2 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail


why new year's resolutions fail calendar showing January 1

In just a few days, we’ll say goodbye to 2019.  Before we do, nearly half of us will make New Year’s Resolutions. We want this year to be better than the last.  But, we know we need to do more than think happy thoughts.

What’s on your list?

In some ways, research shows, it doesn’t really matter.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail: The Depressing Statistics

  • 25% of people abandon their resolutions after 1 week
  • 60% give up after six months
  • Just 5% those who lose weight keep it off; a high percentage gain back more than they lost
  • Only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolution

All of this can make you want to lock yourself in the nearest closet with a bunch of chocolate and pretend your family doctor doesn’t exist.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail: 3 Risk Factors

So why is lasting change so hard?

Thoughtful experts like Michael Hyatt have broken it down pretty well.  For example, you’re likely to fail if you…

1. Make too many goals.

Making more than 7-10 is overwhelming. When we have too much to do, we don’t make progress, and tend to give up.

2. Don’t write them down.

In one study by Dr. Gail Matthews shows that doing this alone increases your chances of success greatly. (Of course, after writing them down we need to keep them visible.)

3. Don’t make them specific.

‘Growing in my relationship with God’ is a great desire, but it’s so ethereal that you’re unlikely to identify next steps or know when you’ve made real progress.

Many experts say we fail to keep our resolutions because we don’t understand certain ‘best practices’ (like the above), or, fail to actually live them out.  I agree.

I’m all about learning from others and using (or adapting) tips or a system to help.  But as a Christian, I believe our struggles and problems with resolutions go much deeper than we tend to see.  Or want to admit.

2 Biblical Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

Here are 2 deeper, biblical reasons I believe traditional New Year’s Resolutions are often a massive disappointment. If we want to make lasting change, we need to start here.

 1. Traditional resolutions don’t work because we don’t have much resolve.

Sometimes, we want to do what’s right, but find ourselves weak and frail.  Other times, we really don’t want to do what we should.  On one level, I want to ‘be more patient with my children’, but another part of me likes – at least in the moment – lashing out to get what I want right away.  This is an example of sin (see 1 John 3:4, for example).  And it partly explains why I don’t follow through on what I hope to.

2. Traditional resolutions don’t take God’s desires for us into account.

It’s totally legitimate to ‘pursue God as my top priority’, ‘become more physically fit’ or ‘pursue a new area of learning’.  God cares about what we want – we’re his children after all.  If we ‘delight ourselves in the Lord, he will give [us] the desires of [our] heart’ (Psalm 37:4).  But because we’re limited and fallen, we need his wisdom and input. In some cases, our desires need to be re-shaped or even let go.  In other cases, our dreams are way too small, and God wants to give us something bigger and better.

Put another way, New Year’s Resolutions tend to misfire on some pretty basic, important things.  On the one hand, they miss my weakness, and tell me ‘you can do it’.  Which is scary because I know how much I’ve failed.

On the other hand, they ignore God and give me the impression that he’s optional to my dreams and plans.  But listen to James: we ‘do not know what tomorrow will bring… [we] ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that”‘ (4:14, 15).  God has to be central to any success I have.

Put positively, any resolution or goal-setting process needs to be honest about both my weakness and, therefore, God’s wisdom and strength.

As I close, I know that I haven’t left you with ’10 seductively easy tips to a great 2019′.  There’s definitely a need for more practical help and I hope to cover some of that in the future.  But talking about what doesn’t work, and starting to lay a positive foundation for what does, are an important start.

Question: What resolutions or goals have you set in the past?  How would you explain your successes or failures?

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