Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

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I start thinking about New Year’s resolutions usually the day after Thanksgiving when I awake from my day of feasting and feel gross and lethargic and bloated and my pants are tighter than I remember them being.

I think: “Okay, after the holiday season, I will diet. I will journal. I will exercise. I will be disciplined. . . but until then I will do what I want to do.”

And then I proceed to feast and generally be an undisciplined slob until D day comes and it’s time to hit the gym. Uggggghh. And then I reluctantly work work work to undo the damage I did last year, with varying levels of success until the good habits I tried to start inevitably fall by the wayside.

Now I don’t consider myself to be a terribly undisciplined person in general. Once upon a time I lost a lot of weight. Like a lot. Like triple digits. This isn’t something I’m particularly proud of. In fact I often tend toward being ashamed of how unhealthy I was, so you won’t hear me boasting about this accomplishment much.

But when I compare the times in my life when my resolutions have failed with the times when the habits have stuck and have changed my life, I notice a few major differences. The biggest of which is this: I must want to change.

Now of course the very nature of a New Year’s Resolution comes from at least a vague desire to improve or change. But in most cases that desire is results driven. I want to be thinner. Or shave a couple minutes off of my 5K time. Or get 10,000 hits a month on my blog.

But the instances in which real, lasting change took place was when my motivation was not results driven, but life driven. Let me explain:  Rather than wanting to ultimately be thinner, my motivation was to exercise self control right now. Today. To go to bed feeling healthier tonight.

The former attitude reflects a desire for external change. The latter is aimed at internal change.

I remember that day in July 2010 when I made the decision to get healthy. I’d had a big breakfast that day. I’d already blown it. But I couldn’t stomach the thought of even waiting until the next morning to start my diet. I went on a walk and ate a healthy dinner that night. I was that disgusted with my habits (note: disgusted with my habits, not with myself or my body) that I wasn’t going to finish out the day with them.

What’s the difference maker here? What does this immediacy mean?

It’s not that I rushed into the decision. It’s that my heart changed my habits.

The number on the scale was not the core issue. I recognized that within me was a spirit of gluttony and I needed to change my heart. The resulting change in my actions led to weight loss and a greater self-discipline, but it was an overflow of the heart change. In that sense, I often feel as if I was healthier emotionally and spiritually at 220 lbs, 200 lbs, 180 lbs than I sometimes am now, off the diet.

So when on November 30th I decide that I will start being self-disciplined on January 1st (be it with physical health or spiritual health) . . . and then in the mean time I spend the next month living with a spirit of over-indulgence and self-gratification, is it any wonder why my New Year’s Resolutions fail?

If I look fondly at my sinfulness, am I really ready to turn from it? (Hint: No.)

So here’s my challenge to myself and to you: start your New Year’s Resolution NOW, on December 26th. Don’t look back. Aim at the heart, not the results. Aim at today, not next year. Aim at now, not January 1st.

Ready, set, GO!

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One thought on “Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

  1. I think I never had New Year’s Resolutions (i’m not sure if that’s good or bad), but this post made me think about just general resolutions. Immediacy is everything to people like me, who has goals but whose laziness is just bigger. Laziness often makes me sound like a hypocrite, like when I say I’ll do something but then I go and boycott myself with silly excuses. This sounds so embarrassing that I’ll do my best to never let this happen again. Thanks for this post! Happy New Year from HOT Buenos Aires! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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