Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

Like most people, I made New Year’s resolutions for decades. Some of them lasted until April, and some of them . . . well, would you believe some ended January 2? Even with good intentions, the resolutions or promises we make to ourselves often disappear like wind-blown dandelion seeds.

Do these resolutions sound familiar?

  • Stop eating sugar.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Complete home projects.
  • Volunteer to help others.
  • Memorize Bible verses.

All worthy objectives, right? Sure. There’s not a bad intention on the list. Then why don’t we achieve them? I can only speak for myself.

3 Reasons Why I Failed at New Year’s Resolutions

Reason 1

Although I prayed for guidance, I often depended on my own strength and wisdom to achieve success. The energy of those power sources weakens quickly.

My solution

A few years ago, I decided to set annual and monthly goals after praying and asking God to reveal His plan for me. I now read books about planning and spend time reading my Bible daily. When I pray and trust God to lead me as I study His Word, I have His strength and wisdom.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

                                                                                                                                      –Psalm 32:8 ESV

Reason 2

A second problem I faced with resolutions was embracing too many goals and projects at once. I attempted too many “good things.” The lack of results brought frustration and fatigue.

My solution

God calls each born-again believer to love Him, to love others, to witness, to be kind, to help the poor, and to follow other Scriptural instructions. He also created us with unique gifts for His glory. Prayer, study, and conversations with trusted Christian friends can help us determine our gifts and the tasks we should accept or decline.

Eric Liddell, the famous runner whose story is told in the movie Chariots of Fire, said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” 1 This 1924 Olympic gold medal winner knew how to focus on the call of God rather than that of men and thus refused to run on Sunday. His goals not only included winning numerous races, but he served God faithfully for many years in China. (The Final Race by Eric T. Eichinger, with Eva Marie Everson, tells the amazing story of this famous man of faith. See link below.)

I want to focus on God’s call for me as Eric Liddell did. I know that God called me to be a wife, mother, and Gigi to my grandchildren. He also called me to write and to participate in two ministries to small groups of women. When I accept too many responsibilities beyond these, I revert to fatigue and frustration.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

                                                                                                                                                       –Proverbs 16:9 ESV

Reason 3

Another problem with my resolutions was lack of clear goals.

My Solution

Specific, measurable goals provide targets and the hope of hitting them. Large projects and goals can be divided into bite-sized pieces and specifically stated. For example:

  • By 5:00 each Friday, file important paperwork.
  • Organize linen closet by January 15 and donate unneeded items.
  • Work out for 45 minutes at the gym Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Take a 30 minute walk each Saturday.
  • Memorize one verse or short passage of Scripture per week.

These goals are specific and measurable, as well as easier to manage. (For more information, see the link below to Your Best Year Ever by Michal Hyatt.) Writing out your goals and checking on progress periodically are helpful practices. Seeking God’s guidance is powerful.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

                                                                                                                                                      –Proverbs 16:3  ESV

Tips for Goal Setting and Time Usage

  1. Seek God in morning prayer as Jesus did. Read a devotional, read Scripture, and pray. I refer to this time as my “morning appointment with God.”
  2. Hold your plans loosely. Interruptions may be divinely appointed.
  3. Plan “catch-up” times in each week as you will surely need them.
  4. Commit to the Lord whatever you do. Talk to Him as you complete each task.
  5. Remember that people are more important than tasks.
  6. List tasks for the week and then each night select the ones that must or could be done the following day.

Are you thinking I have it all together and merrily check off my to-do list each day? No way! Not even close! Some days I become frustrated, pitch a little “hissy fit” with myself, and feel like abandoning my goals. There are days when I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything at all. However, I’m learning and improving as I practice trusting God for results.

My January Advice

Don’t set New Year’s resolutions. Instead, ask God to guide you as you set reasonable goals you were designed to meet. See links for books I like.

Please share in the comment sections at the bottom how you set goals and organize your to-do list. I’d love to gather new ideas from reader friends.

Resources I Recommend for a Brand-New Year

(Click on a book cover below.)

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you decide to purchase a book via my link, I’ll receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) which will assist with blog costs. Clicking on the link will simply take you to Amazon so that you can read about the book.

An Interesting Read

This World War II era biography tells the story of Eric Liddell, the 1942 Olympic gold medalist runner, whose story was featured in the movie Chariots of Fire.  Authors Eric T. Eichinger and Eva Marie Everson go beyond Olympic fame to reveal Liddell’s life of service to God in the face of trials.

Goal Setting, Planning, Time Use

Doing Busy Better helps readers prioritize goals and seek God’s best while ending the frustration that comes from over-doing.

Michael Hyatt, an expert on goal setting and planning, shares an action plan for success in this easy-to-read book.


Sarah Young wrote this collection of one page devotions as if God is speaking to the reader.

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, one of my favorite authors, bases each devotion on a single word and uses it to help readers grow in faith.

1 https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/802465.Eric_Liddell

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24 thoughts on “Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

  1. Jeannie, I enjoyed your article on New Year’s resolutions.  I agree!  I’m going to try to break down my goals more, like you suggested, since mine are sometimes a big nebulous.  🙂  Thanks for the suggestions and reminders that we need to seek God in all our goal-setting.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Breaking goals into smaller chunks encourages me to get started on what would be overwhelming projects. I’m glad you found a useful suggestion. Glenda.

  2. Thank you for this advice. It is timely and needed. You are a blessing to many.

  3. Jeannie, this post is very encouraging. I especially like the way you get specific in breaking down your ideas and examples.
    I’m notorious for expecting too much of myself and then getting discouraged when I don’t live up to my expectations.
    Reading this today is a great Monday morning boost for me. Thanks.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Connie, I also expect too much of myself and I’m still learning in this department. Knowing that you found the post helpful is a blessing to me. Thank you!

  4. Oooh, I love the idea of adding “catch-up” times into my week. I’m definitely going to implement that one! It’s easy for life to sneak up on me (things can also take longer than planned), and then I feel guilty for getting behind. Thanks for posting!

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      I’m so glad the idea appealed to you. Tasks often take longer than I’d anticipated, and I need those times without guilt, too. Enjoy your first “catch up” time.

  5. In my professional days I always planned in “unforeseen events “ days every month. And days to catch up.
    I’m finding myself wondering why I’ve stopped that.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Loretta, I tend to cram in too many tasks in one day. I’m attempting to follow that advice I included. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  6. What an inspiring and helpful post, Jeannie! I like the idea of breaking up larger goals into smaller bites. I’ve tried to do that this year–to commit some daily time to writing projects (and multiple other projects). I recently read an article that says we cannot truly multi-task (can’t remember now where), but I wouldn’t survive if I wasn’t a multi-tasker. However, I do recognize that I have too many projects going on at once. You’ve given some wonderful advice in this post. Thank you!

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Katherine, knowing that you found useful ideas makes me happy! Setting priorities and using time wisely is a difficult dance for most of us. Checking off steps in a project or multi-step task helps me feel productive. Happy planning!

  7. I used to have too many goals too with pages and pages of steps to break it down. Now I just have two. One is to buy a home this year. Second is the get my book published. Still big goals but it’s easier to just think about two and what I need to do to get there.

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Rachel, that simplicity of focus will probably help you accomplish more than numerous goals. Thank you for reading.

  8. Wow, Jeannie! GREAT advice, and I love your specific list of practical ways to carry out plans and resolutions! Love the added time to catch up, and especially love the reminder that people are more important than tasks. And, I loved being reminded that even the interruptions may actually be divine moments in and of themselves!! Great post for the beginning of a new year!

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Julie, I’m so happy you found practical suggestions. Setting goals and priorities are challenging for me–a work in progress. Thank you!

  9. Jeannie I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year! I am trying to let God lead, especially as a newly retired person -I want to do it all! On Monday I did do something for myself, my 81-year-old mom, and her 85-year-old sister. We took our first inaugural fun field trip along with my brother and his wife!They both enjoyed it and we are planning future field trips! I I read an article about how caregiving is more about The connections instead of the event so I’m going to remember that also! For example, looking at old photos at a party,would be a connection as Opposed to the actual party. Thanks for a great article!

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Barbara, I want to do it all in retirement, also and have to remind myself of the tips I included in the article. Thank you for sharing wise advice about making connections. I love those ideas!

  10. This was very helpful..and reassuring!

  11. My problem is that my resolutions are WAY too broad. Now I almost know they will be broken a week later because of that. Thanks for the recommended books. I will work on breaking it down a little more!

    • Post Author Jeannie Waters

      Michael Hyatt’s books taught me to break create SMART goals, an acronym he and others explain, and then to break goals and projects into small steps. It works for me, but I’m still learning.

  12. Thank you for this meaningful post, Jeannie. Your tips are encouraging to move forward in a reasonable and measurable way and putting God in the process not merely as a “bless me” tag.

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