The question is, why? Why do we fail when our intentions are good? Why do we fail at doing things we know we should? Here are five reasons why these resolutions rarely work. Once you understand what they are, you will be better equipped to break down these walls and experience real change in your life.
- We make decisions based on urgency and convenience. We brush our teeth so we don’t get gum disease. We wash our clothes to wear something presentable to work. We go to bed at 10pm to be able to make that 8am meeting. We triage the things that seem most important in the moment. In those moments, we make split-second decisions that typically impact the next few minutes or hours of our lives. We rarely endure major, life-changing events. Most of the decisions we make involve how we spend our time in the moment. We get the things done that we consider most important. Everything else is de-prioritized, including actions attached to longer term goals like getting fit or saving for retirement.
- We value the things we invest time and money in. You’ve probably heard the scripture, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” from Matthew 6:21. This statement is one of the foundational concepts of understanding the why behind your focus and attention. Once you understand how it works, you’ll understand how to form good habits and break bad ones. For instance, let’s say you worked really hard over the course of a month to earn $1,000 and decided to invest it in Apple (AAPL) stock. Now, do you think you’re going to invest that money only to ignore Apple’s stock price in the future? No way! You’re going to check it every single day. What if you decided to sell that stock and buy Microsoft (MSFT)? You’re going to stop paying such close attention to Apple and instead follow that Microsoft line. The same is true in our own lives. If we’re investing time, money, and resources into something, we’re going to make it bigger priority in our lives. It will gain our attention. This is the fundamental reason why your New Year’s Resolutions all fail. You haven’t yet made enough of an investment in the areas you’d like to improve in. Do me a favor, take an inventory of all the things you own and rank them by how much you spent on them (including yearly costs for types of food, soda, alcohol, subscriptions, cable tv, video games, fitness equipment, gym memberships). Then go down the list and make an approximation of the amount of time you use each item. If you really consider the investments you make into the things you own, you’ll begin to realize that those investments require thought, time and energy. Change what you invest in and change your life.
- We live in a world where accountability is frowned upon. When you grab the potato chips and a soda, odds are you’re not going to spend time measuring out one serving of chips and putting the rest away. You’re going to take the whole bag, eat most of it (or all of it) and go on your way. And who is going to stop you? We enable the behavior of those around us because we want them to be happy and we like to be in control of our own over-indulgence. “I earned this.” Instead of setting an example to be followed, we’re following the example of the behavior we see modeled every day on television, in commercials, and by those around us. Real accountability requires honesty, truth in love, and time. There can be no sweeping it under the rug or “just this one time.” You must endure vulnerability and moments of failure to achieve change. Once you can agree to be held accountable by others, you can begin a journey of true change.
- We fear change because it might cause rejection. We seek advice, validation, and approval from the people we give influence in our lives. Whether it’s wearing name-brand clothes, owning the latest pair of Nikes, or simply desiring approval of a major life decision, we prioritize approval-seeking over our own feelings a lot of the time. We fear change because we don’t know if the changes we’re making keep us in alignment with approvals we have already gained. The ultimate perceived failure in life is being rejected by friends, siblings, parents, even God. The good news is, we rarely are rejected for doing things that make us truly happy or align us with purpose.
- We avoid conflict because it is painful. We have been conditioned to do things for our own pleasure. In many cases, there’s nothing wrong with that. But we tend to ignore doing what’s necessary and instead doing what is least confrontational. The problem is, most of the time, confrontation is needed to invoke change and alter future expectations. Too often, our desire for approval and value of keeping the status quo prevent us from entering into conflict that changes us for the better.
So, whatever your reasons for making and breaking your New Year’s Resolutions, make it a point to evaluate what is stopping you from true change and work towards removing those obstacles from your life first. Then work to add, change or break one habit at a time and celebrate small milestones on a long journey to changing your lifestyle for the better.