Why do most New Year’s resolutions fail? Because the vast majority of resolutions are based on things that we think should be done, but are something we clearly don’t want to do.

According to some statistics, only 8% of those who make a New Year’s resolution will succeed in achieving it. That’s not altogether surprising when considering that the most common resolutions are fun-sucking goals such as “lose weight”, “quit smoking”, or “spend less, save more”.


Yes, living healthier and quitting smoking are all things we should do – but clearly something is preventing us from doing so all the other 364 days of the year. Maybe we are going about this whole resolution thing the wrong way. Must becoming a better person entail becoming a different person? Must it always involve a struggle? Can it not be spun some way to be more palatable?

There is no secret covenant somewhere that states all New Year’s resolutions must be painful acts of self-improvement. Surely one can promise to improve in an area that they enjoy too!

If you love food but want to lose weight, why not focus on learning as much as possible about food, and cooking, and growing what you eat? Maybe the acts of learning and horticulture might lead to some physical activity, changes in eating and ultimately weight loss. Who knows? You might even have fun doing it.

If you want to spend less and save more, why not take a leap down the money rabbit hole: learn everything you can about what money is, how it is created and its role in your life. Clearly you enjoy spending money, but consumption might look a bit different when you understand how much time of your life is traded earning the money you use. Heck, you might come out the other side of that resolution with a new career!

I, for one, will opt for a more pleasurable resolution this year: to learn and write more about the digital age of propaganda. Yes, it’s a hobby and partly my tradecraft in strategic communications, but in study there is self-improvement. Moreover, the act of persuasion can have many unexpected benefits – like knowing how to persuade oneself into personal improvement. (And surely on this day, the 9th anniversary of my quitting smoking cold turkey, I am entitled to a little choice in promises to my betterment.)

What of your resolutions: Do you make them? Do you keep them? Could you shift your perspective on them to make the process more enjoyable?

About Author

La Generalista is the online identity of Alicia Wanless – a researcher and practitioner of strategic communications for social change in a Digital Age. Alicia is the director of the Partnership for Countering Influence Operations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. With a growing international multi-stakeholder community, the Partnership aims to foster evidence-based policymaking to counter threats within the information environment. Wanless is currently a PhD Researcher at King’s College London exploring how the information environment can be studied in similar ways to the physical environment. She is also a pre-doctoral fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and was a tech advisor to Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder. Her work has been featured in Lawfare, The National Interest, Foreign Policy, and CBC.

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