Why Do We Struggle to Keep our New Year Resolutions?

Creative Commons (pixabay.com)

Creative Commons (pixabay.com)

As 2018 comes to a close people will reflect and set new goals and resolutions for 2019. Some will balk at the idea and say they're stupid and a waste of time. Regardless of where you stand on the Resolution Train I think the practice is important for two reasons:

  1. Resolutions creates space to pause and reflect on the previous year and give thanks for the good, bad, and everything in between. And to adjust unhealthy patterns in all of life. Gratitude is the key to a happy life, but if we never pause to think about the good, we become cynical. 

  2. Resolutions fight against living a passive life. People often say: let go and let God. Or, just go with the flow. That’s fine. But God hasn’t called us to passivity. No one ever stumbles into godliness and joy, and no one ever loses weight, pays off debt, or grows their spiritual life or craft without a plan. 

We could add more reasons for the benefits of goals and resolutions but something larger looms in my head on the subject. Why do I stink at keeping them? What factors contribute to failing weeks into a goal?

I’ve gone down the weight loss rabbit hole and fizzled out around February many times. Other years I’ve planned to read the Bible in a year and lost steam around Leviticus. We’ve gotten our financial house in order for a few months before April came and the IRS said: pay up. 

So why is it hard to keep goals and resolutions?

Let me take a stab based on no research and mere conjecture and learning from past failures on my part:

1. Our goals and resolutions are too vague. 

Weight loss and getting healthy in 2019 is not a bad goal. But a better goal is to give a specific number and timeline. 20 pounds by July 1. When I think about failed resolutions and goals, they often swim in generic terms like: pay off debt, read the Bible more, get healthy, grow spiritually, or date my wife.

When goals are too vague, it takes the pressure off whether we fail or succeed. We have no way of measuring progress when possible. 

2. Our goals and resolutions have no plan of attack. 

Okay, so you want to read the entire Bible in the year. What plan will you follow? How many pages and chapters must you read per day to hit the finish line? Will you take days off?

Want to pay off debt... what is the plan? How will you determine the amount to pay each month? Will you get a side job to help? What do you need to cut back on?

Whether you are trying to lose a few pounds, spend more time with your loved ones, what is our plan of attack? Whenever I’ve failed on goals, I had no solid plan. 

3. Our goals and resolutions never go public.

Once your goals go public and shared with others things get real. It’s easy to downplay resolutions when you keep them to yourself. This doesn’t mean we have to share every detail of the goal. But having a community of people rooting you on is essential for keeping goals and resolutions. 

When you know your goals are not being attempted in isolation, it can be a huge motivator to keep going.When I’ve failed over the years I kept my goals secret.

My three reasons for not accomplishing goals and resolutions might seem obvious. We all know when our goals are vague we can take them or leave them. When a plan isn’t in place the probability of completing the goal slim to none. Not seeking accountability and support from others make them hard too. 

But one reason rises to the top. It’s something that has helped me accomplish goals and resolutions on a more consistent basis. And it simply is this: you have to know WHY?

Why do I want to pay off debt, lose weight, read the Bible, be more creative, build a business, or spend more time with the ones I love, serve my neighbors, and be more generous? Can you answer the question?

Losing weight is an obvious choice for many people in 2019. Most will say they want to lose weight to be more healthy. Okay. But why? Is there a bigger reason to be healthy?

How about so I can keep up with my young family? Health allows to serve other people and not be wiped out all the time. Maybe so I can play in the companies basketball league and get to know my coworkers. Being physically healthy also feeds into my spiritual life and the joy quotient. We are wholistic people of minds, bodies, and souls which work in tandem. They all feed off each other.

Knowing your WHY gives a weight and intensity to your goals and resolutions. I don’t want to just read the Bible for religious, academic, or guilt reasons. I want to read the Bible because it’s the avenue for cultivating a closeness and intimacy with God. It’s an opportunity to teach and encourage others to know God and follow his ways. If my only reason for reading the Bible in a year is because it would be good for me spiritually (which it is). You won’t keep going when Leviticus gets boring. You need to know your WHY?

I can’t answer your WHY? But this year if you’re so inclined and you jump on the Resolution Train. Consider your why, and may it be the launching pad to see these goals realized. 

If you’re not sure what your WHY is? Keep asking why… Why do I want to lose weight? To be healthy. Why do you want to be healthy? To keep up with our kid’s. Okay, why? If you keep digging and asking: why, why, why? You’ll find a greater motivation to keep going when times get hard. 

Find your why. Make it public. Get specific and have a plan. Do these things and you’ll amazed what you’ll accomplish in 2019. 

Now before I go, let’s practice what we preach. I’m going public with a couple goals for 2019. I won’t give the why, but you can hold me to these things:

1. Read 75 books. I read 55+ past year. 

2. Read the entire Bible in One Year. I didn’t do it last year, and instead read deeply in specific books.

3. Read the entirety of John Calvin’s Institutes. I read the whole thing in seminary, and would like to revisit this classic treasure of Christian theology. 

4. Pay off debts from 2018 (new kid, unexpected house expenses).

5. Be more generous than last year in money, time, and relationships. 

6. Okay, a cliche, but needed… get to 169 pounds.

7. Write 500,000 new words for the blogs, articles, and books. 

8. Reboot monthly date night with my wife. Finally out of the fog of a newborn.

9. Win the Super Bowl… got to dream big, right?

I have others… But here we go...

Happy New Year, and thanks for following along!