Why Many New Year’s Resolutions Fail

New Years stickiesFour familiar words often leave us chasing our tails.




…lose ten pounds.

…hold my tongue.

…stop worrying.

In an age of quick fixes, most New-Year’s Resolutions focus upon externals, whether it’s a new technique or another person.

It’s easier to get swept up in today’s fad diet than to learn to quiet yesterday’s worries. Why? Because while adding some practice may be inconvenient, changing the way we think is painful. It requires us to own the ugly–to take full responsibility for some half-truth or idolatry.

Attempts to change other people also contribute to the cycle. We turn people into projects, expect others to make some first move, and we react with blame and shame. Remember what Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results?

What are “First Things?”

New habits rarely form by centering just on the habit itself. Working on the “what” without reflecting on the “why” often becomes a treadmill, not a trek. It takes a higher goal to sustain a new way of thinking. In that fertile seedbed, new habits can form.

Edwin Friedman, in his book A Failure of Nerve, summarizes:

“Any renaissance, anywhere, whether in a marriage or a business, depends primarily not only on new data and techniques, but on the capacity to separate from the surrounding emotional climate [in order to] break through the barriers.”

Isn’t it true that what holds us back are not circumstances, relationships, or even past injustices, but we ourselves? It’s why Jesus’ words so many new-year’s resolutions ago still apply today: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be yours as well. (Matt. 6:33-34)


In this new year, what will it look like for you to put first things first?