Why Resolutions Fail (And What Works)

By Matthew Joyce

Every January millions of people make new year’s resolutions. They resolve to lose weight, get in shape, quit a bad habit, learn something, spend more time with family and friends, have more fun in life. The list goes on and on.

It’s natural to look ahead and want a fresh start toward living a more enjoyable and meaningful life. But the hard truth is that most resolutions fail. Some fail literally as soon as they are conceived. Others wither slowly over days and weeks. Fleeting or lingering, failed resolutions are so commonplace that many people actually expect to fail.

For some people failed resolutions mean falling short on a goal or two. For others it means feeling incompetent at making much needed changes. Their new year’s resolutions, and more importantly their day-to-day lives, remain virtually unchanged year after year. Ill heath, chronic lack, painful circumstances become the norm rather than the temporary conditions that push them toward improvement.

Whether you consider yourself to be in the occasional failure camp or in the permanent resident failure camp, you don’t have to accept failure. You can make lasting and meaningful changes in your life.

As humans we hold within ourselves the innate capacity to create the life experiences we want, regardless of our current circumstances. Doing so, is a matter of understanding the creative process and avoiding the common pitfalls along the way.

To help you tap into that power, I’d like to offer the following insights on why resolutions fail and what works instead.

Resolution Means No Matter What

To start off it makes sense to consider what a resolution actually is. To make a resolution means to make a steadfast commitment to something. It’s a great principle and it is an effective way of committing to a belief or a course of action. But when it comes to making important changes in life it just isn’t realistic in many cases. Not because some things are not worth committing to, but rather because people often try to commit to things that don’t work for them.

Watch Out for Should

One of the most common reasons that people make resolutions is because they feel like they should be doing or not doing something. “Should” is the operative word here and it’s a warning sign if you find yourself thinking or saying it.

Thinking or saying the word “should” indicates that you are experiencing a conflict. One part of you thinks it is a good idea while the other part actually desires something else. Many years ago I used to smoke cigarettes. I knew I should quit because they were bad for my health, but I didn’t want to since I enjoyed smoking and I didn’t want to give it up.

You may not have a bad habit you are trying to kick, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fall victim to the power of should. It also applies to starting new healthy habits, as in, I should get in shape. I should eat healthy foods. And it applies to finishing tasks as well, such as I should finish my homework, housework, paperwork.

Should isn’t a deal killer. Many times you know what you should be doing and you get on with it and get the job done. But when it comes to making successful changes in your life, should is a warning sign that merits investigation because if the conflict is strong enough it could potentially sabotage you and your goal.

How to Kill a Resolution

While “should” can seriously inhibit your success, it isn’t the leading cause of death among new year’s resolutions. That dishonor goes to “but.”

Nothing kills forward progress faster than the word “but.” “But” doesn’t merely signal a conflict; it states an objection or a reason why you won’t achieve your goal of changing that aspect of your life. “Buts” come in a wide variety of guises, ranging from armor clad warriors, to sexy temptresses, to downright sneaky cloak and dagger types and whispering liars.

Armor clad warriors are objections that race into battle ready to vanquish resolutions as soon as they’re made. If you make a resolution to seek therapy to improve a relationship, the iron clad warrior steps in to tell you aren’t worthy of something better. With one swift blow the resolution can die.

Sexy temptresses work on the principle of distraction. Rather than blocking you from achieving your goal, they divert you from it in favor of something else. If you want to learn to play guitar, you’ll obviously need to practice. And you will. Right up until the temptress sidles up to you and says how about watching television instead.

The cloak and dagger type often works hand in hand with the temptress. It tells you that just this once will be OK, all the while knowing that just once is a slippery slope that will sooner or later lead to failure. If you resolve to exercise every day, the cloak and dagger objection allows you to skip today because it’s too cold out. Tomorrow will be another excuse such as you have an appointment. The day after you’re too busy. Before you know it, you’ve lost momentum and the resolution is dead.

The whispering liar works on the principle of denial. It tells you that it won’t happen to you. I fell victim to the whispering liar when I watched my aunt die of emphysema from smoking cigarettes. Even though I watched her gasping for breath, the whispering liar told me that it wouldn’t happen to me. And another year passed without quitting smoking.

These are just some of the many guises that “but” can wear. So if you find yourself contemplating a new year’s resolution and you hear yourself say the word “but” watch out because danger is close at hand.

When You Fail to Commit

Even when you avoid the dreaded “but” other dangers still lurk when it comes to failed resolutions. Another saboteur is failure to commit, which really gets at the very essence of resolutions.

I’ve wanted a new car for more than a year. I’m clear about the car I want. I can clearly see myself driving it. I know the manifestation and creation process to bring it into my life. But I’m still not driving it. The reason for that is simple. I just don’t want it that much. My current car suits my needs so I have not devoted enough energy to the vision to make it come to pass.

If your resolutions lack the desire to fuel them, then like me, you won’t commit to bringing them about.

Accessing Your True Desires

The way around these various pitfalls is to identify what it is you truly want. When you know what you truly want, all these resolution killers melt away like snow on a hot day.

It took me several years to quit smoking but one New Year’s it finally worked. When I finally quit, the solution came not through patches, plans, or placebos. Surprisingly, I quit after I decided that I wasn’t even going to attempt to quit smoking. I wasn’t going to quit because I should. I wasn’t going to sabotage my efforts with objections and excuses. I wasn’t going to stop for a while only to resume some time days or months later because I wasn’t really committed.

I simply didn’t want to smoke anymore. The desire for it was completely gone. In its place I discovered that what I truly wanted was to be a non-smoker. I wanted healthy lungs. I wanted good health. In that moment, I completely shifted my internal paradigm. I no longer needed a resolution to commit myself to a course of action. It was easy to stop smoking. I wanted to be healthy and the choices that supported that desire came easily. I chose to follow my heart’s desire. That was 19 years ago and it’s as true today as it was then.

When you really want something, you don’t need resolutions and willpower to achieve it. Success comes naturally because it is born of your desire for the outcome.

Achieving Your Goals and Dreams

To help you get clear on what it is that you want to create in the year ahead—and to help you to actually achieve it, we’d like to offer you two free gifts to say thank you for subscribing with us.

The first is a bonus article called The Most Common Mistakes for Resolutions (And How to Correct Them). It picks up where this article leaves off and offers constructive suggestions for ensuring that your resolutions come to pass. To access it, click the link below.

The second is a free teleconference on How to Manifest the Life You Want with Vision Boards. That teleconference will be offered on January 7, 2010 at 7 pm MOUNTAIN time. You can learn more about it and find out when that is in your time zone by clicking the link below.

2 Responses to Res-Fail

  1. This article is like a shampoo commercial: all I did was share it with my partner and now our entire family is excited about it. The teleconference sounds like a perfect start to the new year for us all…

  2. Matthew says:

    We love it when you tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on! Glad you liked the article.

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