Why Most People Don't Keep Their New Year's Resolutions–And How to Keep Yours

Most people don’t keep their new year’s resolutions because they don’t translate them into their schedule.

It’s that simple.

If you make a resolution, but don’t plan time to actually accomplish it, it usually won’t happen. It won’t happen because it remains merely an intention. And intentions that aren’t specifically translated to “actionable zones” tend to be treated by your mind as “nice to do, but not necessary to do” items.

The result is a hit-and-miss approach. Some days you remember and follow through, and others you don’t.

Think of an Olympic athlete. They don’t simply say “my goal is to win the gold medal.” Instead, they adhere to a workout schedule. Without that concrete mechanism of action, the goal would simply be wishful thinking.

Now, what about those more intangible aims such as “lose 10 pounds”? How do you schedule that? Obviously you can schedule the exercise portion of that goal. But what about the “eating less” portion? Speaking from experience, it’s easy to get to the dinner table and forget (or deliberately neglect?) all intentions of eating healthy.

This is where reviewing your goals comes in. Mindsets that need to be more or less continuous (like “eat less”) tend to be kept in mind through regular review until they become second nature. The weekly review helps accomplish this; for things that tend to fall out of mind easily (like “eat less”), just pausing at the beginning of your work day to remember your aims can be helpful.

Which leads to one last thing: you have to keep your number of resolutions small. It’s not possible to create actionable mechanisms for or keep in mind a large number of new (or renewed) aims.

If you find it helpful to make new year’s resolutions (and they are a good thing — see John Piper’s article on resolutions, as well as his article on what to do when you fail), make just a few that really count, and then create simple, actionable mechanisms to make them happen.