Top 5 Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

by Debi Russel, BA  Licensed Pastoral Counselor

Every year it’s the same. All January, gym’s are packed, health food flies off the supermarket shelves and self help books are devoured at Barnes and Nobles. And somewhere in February life returns to normal. Those hopes of achieving greatness have fallen by the wayside and often, we feel defeated and give up only to try all over again next New Year’s. Why?

Here are some common reasons why we tend to fail at “New Year’s Resolutions” even when we are succeeding elsewhere:

Number Five: It’s not really your goal.

Your husband wants you to take up kick boxing, your friends are training for a marathon, your church is going to fast one day week- so you feel you “should” set this goal, but the truth is you don’t really want to. In setting any goal, you need to assess your motivation. Why are you setting this particular resolution? If the answer is someone else wants me to or thinks I should, chances are good you won’t follow through.

Number Four: You have some magical thinking.

There’s nothing extra special about New Year’s Resolutions that gives you will power you didn’t have in July. If you are expecting to be able to accomplish a difficult task just because it’s New Year’s you will be disappointed.

Number Three: It’s not measurable or specific.

A goal needs a concrete finish line or measuring stick to know when you’ve reached it. And it’s best when there is a definite way to track your progress. Often a New Year’s Resolution falls along the lines of “Work out more” or “Eat healthier” or “Grow in my walk with God” but how will you know if you’ve done it? A better goal might be “Work out at the gym for 45 minutes, 3 days a week” or “Drink 8 glasses of water a day and quit eating fast food” or “Read a verse in my Bible every day and join a small group at my church”.

Number Two: It’s unrealistic.

If you haven’t been exercising at all, it is not reasonable to set a goal of working out 6 days a week. Often though, extreme goals appeal to us because they feel inspiring. In reality, most people lack the ability to adjust to such extreme changes. Try being a little kinder and gentler to yourself; ie. if you are a junk food junkie- set a goal of limiting junk food to twice a week instead of eliminating it completely.

Number One: “All or Nothing” thinking.

Have you ever noticed the tendency to give up on a goal the first time you have a set back or “mess up”? It’s possible you’re being perfectionistic. People who expect themselves to do it all perfectly will “throw in the towel” every time, because as we all know, the only “perfect” is Jesus. In reaching goals. it’s important to realize that set backs and relapses are normal- just get back on track when you realize it as soon as you can. Proverbs says, “The righteous man falls down six times, but gets up seven.” If you can learn to expect and accept failure along the way you will be much more likely to see your goal through.

Remember above all else, to seek the Lord when setting goals. “In his heart, man plans his steps, but the Lord directs his course.” Proverbs 16:9. He is both your inspiration and source of strength, as Hebrews 12:2-3 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

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