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.



He’s Got It All in Control

The Encouraging Christian
The Encouraging Christian

The lapse of time gives credence to the fact that any new thing does get old. The new year is already losing its newness; it’s getting old.

For some the year is unfolding favourably, like the bright-coloured petals of a flower roused by the warmth of sunrise; for others, it is like a shrivelling flower hanging limp and dull in the scorching sun.

Life for some is like wine, getting better with age; for others it’s like bad milk, every day increasing in foulness. Some feel this is an injustice or a disparity of life.

The vicissitude of life is a universal leveler – it happens to us all, at different times, in different ways, to different extents. One minute we seem to have our ducks lined up in a row, the next minute we cannot make sense of our lives.

I was jolted by news of the death of a colleague’s teenage daughter a few days ago. The peace with which they swam into the year has been rudely interrupted. I can’t begin to imagine the grief he and his family are going through over this loss. One can be sunk down by the weight of such grief.

You may be hurting from a disappointment or an injustice, lamenting over a slip up, failing in living out your resolutions, feel stuck in a frustrating situation, paying the price of a wrong choice…

In spite of how deplorable your situation may be, it is not out of place to be positive and still be hopeful. It is tough, yet it is the right attitude.

Disappointments are temporary. They can be stepping stones while they last. Beneficial lessons can be gleaned from mistakes and bad choices. Resolutions can be remade, and achieved; you are not stuck in that rut for good. Don’t give up!

Failure is not falling down or being knocked down, it is remaining in your fallen state and refusing to get back up. If you get up as many times as you fall, you will eventually be good at how not to fall. Things can only get better, if you always remember that, “problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines (Robert H. Schuller).”

“If you get up as many times as you fall, you will eventually be good at how not to fall.”
– Jenom Makama

Life still holds a lot of promise for you.

Put your trust in God. As you strive, remember you cannot do it alone. You need the help of Him who knows the end from the beginning. Jesus says, ‘Apart from me you can’t do a thing.’ (John 15:5).

Our sovereign God knows and cares about your predicament. He promises “I will never leave you, I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5). “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Psalms 34:19).

Heed to the counsel in the lines of a Kirk Franklin song, “God’s Got it All in Control.’

If you can just hold on,
My brother just be strong, my sister God, oh God;
God’s got your problems all in control.
He’s working out, it’s all in control.
So just hold on.

What do you do when things seem out of control?