Self-Regulatory Goal Motivational Processes in Sustained New Year Resolution Pursuit and Mental Wellbeing

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 17;18(6):3084. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18063084.


Recent research suggests people typically "give up" pursuing their New Year resolutions within the first month. The present study investigated goal features proposed to be implicated in promoting both mental wellbeing and sustained New Year resolution pursuit. Australian and UK participants (n = 182) took part in an online longitudinal study, including four timepoints over a two-month period. At baseline, participants listed the New Year resolution to which they were most committed, and completed self-report measures to assess mental wellbeing, goal flexibility and tenacity. At the follow-up surveys, participants completed the wellbeing measure and their New Year resolution commitment, effort and stickability. As predicted, flexibility predicted wellbeing across time, however, tenacity did not. Counter to prediction, neither flexibility nor tenacity reported at baseline predicted "sticking" with one's New Year resolution. The predicted interaction between flexibility and tenacity was not significant. New Year resolutions focused predominantly on "diet" and "exercise" were predominantly the same resolutions previously pursued and tended to be relatively abstract. Although goal flexibility predicted greater wellbeing, the findings overall tend to support the view that people are not particularly good at sticking with their New Year resolutions. Implications of the findings are discussed.

Keywords: New Year resolution goal characteristics; New Year resolution “stickability”; New Year resolutions; flexible goal adjustment; goal flexibility; goal tenacity; self-regulation; wellbeing.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Motivation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires