5 Reasons Your New Year’s Resolutions Usually Fail

It would be great to crush your New Year’s resolutions for once, wouldn’t it?

I mean you try, but why does it seem so difficult to actually make progress in life and leadership? I get that.

I think we all have a few resolutions that make it on the list every year, only to be abandoned, forgotten and resurrected again.

Or maybe you’ve just given up. I know more than a few people who have.

While statistics can be a little less than reliable when it comes to resolutions, one study shows as few as 8% of people accomplish their resolutions.

And yet resolutions pull achievers back in, because people who make resolutions are as much as 10x more likely to achieve their goals than people who don’t.

Last year, I made a crazy list of 29 New Year’s resolutions on everything from my prayer life, to our marriage, to how I lead, to our financial goals.

My wife Toni and I were reviewing them the other day. I think to both of our surprise…I actually hit most of them. There were some where I said “I don’t think I accomplished that,” to which she responded, “From where I sit, you did.”

There’s still room for improvement of course (like losing 10 pounds!!!), but overall it was encouraging.

I’ve noticed in the last few years that my success rate (while not perfect…nobody’s perfect, or at least I’m not) has gone up remarkably as I’ve challenged some of the behaviours and thinking that went into previous failure.

If you want to know what 2017 will be like, just look at 2016. Next year will be exactly what this year was like unless you decide it won’t be.

So, why the high failure rate on resolutions?

Here are 5 reasons.

new year's resolutions

1. Your resolutions are essentially intentions

The problem I had early on in making resolutions is that my resolutions were intentions. They were things I wanted to do, but I actually had no plan on how to accomplish them.

What’s lacking for many people is a strategy.

Your strategy, not your intention, determines your success. Many people intend to spend more time with their family, to be less scattered at work, to manage their time better, to ensure their top priories get accomplished, but they haven’t found a strategy to get them to that place.

When you look at your resolutions, ask yourself: what’s my strategy?

No strategy = almost guaranteed failure.

Strategy trumps intention every time.

2. Your priorities keep being hijacked

So you’ve got great intentions, and maybe you even develop a strategy. Good job.

But then life happens. Your phone starts buzzing. People knock on your door or hover over your cubicle.

Everybody just needs five minutes of your time, but by the end of the day you realize that various people took all your time. And you’re way further behind than you were at 8 a.m.

Tell me if this isn’t true: No one ever asks you to accomplish your priorities. They only ask you to accomplish theirs.

If you’re a preacher, nobody emails or texts you to ask you to write a killer message. Nobody cancel’s their meeting with you and says “Just thought you should have more prep time.”

If you’re working on a key project, how many times does anyone knock on your door and say “Hey, I want to give you three hours of breathing room to get it done. Let’s reschedule our week?”

You need to be the champion of your priorities. Nobody else will be.

3. You added, but never subtracted

Often when you want to do better, you add things to your ever more complex life. And when you do that, you sabotage your success.

Let’s be honest, adding to your life is easier than subtracting, until you hit the wall of overwhelm. Not only do you get completely overwhelmed, but you also diminish the value of everything you’re trying to do.

As Craig Groeschel recently put it, if everything’s important, nothing’s important. If everything’s a priority, nothing’s a priority.

Leaders who reach their goals are better at subtraction than addition. They subtract more things from their life than they add.

Do you?

After all, you’re probably only truly great at one or two things. Focus more of your time on those, and cut things that are average to good.

Subtraction is often more powerful than addition when it comes to accomplishment.

4. You didn’t address your patterns

This one’s huge.

If you study your every day life, it really consists of repeated patterns. You likely do the same thing every morning as soon as you get up.

You follow the same routine most days at work, and your weeks and seasons have a rhythm to them.

Even if you say, no, my life is random chaos, wonderful. You have a pattern of random chaos.

The question is are your patterns helping you or hurting you?

If you have unrealized goals and dreams, your patterns are hurting you, not helping you. Because if your patterns supported your dreams, you would have accomplished them.

5. You left your calendar out of the equation

Open your calendar.

Do you see your goals scheduled right into the rhythm of your every day?

Probably not.

An amazing thing happens when you decide to schedule your dreams daily: they happen.

What Kills Your Resolve?

What reasons have you seen that sabotage your New Year’s resolutions?

Scroll down and leave a comment!


  1. […] great blog post that contained some really good advice for anyone starting New Year’s resolution. Here’s a link to that post for those of you who have set […]

  2. My 2017 Goals - Michael Lukaszewski on January 4, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    […] So for each of these goals, I’m setting aside time to work on them.  I have systems in place that keep them in front of me. I have a plan to get this stuff done.  My friend Carey says strategy trumps intention every time. […]

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.