same goal as January 1st. The end point would thus be today a year from now. Be sure in the process to evaluate why you missed your goals for the first 2 weeks as part of this process and address these root causes . Then make another attempt.This option is not without risk. If you do not fix the cause of your first miss, you are doomed to repeat it. If you keep resetting the start date eventually you’ll never start on the goal. But if done in a controlled once or twice environment with proper addressing of legitamate reasons for failure this tends to be my preferred choice.
    4. Give Up
      The last is give up. All too common people do this one. They say it’s already too late to reach their goal, so I’ll just quit trying. The problem with this approach is it falls prey to the sunk cost fallacy. Sure you may already be in the hole from your January 1 start date, but there is nothing to say your resolution has to start on January 1st. Restarting the goal from today may yet benefit you in the long run. After all if it was worth doing on January 1st it’s probably worth doing on January 15th.

Our Failed Resolution

Which brings me to a point here, I’ve failed in a goal for the year already. In the first few weeks of the year we have gone beyond our normal budget. No this was not because of my new game system, which was purchased before some of the surprises. Instead it was because of a multitude of needs. Almost all of these were unavoidable and unforeseeable surprises. Coupled in was prepaying our vacation travel for 2018. Together they have decimated our normal monthly limits for the first 2 weeks of January.

Temporary Setbacks and Permanent Ones

Some of these are temporary, for example the vacation travel will be made up later in the year through travel hacking. But others put us more permanently behind, albeit not necessarily by as wide a margin. In our case it’s not reasonable to think we will make up a few k budget deficit without some sacrifice, and honestly I don’t believe in sacrifice unless things are actually dire. Saving 50% of our income (probably 40% in the first 2 weeks so it’s all relative) means we shouldn’t be using dire in a sentence. Still I want to set goals and control spending for the year.

Pushing Back Resolution Start Dates

As such I’m moving the start date out 2 weeks for our goal to keep spending static from 2017. Note, we’re not really cheating here as with the exception of the vacation, which we still need to include in our travel hack goal for 2017, we’re not talking about prepay here. These were all legitimate and unfortunate family emergencies or needs, not wants or prepays.  Also only this one goal is moving back, as I have reason to believe our other goals are still on track.

Anyway, how do you deal with failed resolutions?


  1. Mr. Groovy
    Mr. Groovy January 22, 2018

    Hey, FTF. Haven’t failed with my resolutions yet (no fast food and TV only on Saturdays). But your approach to resolution failure is very ingenious. I especially like #3, reset your time frame. When I read it, I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Why the heck didn’t I think of that.” Talk about an epiphany. After all, why give up? Just reevaluate your response to the cues that led to such an early failure and start anew. There’s no law saying a New Year’s Resolution can’t start on 1/22. Bravo, my friend.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance January 23, 2018

      I think you have me beat on difficult goals. I don’t think I could limit tv to Saturdays. Thanks for the great comment and the share.

  2. Abigail @ipickuppennies
    Abigail @ipickuppennies January 22, 2018

    I nicely circumvent this by not having resolutions. For a depressive, those can just be too dangerous because you end up beating yourself up so badly that it can affect your overall mental wellbeing.

    Still, I think it’s great that you’re keeping perspective since things kind of fell apart this month. I’m all too familiar with getting hit by expenses out of your control, so I feel for ya.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance January 23, 2018

      Different paths for different folks. Here’s hoping the positive outcomes help keep those feelings somewhat a bay.

  3. Rocky
    Rocky January 24, 2018

    Excellent post! Too often we throw our resolutions by the wayside at the first site of distress. It’s unrealistic to believe that we can make life changing resolutions with no struggle.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance January 24, 2018

      I agree. If it’s not difficult to reach your resolution you haven’t set your bar high enough.

  4. SMM
    SMM January 24, 2018

    I try to make goals manageable, bite-sized versions or sub-goals if you will. I try to lay the groundwork so that the goal(s) are reasonably achievable. For example, I plan to run a 5k in the spring and do it in less than 40 minutes; yes, that’s a good time for me. So I started jogging 3 days per week along with other cardio exercises to build up to this large goal with smaller ones (i.e. 1 mile, 1.5 miles, 2.25 miles and so on).

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance January 24, 2018

      I like this approach as well. Goals build on each other in sort of a framework.

      In a way thats how I know I won’t make the big goal for the year, because early January’s goal was missed by a mile.

  5. Ms ZiYou
    Ms ZiYou January 28, 2018

    Have to admit I have failed slightly with one….dry January was rattled by some free champagne that accidently ended up in my hands…

    On the TV, I guess it’s horse for courses, but I’ve not had one for years….don’t miss it at all. But try to take my internet away from me…

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance January 29, 2018

      You’ll pry the internet from my corspe. One out of two for you isn’t bad.

  6. Ten Factorial Rocks
    Ten Factorial Rocks January 29, 2018

    FTF, I often fail at new year resolutions, so I stopped making any! Instead, I make context-dependent resolutions which I’ve had better success in following through. In other words, use the context where you learned a lesson to serve as a motivator to make and sustain a long-term resolution. Whenever the going gets tough, remember the past context (and how bad you felt then) to motivate you to keep at it!

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance January 29, 2018

      I wouldn’t mind hearing a bit more about that one. Any interest in a guest post?

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