5 Reasons Your New Year’s Resolutions Usually Fail

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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.

A few years ago, 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 reviewed them at the end of that year. 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 at meeting my New Year’s resolutions has gone up remarkably as I’ve challenged some of the behaviors and thinking that went into my previous failures.

If you want to know what 2022 will be like, just look at 2021. Next year will be exactly like last year – unless you decide it won’t be.

So, why the high failure rate on resolutions?

Here are 5 reasons most resolutions fail.

Next year will be exactly like last year - unless you decide it won't be. Click To Tweet

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.

Almost all resolutions are rooted in good intentions – to be a better spouse, parent, employee, or more healthy. But good intentions mean nothing without a strategy to get there.

Good intentions mean nothing without a strategy to reach your New Year's resolutions. Click To Tweet

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 all of those people took all of 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 cancels 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 one-on-one meeting for next week?”

If you don’t stand your ground, your priorities will be chipped away – bit by bit. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be generous with your time, but your priorities need to be your priorities.

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

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

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 sounds easier than subtracting, until you hit a wall and find yourself overwhelmed. Not only will find yourself completely overburdened, but you also diminish the value of everything you’re trying to do.

As Craig Groeschel puts it, “If everything’s important, nothing’s important. If everything’s a priority, nothing’s a priority.”

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

Do you?

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, we’re more likely to think of things we can add or do more. But I think a lot of our problems come from doing too much. What would it look like for you to resolve to do less this next year?

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

Leaders who reach their resolutions subtract more things from their life than they add. Click To Tweet

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.

Leaders with unrealized dreams discover often their daily rhythms are hurting, not helping, them. Click To Tweet

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.

When making your resolutions, I recommend breaking them down into easier-to-accomplish goals – and putting them on your calendar. This keeps your resolutions at the forefront of your mind, rather than something you forget mid-February.

Can't find the time to get it all done? Become a high-impact leader without burning out (or sacrificing yourself).

Without a new strategy and approach, it's easy to continue to:

  • Sacrifice family on the altar of work
  • Overcommit and underdeliver
  • Have no time for what you actually want to do
  • Struggle to get time off to refuel and relax

Worst of all, other people—other tasks, jobs, and projects—will continue to hijack your life.

It’s time to change that by implementing a strategy that works.

At Your Best is a proven strategy to get your time, energy, and priorities working in your favor. It's my step-by-step online course that will help you overcome stress, find a sustainable pace without losing impact, and be far more productive at work.

50,000+ leaders have used the At Your Best strategy to escape the stress spiral and finally do what they want to do—grow their organizations, advance their careers, launch new ventures, be far more present at home, and take regular time off.

Wow! I didn’t realize I was in desperate need of this message and system in my life and business. 

This message so profoundly impacted us, that we named our annual company theme, “At Our Best,” using Carey’s system and resources to strengthen our culture and make health a priority this year.”

Sean CannellFounder and CEO, Think Media

Whatever you choose to do with it is up to you. Join today for instant access.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.