A popular tradition for people to make at the start of a new year. A new year means a new start, and a new me — so time to drop habit X!
Almost always ends with Failure Is the Only Option, in part because characters often set lofty goals for themselves that require more motivation beyond "hey it's a new year, better make a resolution". Will sometimes be referenced several episodes later.
Occasionally a character will have fun with this by making resolutions for other people. Naturally, yours truly is a perfect paragon that cannot be improved.
- Starting in December of 2017, a series of AllState commercials feating the guy who is the Anthropomorphic Personification of all the mayhem that could befall upon you and your property (mostly cars) made a New Year's resolution to end mayhem. For the most part, despite missing the Mayhem, he did a good job of keeping his resolution, from being a lighting rod to the tennis ball you use to park just close enough in your garage. Then by January 2018, he learns that the viewers were unable to keep their resolutions for more than 2 weeks, so he goes back to causing Mayhem.
- In the Touhou manga spinoff Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth, one series of strips has the residents of Eientei discussing their New Year's resolutions. Reisen resolves to be more assertive, including being able to say "no" and telling it like it is. Eirin resolves to take it easy more often, which instantly destroys Reisen's resolution (earlier she had a nightmare where Eiren turned into a lazy slob, but she can't work up the nerve to tell Eiren that that's why the resolution bothers her so much). Princess Kaguya resolves to exercise more, but gives up after performing a single stretch. Tewi resolves to be nicer to Reisen...but then instantly admits that she's just kidding, to the amusement of everyone except Reisen.
- A few Disney Ducks Comic Universe stories have this theme:
- In one, Daisy Duck suggested him to promise he'd no longer get angry. When he suggested she make a similar promise, the result was a mixture of Hypocritical Humor and Double Standard. Donald's nephews then abused the resolution until Daisy reminded Donald he doesn't need to be angry to hit nephews as punishment. Having overheard that conversation, the nephews wrote a resolution to be good boys so he'd no longer have a reason to hit them. It didn't work.
- In another one, Huey, Dewey and Louie promised they'd always make it on time to school and that they'd do the dishes for a whole month as punishment if they break the promise. Donald promised he'd no longer lose his temper. Growing tired of washing dishes, Donald tricked the nephews into being late for school. Wanting to get out of that, they tricked Donald into agreeing they'd have their meals in paper plates. Then they spent the rest of the story trying to enrage him. It was Gone Horribly Right.
- In yet another one, Donald and the nephews agreed he'd do the dishes if he breaks his resolution before they break theirs and they'll do the dishes if they break their resolution before he breaks his. In order to avoid trickery, they kept their resolution secret and wrote them inside envelopes. Donald promised to only prepare desserts until they have any and the nephews promised not to have desserts. A few days later, Donald decided to figure out their promise and found a way to open the envelope without leaving signs. He then changed his resolution. The next day, one of the nephews asked Donald to pose for a photograph and he agreed. Later on, he tricked them into having dessert so he could punish them. While wondering how he knew what their resolution was, they asked him what his was. He then revealed he promised not to wear a hat inside the house. They then pointed out he was breaking his resolution but he claimed they broke theirs first. None of them remembered Donald wearing his hat inside the house before they broke their resolution until the nephew who took the photograph produced it as evidence Donald was the first resolution breaker among them. That nephew then confided to the others he had seen Donald's papers at the table and, using a Sherlock Holmes trick, had figured out Donald's new resolution and took the photo for that purpose.
- Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes often made his New Year's Resolution not to change at all, but to force everyone else to change.
Calvin: I've also resolved not to put up with sarcastic tigers.
Hobbes: If I see any, I'll be sure to let them know.
- Lucy from Peanuts also did that at least once. She handed out sheets of paper.
- From the January 1, 1960 strip:
Schroeder: Why do we have to make our resolutions right on January first? What's wrong with May sixteenth or September twenty-third? Why January first?
Lucy: It's neater!
- From the January 1, 1960 strip:
- In For Better or for Worse, the Pattersons discuss what resolutions they are making, but while most are setting up lofty ones, Michael resolves to do things like watch more tv and hang out more with his friends. When his mother confronts him that those resolutions are worthless, Michael responds smugly, "I know, but at least mine are going to be kept."
- In one FoxTrot strip, Bratty Teenage Daughter Paige tells her parents that her resolution is to not let Annoying Younger Sibling Jason bother her anymore. Then Jason tells them that his resolution is to mess with Paige even more. Father Roger comments "This is going to be a real battle of wills" while mother Andy breaks out the medicine and says "More like 'pills'."
- In an earlier strip, Paige resolved to be more assertive and less wishy-washy ("Full steam ahead!") She then asks her mother if the resolution is stupid and says she can change it, prompting Andy to respond "Let's back up those steam engines a bit..."
- Garfield decided not to sleep more than eight hours a day. Upon calculation, he told Jon to wake him up on May 3rd.
- Garfield promised not to do this prank anymore but he's not sure he'll keep the promise.
- Jon promised to brush his teeth everyday. Even if he's not going anywhere.
- Jon and Garfield resolved not to eat donuts anymore. After each one hallucinated a donut asking him to eat it, they decided to break the resolution.
- Jon's resolution: No more thumb-sucking! Except during scary movies.
Garfield: That goes without saying.
- Garfield resolves "to stop eating junk food, and to exercise every day, and to curb my incessant lying".
- A spider promises to think before he speaks... and then blows it up by calling Garfield "fatso".
- Garfield makes the same resolution he makes every year. "Not to mess with perfection".
- Three weeks after giving up donuts for her new year's resolution, Liz hallucinates that Jon's face looks like a donut.
Liz: Okay, did you see that?
Garfield: He usually has sprinkles.
- Garfield doesn't have any resolutions this time because "you can't improve on perfection". He then "thack"s his face on a wall.
- Jon resolves to be less geeky and more sophisticated... and then botches it by blowing chocolate milk bubbles in his Binky the Clown mug.
- Jon asks if Liz has any New Year resolutions. She says she thought about losing weight and asks what he thinks.
Jon: I hate these questions.
Garfield: Yeah, but I love your answers.
- In Retail:
- They once had a week of 'New Year's Resolutions', not so much made to improve the employees as it was forced on them by the corporate environment. Example: Heather's resolution to 'lose weight' is because she can't afford as much food because her hours got cut.
- Val's makeover to a more flattering hairstyle came about because of a New Year's resolution.
- Marla resolves one year to not make any resolutions.
Val: Hm, a resolution that's broken the moment it's made. Interesting.
Marla: That way I can deal with the guilt right away and get on with my life.
- And then one year Val's resolution...is to get milk and bread.
Val: I like my odds this year.
- One year, Marla resolves to finally start her own business and quit Grumbel's. Unfortunately, she gets pregnant and has to delay her dream, and other real life circumstances (the economy, being promoted to store manager, the need for a stable income for her daughter's sake) ensure she never gets the chance to do so. Even when Grumbel's closes, she's so sick of retail that she takes an office job instead.
- The Sally Forth (Howard) strips for the first week of January 2020 have various ideas for New Year's resolutions, none of which the Forths come close to keeping. In the Sunday Strip, Sally asks Ted if he's come up with anything, and he responds with an inspirational speech about approaching life with a new attitude which she notes doesn't actually commit him to doing anything.
- In the Oor Wullie strip for the same Sunday, Wullie's family offer suggestions for his resolution (mostly involving chores), but he says "No" to all of them. He then takes up a challenge that his resolution should be to stop saying "No", and finds himself doing the chores anyway. He gets his own back when his dad (who is eating the good shortbread when he's supposed to be fixing a shelf) asks if Ma's still at the shops, and he doesn't say "No".
- Zits offers a variant in 2021 when they present New School Year's Resolutions in August, resolutions such as 'don't let fungus grow in your locker', 'cut back to five A.P. classes during track season', 'use your free periods wisely' (which Jeremy amended to 'after this one' because he and Pierce were screwing around), 'ignore your phone during class', and 'don't judge your friends' study habits'.
- "New Year, New Disasters", an episode of Calvin & Hobbes: The Series, has the protagonists giving their resolutions: Calvin's is to upgrade his inventions, Hobbes' is to break the current tuna-eating record, Socrates' is to prank four million people, Sherman's is to invent something useful, and finally Andy's is to pay Calvin's bond should he land in jail.
- Bridget Jones' Diary
Bridget: New Year's resolution: drink less... and quit smoking... and quit talking total nonsense to strangers... actually, quit talking, full stop.
Alfie: In a flash I have my New Year's resolution: Aim higher.
- Heavenly Creatures
Pauline Parker: My New Year's resolution is a far more selfish one than last year. It is to make my motto, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow, you may be dead.
- After the Thin Man
Nick Charles: Have you made any New Year's resolutions?
Nora Charles: Not yet. Any complaints or suggestions? [snip]
Nick: Well, you don't scold, you don't nag, and you look far too pretty in the mornings.
Nora: All right, I'll remember: Must scold, must nag, mustn't be too pretty in the mornings.
- New Year's Eve: Ingrid Withers makes a list of things she wants to do before midnight, starting with quitting her job. She hires someone to help her fulfill it, with such diverse items on it as "go to Bali", "travel around the world" and "be amazed".
Paul: This is impossible. Actually, physically impossible.
Ingrid: Use your imagination.
- In one of the Babysitters Little Sister books, Karen spends the month of January cracking down on all the members of her family who haven't been keeping up with their New Year's Resolutions, but they retaliate by pulling out Karen's own list of resolutions, which has been heavily altered to give herself loopholes.
- Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary on New Year's Eve, 1661: "I have newly taken a solemn oath about abstaining from plays and wine". He broke the second part by February 17.
- Barney Miller: In "Happy New Year", Yemana, tired of the others continually complaining about his Bad to the Last Drop coffee, resolves to not make any coffee for the squad room in 1976.
- Frasier episode "The Fight Before Christmas"
Gil Chesterson: My wife and I made a New Year's resolution: Deb and I have joined a gym to slim down and buff up.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode "Hilary Gets a Life"
Hilary Banks: I'm making a New Year's resolution to find a job... right after Easter.
- Friends: "The One With All the Resolutions" sees each of the gang make a resolution. Rachel's is not to gossip as much (she fails), Monica's is to take more photographs of the gang, Phoebe's is to pilot a commercial jet (she gives up after one visit to the airport having decided she doesn't want to fly in the rain), the rest of the gang decide Chandler's is to not make fun of them as much (he lasts roughly three days), Joey's is to learn to play the guitar and Ross' is to do one thing each day to make himself happy such as asking a woman out and buying some leather pants he's always admired.
- The X-Files, "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas": Agent Mulder tries to talk Agent Scully into chasing ghosts on Christmas Eve. She doesn't want to go. When Mulder enters the Haunted House, she says aloud to herself that she's not going to do it as it's her resolution. However, somebody (Mulder or the ghosts) took her car keys so she ended up with Mulder as usually.
Scully: I'm not going to do it. My New Year's resolution.
- TV Colosso: Priscilla, a producer working at the eponymous network, wasn't sure of what to promise and it worried her for a whole episode. At the end, the network's fortuneteller predicted nobody would fulfill their resolutions so she decided not to make any.
- El Chavo del ocho: One episode had the vencidad's residents having a New Year's party at Don Ramón's place. Doña Florinda promised she'd no longer hit him unless she had reasons like Don Ramón hitting Quico or denying doing so. She also promised she'd no longer act as if she's superior to any of her neighbors, albeit the wording of her promise suggests it's unlikely she's able to fulfill it. Quico promised to always allow El Chavo to borrow his toys. Chavo doubted Quico would keep that resolution. Quico explained that his resolution was based on Chavo usually kicking his toys so Chavo promised he'd no longer do it. Quico then allowed Chavo to borrow a ball. Don Ramón promised to pay all his debts. Doña Florinda then said it was only about resolutions that could be fulfilled. Like she's one to talk.
- One episode of NCIS: Los Angeles opened with the team discussing their New Years Resolutions, and ended with them calling each other out on the fact that they all broke them.
- Kamen Rider Den-O had an episode where the heroes are preparing for New Year's, complete with resolutions. Kintaros asks Ryotaro what his resolution is, and Ryotaro says that he wants to continue fighting alongside his friends. When the bad guys attack later in the episode, Kintaros reveals that he counted Ryotaro's resolution as a wish, which granted him physical form, allowing him to become Den-O without Ryotaro's help so he can pull a You Shall Not Pass! moment for the others.
- The Adventures of Pete & Pete: In "New Year's Pete", Little Pete resolves to buy a jetpack and use it to become a superhero. He spends all year earning the money, but gets a leaf blower in the mail. The people around him make more mundane resolutions that they don't keep.
- On The Red Green Show, Harold comments that Red typically breaks all his New Year's resolutions before his hangover has worn off.
- Five Iron Frenzy's "New Year's Eve".
It's New Year's Eve and I'm full of empty promises
I half pretend to keep this time
just like last year.
- Split Enz' "Message to My Girl:
It's no New Year's resolution, it's more than that.
- Joe Walsh's "New Year's Eve".
Everybody parties on a New Year's Eve
Waitin' for the countdown
Make a lot of promises they never keep
Party with the lights on.
- MAD magazine had a Black Comedy article "Harry Grepser's New Year's Resolutions 1962-1972", that shows the downward spiral Harry's life is in, as his resolutions get more and more modest, and he still fails to keep them. For instance, in 1962, he resolves to finish 20 good books a year. In 1965, 10 books a year. In 1969, 5 books. In 1972, he resolves to finish Airport.
- In The Sims 4, on New Year's Day, one thing Sims will want to do is make a resolution. The player can choose a resolution for them, which includes being promoted at work, leveling up a skill, and more. If they accomplish the resolution, they'll feel happy, but not finishing it within a week disappoints them.
- The practice of making New Year's Resolutions for other people is discussed in this Dinosaur Comics strip.
- The cast of Sequential Art tend to amend their lists quickly (see the next two comics).
- CoyoteVille: In the December 30, 1997 strip, Mulder's new year resolution is to prove that "hoomans" exist, Sean's is "the usual" (which he describes as "try to be cool, not bite my claws"), and Ed's is to make a bunch of new friends. The last panel ironically has the latter saying that he keeps breaking his resolutions earlier each year.
- Cyanide and Happiness presents... hmm... maybe next year.
- The Optimist resolves to do or not do things every 365 days or so here and here.
- Super Combo Deluxe has characters at a New Year's Eve party discussing their New Year's resolutions... that is, the graphical resolutions they appear in. One made the mistake of going 8k, and can now smell colors.
- Twisted Tropes: Boba Fett's new year resolution is getting out of the Sarlacc. Early in the year. Definitely by late summer.
- Whats Up Beanie: While making her 2021 resolutions, Beanie finds the resolutions she made the past two years. The 2020 ones go right in to the trash (for rather obvious reasons) and she realizes she did fulfil one of her 2019 resolutions: start a comic.
"Heh! Would you look at that." [ticks it off the list.]
- TV Trash parodies this concept in "Happy New Year, Charlie Brown": Chris "Rowdy" Moore pledges to watch less bad TV, only to have his resolution broken within seconds, by being told that they would run out of material, and the show would end.
- Wong Fu Productions thoroughly mocks this trope in ''Two Weeks Later: Resolution Fails and how each person fails at their resolution.
- In one of Thomas Sanders' Vines, he shows that he did keep his resolution - simply, to write one out. His friend notes that this was an improvement from the previous year.
- Wish Kid: After surviving a disaster, Darryl tells Nick he decided to make his New Year's Resolution earlier (they were months away from the New Year): never getting involved in Nick's wish again.
- The New Batman Adventures episode "Holiday Knights"
The Joker: I'm interrupting the Toilet Bowl to bring you my very special New Year's resolution: Ahem, starting tonight at midnight, I, your loving uncle Joker, do solemnly vow not to kill anyone for a whole year. Which means I'm going to have to work extra fast to bump off a few more of you today.
- Happy New Year, Charlie Brown
Peppermint Patty: Have you made any New Year's resolutions, Chuck?
Charlie Brown: Yes. You know how I always dread the whole year? Well, this time I'm only going to dread one day at a time.
- Phineas and Ferb: Dr. Doofenshmirtz once tried to take over the Tri-State Area by making everyone's New Year's Resolution to obey him. You can easily guess how that plan got foiled.
- The 1961 Heckle and Jeckle cartoon "Sappy New Year" has the two birds swearing off practical jokes as their New Year's resolution. But when their attempts to do good deeds are misconstrued as mischief, Heckle starts to revert back.
- The Sonic Boom episode, "New Year's Retribution" involves Dr. Eggman trying to resolve his New Year's Resolution from the previous year (to beat Sonic at something) before the year ends. To do so, he invents a slow-motion machine to slow down time so he will have plenty of time to beat Sonic at something before the year ends.
- In a few Robot Chicken sketches, the New Year Baby appears and literally kills everyone that fails to uphold their resolution. He lets Daniel slide for breaking his resolution not to masturbate because he tried choking Daniel, only for him to say that was turning him on more.
Baby New Year, Resolution Enforcer!