Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail—and How To Succeed
01.26.2017 by Dr Judith Wright
So here we are, a few weeks into the New Year. How many of us have kept our resolutions? I bet a few (or more) of us are slouching down in our seats as we read this.
By the end of January, 50% of people will have faltered on their New Year’s resolutions—and it goes straight downhill from there. So, if you’ve fallen off your resolution wagon, know that you’re in very good company.
When we look at why New Year’s resolutions fail, it’s not because we don’t have enough willpower or because we’re weak. Our resolutions don’t fail because we’re just “lazy” or because we “can’t change.”
Why New Year’s resolutions fail? Because we don’t make the RIGHT resolutions.
Think of all the common resolutions you hear:
- I want to lose 50 pounds!
- I’m going to give up sugar!
- I want to stop shopping online!
- I want to get a big promotion!
- No more bad dates!
- I’m never yelling at my kids again!
- I resolve to run a marathon this year!
Often, our resolutions are so lofty, they’re easily broken once…and then that’s it. We’ve failed. We throw in the towel.
Either that or our resolutions are intertwined with our soft addictions—those timewasters and other things we do that aren’t so healthy, like wasting time on the internet, skipping the gym to stay in bed, feeling guilty over too many Netflix binge-sessions, eating the extra dessert, or buying those shoes we can’t afford so we put them on a credit card (we also can’t afford to pay off).
These aren’t signs that we’re hopeless, bad or lazy, or that we can’t achieve our goals. These are all signs of “mis-wanting.” We can’t unlock our goals because we don’t actually want the things that would bring us happiness.
What is Happiness?
Underneath many of our goals and resolutions is the desire to “be happy.” We all want happiness, but many of us aren’t even sure what happiness means for us, or what it would truly look like.
In a classic study of lottery winners and accident victims, it was determined that happiness isn’t as relative as one might think. The lottery winners reported immediate gratification, of course, but after a year, their happiness levels returned to their pre-win state. For the accident victims, despite suffering horrible tragedy, their happiness also returned back to baseline after a year.
The lesson here? Whether lottery winner or accident victim, the happy people stayed happy and the miserable people…well, they stayed miserable. This is referred to as the hedonic treadmill. Despite the positive or negative happenings in our lives, we often return to the same levels of happiness.
It’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to aim for happiness or determine what “makes us happy,” of course, but we should be aware that happiness isn’t our singular objective, nor does money or being thin usually result in happiness. (Although we often think that money or weight loss are the two things holding us back.)
The reality is, we think something is going to “make” us happy. We mis-want things and until we unlock the deeper desires (the “why”), we’re going to keep spinning our wheels and walking along on a treadmill…moving toward a carrot we can never catch.
Figuring Out Our WHY = Getting to the Root of True Joy
The things that really bring us true happiness are what we can offer to the world. These are our “gifts” and they directly correlate to our deepest desires, also known as our “yearnings.”
When we work to unlock our yearnings, we can see the bigger wants—the things that will TRULY bring us the happiness, satisfaction and joy we desire. It’s not finishing a marathon, fitting into our skinny jeans, organizing our office, or even getting the promotion.
Underneath these small goals or resolutions, there are bigger, deeper yearnings:
- I yearn to be loved.
- I yearn to be seen.
- I yearn to be acknowledged.
- I yearn to be accepted.
We can unlock our yearnings by running our goals through the “so that” test, like so:
I want to lose 20 pounds, SO THAT I can have more energy. I want to have more energy, SO THAT I can keep up with my kids. I want to keep up with my kids, SO THAT I can have a strong connection with them. I YEARN to connect with my kids.
Suddenly, when we unlock the deeper meaning, the “why” of our goals and resolutions, we become laser-focused on achieving them. The steps to attaining the larger goal become clear.
Not only does our path become obvious, but also, it opens us up to the truth that, well, we don’t need to lose 20 pounds to connect with our kids. We can start getting that bliss right NOW! We already have the winning lottery ticket right in our hands!
The amazing thing is, once we identify our yearnings and seek ways to directly fulfill them, we might find the pounds melt away. We’re connected with our kids, playing with them more, engaging in life, and not numbing ourselves behind ice cream and the internet. Suddenly, we’re more active and more energized, our clothes fit and we’re loving life!
Realizing Our Gifts & Living Our Best Lives
Within each and every person are gifts that they bring to the world around them. When we’re doing things for others, thinking of ways to engage and cultivate relationships with those around us, and building our best selves, these gifts become more evident and clear.
“Accepting that we all have gifts, we can join the quest to discover them. We needn’t be limited by mistaken beliefs that we’re not talented or that others are special but not us, or that it is showing off to share our gifts. Convincing ourselves that we lack any real gifts or have nothing to contribute leaves us with an aching void that we often fill with soft addictions. Our fear of failure and our perfectionist approaches bar us from fully engaging in life. We are willing to just get by in order to distract ourselves from our fear. If we believe we have nothing to contribute we don’t fully engage in life and we seek solace in soft addictions. Since we only discover our gifts by engaging in life, we may miss finding the gifts we surly posses…
…By developing and offering your gifts, you grow. You become more skilled and more fulfilled. Something new is created and brought into the world. The creativity you express through your gifts empowers you to add meaning to your life and the lives you touch.” –The Soft Addiction Solution
You are a gift. You deserve to be happy and have your yearnings met. Make it your resolution to STOP going nowhere on the goal treadmill. Unlock your desires and bring your gifts to the world!
Once you’re making the right resolutions, you’ll find keeping them is a pleasure! You’ll be more engaged, you’ll have more energy, and ultimately, you’ll find the secret to bringing more love, light and happiness into your life!
So stop beating yourself up about missed resolutions and failed goals. Reframe your path and aim for the things you really want! If you need some ideas on how to determine your path or if you need coaching on your life journey, please visit www.wrightliving.com.
Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach. She is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
Liked this post and want more? Sign up for updates – free!
Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.