Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

Ralph Ervin
4 min readDec 27, 2018

The holiday season is my favorite time of year. There’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s right in a row. For someone who is as passionate about personal development as I am, it is also a time of year when I enjoy engaging in a no-nonsense review of the year to evaluate the areas of my personal and professional life that need improvement in the upcoming year.

What exactly is it about New Year’s resolutions that causes so much excitement and optimism? The prospect of a clean slate — the opportunity to start over — to reset — a do over — is certainly attractive. I, like many people, can appreciate the chance to right some wrongs in a new year. Studies show, however, that only 9.2% of people succeed with their New Year’s resolutions. That means roughly 91% of people fail.

So why is it that only a few succeed and such a large number of people fail?


Set Realistic Goals

Sometimes people set too many goals. Instead of focusing on a few critical drivers that are going to help in multiple areas of life, people will set 10, 20, even 30 goals with no real strategy to attack them.

It makes more sense to set fewer goals that can be managed more effectively. Start with one goal and build momentum from there. Setting a large goal or many goals can be difficult to manage and can cause you to become easily frustrated when progress is stalled or non-existent. Want to lose weight? Celebrate every 5 pounds you lose as opposed to crucifying yourself and giving up when you don’t lose the 20 pounds you aimed to lose in the beginning.

Set Meaningful Goals

Another reason resolutions fail is because they lack significance or meaning. If it were a goal you were really fired up about, then you wouldn’t wait until the end of the year to make the change. You would make that change right away.

Therefore, choose a goal you’re passionate about. When there’s no significance to a resolution, you’ll set the goal aside when adversity hits. Instead, when you pursue a goal that burns within you, you are more likely to persevere when faced with challenges.

Align the Goals to Your Purpose

One way to ensure that your goals are meaningful is to align them to what you have been called to do: the reason you were created. Take time to pray and reflect to really understand and to hear from God. Understand why you are here. What is that one thing that if money were no object or circumstances hadn’t impacted the course of your life you would want to do?

Maybe it’s not one thing. Maybe it’s a series of things that contribute to your overall purpose, but whatever it is, that’s what’s going to stick when it comes to setting goals. Setting goals that are not aligned with your purpose will leave you feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled. Quite frankly, it will leave you feeling depressed. When you’re on the right path to your destiny, nothing deters you. If a door closes, you find another one. You regard failures as an opportunity to learn and not as an indictment against yourself. Or, an excuse to give up. Being intentional about your goals is important to sustaining your faith and hope that you will be successful.

Establish a System of Accountability

No accountability leads to abandoning resolutions. You may set a goal in the dark, in secret and keep it to yourself. When no one knows about it, if you succeed, definitely you’ll run out and tell everyone. If you fail, however, and you don’t honor the commitment you’ve made to yourself, there’s no skin in the game and there are no repercussions. No one knew about it, so there’s nothing to lose. No shame to feel. No one to encourage you to try again. It’s easy to give up when no one is there to insist that you don’t.

It’s so important that you share your vision. Not only does it keep you accountable for what you said you will do, but it may also, inspire someone else. The truth of the matter is that your goals and the things that you want to accomplish in life are so you can bless others. First, you need to surround yourself with people who can help you. People who can bless you, so you can then pay it forward.

Have a Plan

All of the reasons I have outlined as to why people typically fail with the New Year’s resolutions they have set all boil down to one thing: not having a plan. If you don’t understand what it’s going to take to be successful, then it’s likely that you’re not going to stick with it, and you’re going to be in that 91% of people who aren’t successful.

Who is going to benefit when you get your finances in order? When you get in shape? On the flip side, who is it going to cost if you don’t? Who is it going to hurt (other than yourself of course?) Is it going to impact your children? Your spouse? Your community? Your church? Who is going to pay the price when you don’t step up to the plate and do what you already know you need to do?

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Originally published at faith2achieve.com on December 27, 2018.



Ralph Ervin

I’m an online business coach and finance expert helping people fulfill their personal purpose through online entrepreneurship.