I’m sure it’s no surprise – many people give up on their New Year’s and back-to-school resolutions. Some articles claim that 8 out of 10 people ditch their goals as little as one month after setting them. That would mean that only about 20% of people do keep their goals for the year… But is that number accurate? What percentage of New Year’s resolutions fail, really? 80% has always seemed very high to us, so we decided to look into it further.

Image of a man standing triumphantly on top of a mountain. Text reads "How to keep your resolutions." Part of "What Percentage of New Year's Resolutions Fail" article.

The Truth About the New Year’s Resolutions Success Rate: Only 55% of People Give Up

Forbes Magazine is often cited as the source of a study showing that 8 out of 10 people abandon their New Year’s resolutions.

But when we did some digging, there was a little surprise in store for us. Forbes’ New Year’s Resolutions Statistics 2023 reveals a lot of interesting data surrounding what percentage of New Year’s resolutions fail. In reality, “only 55%” of people admit to having given up on their goals for the year.

Forbes’ conclusions were based on a December 2020 Ipsos poll of 1,005 adults in the United States. The survey had several interesting key findings:

📝 Only 38% of respondents stated that they were setting one or more resolutions. That means that 62% don’t make this a habit.

👩‍🎨 22% of people who do set a resolution choose to develop or learn a new skill, like learning a new language.

👍 And finally, 45% of people who set resolutions kept them for the whole year, meaning that only 55% did not.


Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

One of the most interesting parts of the article was about why people had given up on their goals:

  • I lost my motivation: 35%
  • I was too busy: 19%
  • I changed my mind: 18%
  • I didn’t have enough support: 11%
  • Another reason: 11%
  • I don’t know: 5%

(I know, those numbers only add up to 99%, but they probably rounded.)

Bonnes resolutions

Let’s take a deeper look at these reasons:

  • loss of motivation was the top concern = this isn’t surprising, and confirms what we hear from our own users.
  • lack of time = yet again, the feeling of not having enough time is very common. In our experience, when someone says “I don’t have enough time” it means their priorities aren’t lining up with their goals. The root issue is usually still a lack of motivation.
  • some people simply change their minds = of course, everyone has the right to make a mistake, and being able to re-evaluate situations is a good sign of adaptability and emotional intelligence. But this figure does beg the question of whether there was a strong motivation in the first place.
  • lack of support: this is very interesting, and certainly an important factor that we see among our own users. It can be tricky to stay on track over the long term if you don’t have a social circle, support system, or environment that encourages you. In a moment, we’ll have a look at a couple of strategies that can help in these cases.

In summary, the loss or lack of motivation is the most commonly cited factor. So, naturally, we need to identify strategies to build up motivation and keep it going strong over time. In fact, this is always something that we consider when we’re working on developing and improving our language courses.


When Do Most Resolutions Fail?

Now let’s have a look at another side of this issue: when do New Year’s resolutions fail?

According to the same poll:

  • in less than 30 days: 11%
  • between 1 and 3 months later: 19%
  • between 3 and 6 months later: 14%
  • between 6 and 11 months later: 11%

So the situation is not nearly as bad as we thought! 45% of people achieved their annual goals, and only 11% of poll respondents gave up after fewer than 30 days. If the results are accurate, this is good news!

Granted, this poll was done only in the United States and was based on the honor system (self-reporting), so it’s likely that the number of people who don’t stick to their goals is a little bit higher. But it can give us a good general idea.

A day to celebrate your failures: “Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day”

Interesting side note: in our collective imagination, the act of giving up on a New Year’s resolution seems so common and relatable that it’s inspired the creation of an entire holiday. It’s called “Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day” and is celebrated on January 17. A couple of weeks after the height of enthusiasm and motivation, some start to waver and give up their goals.

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There’s another variation called “Quitter’s Day.” This date changes every year because it falls on the second Friday of January.

In any case, these two dates show that there’s a degree of cynicism and humor surrounding the tradition of resolutions. In fact, the poll mentioned above found that the majority of the population—62%—doesn’t bother setting New Year’s resolutions at all.

We don’t know their reasons, but I find it a little sad to not try anything. I’m always inclined to try something and accept failures, rather than avoid it altogether.


Maximize Your Chances for Success: Strategies to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

A woman is wearing a floral bathing suit and standing in front of the ocean. She has both hands in the air and holding a trophy in one hand and grinning.

Going back to the analysis from the Ipsos poll, the good news is that there are steps we can all take to improve our chances of success. This is especially applicable to learning new languages. Here are a few tips based on the poll’s findings and our own experience:

  1. Find a powerful motivator

Make sure you have strong enough motivation to support your reason for learning. Maybe you need to learn another language for work, or you have an exciting trip coming up. Or it could just be a dream you’ve always had. Whatever it is, keep this motivation front of mind and use it to feed your desire to learn.

This article might provide a little inspiration, if you need it: Seven Great Reasons to Learn a Language

  1. Set concrete goals

Set yourself clear goals along the way. Avoid anything too general like “I want to learn Spanish.” Instead, focus on concrete progress, like “I want to pass one level in three months” or “I want to learn 900 new words and phrases in three months.”

  1. Schedule realistic practice time

Take the time to practice daily. Our tips:

  • Schedule study/practice sessions in your daily agenda,
  • Respect these windows of time like you would any other important engagement,
  • Aim for micro-sessions of 10-15 minutes to make sure you’re able to put time in no matter how busy you are.
  1. Create action-oriented objectives

Set goals for yourself that are action- and activity-based:

  • “I’m going to study for 30 minutes per day,”
  • “I’m going to participate in an online conversation group once per week,”
  • or “I’m going to watch an episode of a show in my target language every week.”
  1. Design a support system

Finally, build yourself a support system to help keep you on track. Our advice:

  • Use an app like MosaLingua that sends you notifications to remind you to practice,
  • Set a new goal every three months instead of one daunting year-long goal,
  • Share your goals with a friend or family member so they can help hold you accountable,
  • Write your goals down and post them in a visible location to keep them in focus,
  • Keep track of your progress with a bullet journal or a note-taking app like Notion or Evernote,
  • Don’t count too heavily on your own willpower, but instead set yourself up for success by establishing strong habits that support your goals. To see what we mean, have a look at our article on productivity-boosting habits.


Conclusion: Now You Know What Percentage of New Year’s Resolutions Fail, and How to Avoid Becoming a Statistic

It’s not the end of the world if you give up on your New Year’s resolution. But we think it’s helpful to know what percentage of New Year’s resolutions fail – and what you can do to avoid some of those pitfalls.

It’s also pretty encouraging to see that 45% of people do seem to keep working toward their goals over the year. With our experience-based tips and tricks, you have all the tools you need to start strategizing for success!

We wish you all the best as you work toward your language goals for the year!

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