Resolutions: Do They Suck, Or We Suck At Keeping Them?


Every year millions of people make resolutions. Only to fail, miserably, at keeping them. By December, it is reported that, fewer than 10% will succeed as resolution-keepers. Maybe you and I will ‘carry the vote’ as part of the majority. According to Statistic Brain, only 68.4% of resolvers are currently (after two weeks) keeping their resolutions.

Depressing. Isn’t it?

We make resolutions out of the desire to change, positively and progressively; we fail because change is difficult. It is stressful and hard.

This is why many hold the opinion that resolutions are bound to fail, and not worth the trouble.

F.M. Knowles says, “He who breaks a resolution is a weakling; He who makes one is a fool.” — F.M. Knowles.

Joey Adams prays, “May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions!”

Since our efforts, despite our best intentions, will be futile, why make resolutions? Why bother when we will ultimately fail?

The fresh-start effect. This is the reason we keep making resolutions, even though we cannot keep. There is something magical about a new year – the promise of a fresh start; the feeling of been given a new lease of life. Most of us are like the optimist who Bill Vaughn says, “stays up until midnight to see the New Year in.” We believe “Opportunity is born with each new year.” (David Mas Masumoto). So every January 1st we shout “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” (Oprah Winfrey)

The first of January pulls with the kind of attraction insects have for light at night. Unfortunately, we get singed, long before December 3

Do resolutions suck? Or, do we suck at keeping them?

Michael Hyatt, one of my mentors on blogging and leadership, believes resolutions suck. In a recent episode on his podcast, Lead to Win, he gives five reasons why. He says resolutions, unlike goals are:

  • Vague: They are desires that are not actionable. They fail to answer the question ‘how?’ If say, you want to get better grades. How much more effort (study time and/ or style) do you want to put in and/ or adopt? How will you know you have achieved it? This goes in line with the first two in the SMART acronym, Specific and Measurable.
  • Boring: Not exciting, compelling and challenging enough to move you to act. Compelling goals are “either spiritually meaningful, intellectually stimulating, emotionally energizing, or physically challenging.” Also, motive/ motivation is key here. It begs the question ‘why?’ Motivation should come from inside. When it is external, the resolution is less likely to be achieved. Take losing weight, the most popular New Year resolution, for instance. Is the reason healthy living and being there for loved ones, or to fit in to society’s mold?
  • UnRealistic: It is not a typo. Michael believes resolutions suck when they are realistic – too easy to achieve. He says research has shown that the tougher the goal, the more the excitement and motivation, the better the performance. Instead of being realistic, set goals that get you out of your comfort zone. However, he warns that in the bid to ‘not be realistic’ we should not be delusional. Be ‘realistically unrealistic’. (Just kidding. I’m not sure if there’s there anything like that). The point is don’t make it too easy for yourself, else in the long run you will underperform. Ironic right.This bucks the ‘Achievable’ and ‘Realistic’ taught in the popular SMART acronym.
  • Overwhelming: This is in terms of focus or number of resolutions, and also relevance. It is overwhelming to make too many resolutions. A few at a time is better. It can also be overwhelming when we set goals without taking cognizance of our current reality or phase of life. For instance, it will be difficult for a breastfeeding mom to keep a resolution to get more night sleep.
    In this context be realistic.
  • Easily Forgotten: As life happens, we get busy and forget things; even important things like goals. And life happens to us all. Since we tend to get busy and preoccupied at the expense of the things that are critical to our personal and professional success, Michael suggests that our goals should be kept visible. Out of sight, out of mind. To prevent this you must review your resolutions regularly. How regular depends on you – fortnightly, monthly, bimonthly etc. Set up a reminder – mark your calendar, make an entry in your diary, whether it is digital or analogue.

Action Point

Turn your resolutions into goals. You can do this by writing down a clear and specific statement, that is compelling enough to excite and get you out of your comfort zone, without you being overwhelmed. Feel free to add and/ or delete. Remember to review it regularly.

So, do resolutions suck, or we suck at keeping them? Tell me what you think in the comments.


3 thoughts on “Resolutions: Do They Suck, Or We Suck At Keeping Them?

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