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It’s So Hard To Stick To Resolutions

It’s o.k. to admit it. Only two weeks after the New Year began and already you are faltering in your determination and commitment to your New Year’s resolutions. You are not alone. It is so easy to sit with our champagne on New Year’s Eve and dream of the perfect person you are going to be and the wonderful life that you are going to live in the next year. Why? Because dreaming is the easy part and doing is the hard part.

One of the biggest reasons it is hard to stick with our resolutions is that we don’t fully think them through. Year after year we commit to the same resolutions without ever thinking about why we never stuck with them in the past. We usually don’t take the time to match our goals for the year with what is really important to us. Furthermore, we tend to focus on things that are the hardest for us to do. For example, you resolve to lose weight and to increase your income by 50% without really thinking through what you have to give up to actually make that happen or where the time will come from to do these things. We tend to ignore all the logistics that tripped us up in the past.

SMART Resolutions

Most of us have heard about SMART goals, so I won’t go into a lot of detail about them here. (But you can click here if you want a little more help from smartsheet blogger Emily Esposito.) Here’s the gist of it. Research has shown that the odds of succeeding at a goal are improved when the goal is:

  • Specific and well defined, not vague.
  • Measurable, for example I want to lose 10 pounds rather than I want to lose weight.
  • Attainable, which means, be realistic and don’t aim for the impossible.
  • Relevant, i.e. does your goal fit with everything else going on in your world?
  • Time-based, which means set a deadline for yourself.

You’ll see some slightly different terminology out there for the acronym, but the substance of it is the same.

But Wait There’s More

So your resolutions follow the smart guidelines, but will accomplishing them really bring you joy? My belief is that if doing something or the end result of an action doesn’t bring you joy in some way, you aren’t going to do it. So if you say you want to lose weight, but the process sounds like a total drag, you aren’t likely to stick with it. However, if you get a thrill out of trying new healthy recipes or you see going to the gym as a great escape from the noise of work and home, you’ll be more motivated to work toward your goal. To stick with a resolution you must want to reach the end goal and you need to find a way to enjoy the process of getting there.

The end goal is pretty tricky too. Sometimes it’s hard to define and you are not sure what it will really do for you or what it might cost you to get there. Let’s say, you want your business to earn more money and know that taking it to the next level is going to take a big time investment. You will need to find that time somewhere. What if you aren’t ready to give up time with your family or some sleep to get there? Again, it’s not likely that you’ll stick with that resolution. I know you want to say you’ll do whatever it takes to reach your goal, but be honest with yourself and think about what you will and won’t do.

What Do You Really Want?

Resolutions need to fit what you want from life and quite honestly, we often aren’t really sure what we want. Life is funny. We think up resolutions then don’t do what we say we want to do. At the same time we fill our time doing many things when we haven’t considered why we do them or if we really need to do them. Next thing you know you are so deep into the busyness of doing that you lose balance and lose sight of what you want. It’s time to re-calibrate!


“ The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”




In order to keep your resolutions, you need to set them well so that they fit with your desired direction in life. A good resolution is consistent with where you want to go in life. But many of us rarely, if ever, think about where we want to go. We just go along for whatever ride life provides, even when we don’t enjoy the ride. To get your ride pointed in the right direction you will need to set your compass so that it shows north as your north.

Bill Burnett and Dave Evan’s book, Designing Your Life, provides some great exercises to help you find what really energizes and engages you, which in turn helps you to find your north (not the direction that everyone else thinks you should be headed). I recommend this book to my clients and I’m a big fan of many of the exercises, because they work!

Live Your Good Life

Once you have identified what matters to you, what brings you joy, energy and focus, you can check back on your resolutions and re-calibrate. Redefine your resolutions if you need to so that they better match your measures for a good life. Sometimes this means merely re-framing how you look at your goal. For example, if I know that learning and trying new things gives me joy and energy then I could look at a weight loss goal as a way to learn about nutrition and an opportunity to try new ways of exercising. Then the process of reaching the goal becomes something to have fun with.

Of course you’ll also want the end result to be important to you as well. If there’s a resolution that you are really struggling with, it can help to think about and write down what achieving that goal will do for you. Define why you want it and make sure it supports the direction you want to take in your life. Maybe you have set a resolution based on pleasing others, not yourself. Is that a resolution you really want to keep? If not, just ditch it and get on with working on the resolutions that really matter to you.

The Ripple Effect

Once you have reset your resolutions to ones that move you in a direction you actually want to go and will enjoy working toward, you have set yourself up for success. Each little success creates a ripple effect and builds more momentum and positive energy, which keeps you moving in the right direction, your direction.

Please share your wins from setting resolutions that are in tune with your direction in life in the comments below.


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