Life Coaching, Purpose

The Problem with Your New Year’s Resolution and How to Fix it

“You never keep your New Year’s resolutions. What’s wrong with you?” If you don’t want to read the whole post then here’s the quick and dirty answer. There is nothing wrong with you. The resolution is the problem.

Now, let’s continue.

I stopped making new year’s resolutions years ago. Rather than making new year’s resolutions I create a personal strategic plan for the year. The plan is strategic, tactical, and operational. Since doing this, I have completed every priority goal on my list. Even my 2020 goals! Let me explain…

Each year you make a resolution or goal you think you should do: lose weight, exercise more, eat better, save money, be more social, be more positive, etc. etc. etc. By March many new year’s resolutions are in the rear view. By June, most are long gone.

“What’s wrong with you?”

You’re not the problem…well, not entirely. The problem is the goal. Do you get a lot done but it’s not the “thing” that you said you would do. Let’s look at the cycle…

For many years I could make a long list of things that I accomplished during the year. However, the three things I said I would do didn’t get done. So, I’d make a pledge to be more focused the next year. I had more focus. I achieved more things, but not the thing I said I would do. So I decided that I needed more discipline. The following year I accomplished a lot and made a strong impact on the world around me. I produced growth and fruit… but not where I planned to grow it.

What was the deal? I’d sit in December with a list of completions that did not line up with my goals. Was this a case of Romans 7? “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” No! I was getting good things done. They just weren’t the things I wanted to get done. Was it Proverbs 19:21? “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but God’s purpose prevails.” No! Let’s not over spiritualize our failures. I’m pretty sure God wasn’t opposed to me exercising daily or saving more money. I didn’t need more focus and discipline. I needed resolve.

I didn’t need more focus or discipline. I needed resolve.

My goals were wrong.

Maybe you can’t achieve your New Year’s Resolutions because you are making the wrong resolution. Resolution, by definition, is the firm decision to do or not to do something. It means you are determined. Ironically, most of the things we choose as New Year’s resolutions are things we’re not really determined to do. We have no resolve. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be in the situation to need a resolution.

Breathe…this is going to hurt a little bit.

If you were resolved to be at a healthy weight, you likely wouldn’t have become overweight in the first place. If you were resolved to work out, you probably would be doing more than zero days of exercise at the present. If you were truly determined to eat healthy starting in January, you would likely not be eating three slices of pie at the end of December. A calendar flip is not going to give you resolve.

Because you have no real resolve about your new year’s resolution, you easily give up when you get off track. So…here are a few things to help you make New Year’s Resolutions that you can stick to and achieve.

Know Your Resolution Reason

If you’re doing it because you “should,” you’re doomed. By nature as humans, we rarely do what we “should” do without resolve. You need to identify your why. For example, a few years ago I joined a ridiculously expensive gym and I was working out six days a week…for over a year. Then…there was a global pandemic and my gym closed. I quickly and easily stopped working out. You know why? I have no resolve around working out. The real reason I went to the gym six days a week was because I was paying way more money for a gym membership that I thought reasonable. Therefore…I refused to waste my money. It had nothing to do with working out and everything to do with something I value…stewardship.

Know What You Value

Replace the “should” in your goals with what you really value. I begin this process with prayer, meditation, and reflection. Once we get into the third quarter of the year I start a deeper examination of myself and my life. It’s not about what “should” happen but what I truly desire to happen. I ask God to reveal my true desires, the ones He has placed in my heart. Most of us don’t keep it real with ourselves. We lack the courage to accept what we do and don’t value. I don’t value exercise. There! I said it. So my goals around exercise will always fail until I can develop a real reason for exercising regularly. Until then, I keep doing this little 15 minute morning routine. Don’t judge me.

Know What’s Missing and Important

We’re all missing a lot. There are hundreds of things I could develop in my character, my behavior, and my relationships. Goal-setting for New Year’s resolutions is not just about what’s missing but what important thing is missing. Don’t take on everything at once. Prioritize. Choose one thing. Make it specific. If your goal is to “be more positive” in the new year, don’t try to be a whole new person. Choose one thing, one place in your life where you will be more positive. Add a new one each year until you become a positive person.

Which brings me to…

Pace Yourself

You don’t have to set a brand new goal each year. That weight loss thing is a life long journey. Chose a tactic each year to help you lose and maintain your weight. I have had the same strategic goal for the last nine years. Each year I make new tactical objectives that help operationalize that goal. Just because we flip the calendar doesn’t mean we have to recreate everything. If you didn’t meet your goals for this year, carry them over to next year. THAT’S how you accomplish things. THAT’S how you get things done. Don’t replace old unfinished goals with new ones.

Answer These Questions

  • What do YOU really want in the new year?
  • What one thing will get you closer to that goal?
  • How does that goal line up with God’s purpose for your life?
  • Who will benefit from you achieving your goal?
  • What does success look like in December of next year?

Write the answers to those questions and keep them somewhere where you can read them as a reminder every day. Maybe the problem with your new year’s resolutions is not you. Maybe it’s the resolution…or lack thereof.

I have found that true resolution lies in the answers to these questions. Knowing what I really want and understanding how that goal can also help other people has given me great resolve year after year.

If you need help setting goals for next year, check out my book STAY IN YOUR LANE .

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