Do you have a return policy for your New Year resolutions?

Do you have a return policy for your New Year resolutions?

2018 is almost over so it’s natural to look forward to the coming year and consider what may be different. It’s a New Year, so do you want to be a “new you”? If so, what are your New Year’s resolutions for 2019?

But how many times have you started the year full of hope that you will achieve your resolution, and then crashed and burned within weeks or even days of starting? Failing to keep our resolutions happens all too often, I can speak from experience here! And research backs this up – a 2007 study showed that 88% of people failed to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

When we try to change, or attempt to learn something new, we all know that failure is a possibility. Sometimes this can put us off from even trying, but there is a way to fight back:

Once you have decided what your New Year’s resolution will be, why not also determine its return policy?

When we buy something, and it doesn’t work out, we usually don’t feel bad and beat ourselves up about it. Instead, we acknowledge it’s not quite right and then return it or exchange it for something else. Why not create your own resolution return policy so, if your resolution isn’t working out as planned, you can avoid the feelings of failure and move on?

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t give your resolution your best shot. You should try to set yourself up for success as much as you can, but sometimes the unexpected happens, or we overestimate what we can do, or it’s just the wrong resolution for us. In that case, being able to return or exchange our resolution means that we can look at it as a learning experience for ourselves, instead of a failure.

So, let’s look at the 4 simple questions to help you create your own Resolution Return Policy, and you can download your own Resolution Return form to complete here.

How long will you give yourself?

Most return policies have a time limit, so how long will you give yourself to really try to make that change in your life?

If you google how long it takes to change a habit, or make a new one, then you may think that 21 days is all it takes. However, researchers at University College London found that it can take anywhere between 18 and 254 days to change a habit, with the median time being 66 days.

This research indicates that giving yourself at least 60 days, or even better 90 days, is the best idea.

What “receipt” do you need?

When returning a product, the retailer often requires a receipt as proof of purchase. In this case, what evidence will you require from yourself that you really tried to keep your resolution?

Depending on your resolution it could be a detailed diary tracking minutes exercised, or food consumed, or it could be a simple as a check mark on a calendar.

Whatever it is, having some form of record is a good idea as you’ll be able to see what you did achieve. Plus, it can also help you learn about where your struggles may be – for example, perhaps you resolved to stop eating fast food and yet you find yourself stopping at McDonald’s after a bad day at work. Now that you know a stressful day triggers this bad habit, you can find other ways to unwind.

Will it be a return or an exchange?

Will you allow yourself to return your resolution (i.e. totally quit)? Or will you exchange it for a new resolution? Or the same resolution but in a different size? For example, if exercising 5 times a week is proving too hard, perhaps exchange it for a resolution to exercise 3 times a week instead? In this example, you are switching to a more achievable goal in place of giving up altogether. To put it another way; you can still feel good about going 3 times a week, and it is way better than zero!

Will you charge a “restocking fee”?

According the goal setting site, Stickk: “Financial stakes increase your chances of success by up to 3x” so charging yourself a “fee” to return your resolution may help you stick to it. This fee could be money you pay to a charity, a friend or something you set up at a site like – it’s totally up to you!

If you’re looking for some additional help with resolutions, then Richard Wiseman (who led the 2007 study on resolutions) has these tips to increase your chance of success:

Examples of 'bad’ resolutions - be more specific!

Examples of 'bad’ resolutions - be more specific!

  1. Only make one resolution at a time.

  2. Don’t rush choosing a resolution – take some time to think about what you really want to achieve.

  3. Start fresh – choose a resolution you haven’t tried before.

  4. Make your resolution specific – so don’t just say what you’ll be doing, also include when, where and how.


If your resolution includes making a new habit, or breaking an old one, then I recommend you check out Charles Duhigg’s great book: “The Power of Habit”.

To help you keep on track with your resolution, check out “Struggling with A Goal? 10 Ideas to Keep You on Track”.

Lastly, going public with your resolution can help you succeed, so feel free to share your 2019 goals in the comments below!

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