Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work

By Natalie Rivera

Here we go again… another New Year’s Resolution. Haven’t we learned by now that a declaration to change because another year ticks on the calendar is an ineffective form of commitment? The excitement and hope that surrounds the symbolic progression of time gives us all a sense of possibilities for renewal, re-alignment, and change. Yet, all too often, within weeks, or sometimes months, of January 1st we find ourselves back to living our old news. It’s disheartening, but we brush it off—we tell ourselves,

“It was only a New Year’s Resolution, no one keeps those anyway…”

We’re so used to failing to keep our resolutions that we don’t even usually notice when we rescind on them. The problem is that any time someone moves forward with a desired change, already expecting it to fail (even unconsciously), the outcome is predictable: more of the same. Now, I recognize that most of us genuinely believe we’ll really quit smoking this year, our eating habits will be forever changed, and we’ll finally stop the patterns of disharmony in our relationships. We feel inspired, we’re ready—but we’re fooling ourselves.

So, if you find yourself filled with anticipation and motivation as this New Year is upon us, or if you yawn with indifference about the whole New Year’s Resolution thing, I urge you to consider whether you are REALLY ready to make changes in your life.

Are you tired of repeating the same patterns?

Are you sick of feeling less-than-healthy or less-than-happy?

Are you genuinely seeking positive change?

Are you really ready to take control of your life?

Are you read for a breakthrough?

If so, start by being real about the fact that the changing from one calendar year to the next takes place on an ordinary day. Then, decide to do things differently and stop believing in the collective delusion that changes on a whim will be lasting.

Ok, I’m done ranting now. Here’s the inspirational part! You CAN change. You CAN stick to your commitments. You CAN create an amazing life! The GOOD NEWS is that there are simple keys that unlock the powerful potential within ALL New Year’s Resolutions.

Failure no longer has to be an option. Neither does doing nothing and staying stuck where you are. Before you go making another New Years resolution you probably won’t keep, take some time in self reflection and be brutally honest with yourself. Is your desire for more, for fulfillment, for happiness finally strong enough that you are willing to encounter the obstacles and endure the fear? If so, congratulations, you will succeed—you are ready to transform!

But wait… that’s not entirely true. Having a strong enough desire to reach your goal is only one part of what sets apart those who achieve their goals from those who do not.

Below are the 9 reasons why New Year’s resolutions don’t work:

Not setting them: Everyone wants things, but in order for a goal to be attainable it must be stated explicitly. Setting goals matters because with goals we create our future in advance. Our only other choice is to deal with whatever hand we’re dealt, which usually means doing what we “should” and living other people’s dreams. Yuck
Creating your destiny is a much better way to live than accepting the default.

Having goals that aren’t inspiring, usually because it’s not what we REALLY want. We don’t know WHY we want it and we don’t want it bad enough.

“You see, the meaning, the purpose behind why you want what you want is more important than the outcome… it’s not about the accolades or the stuff—it’s who you become because of them.”
—Anthony Robbins

Not being specific enough: For example, a man that says “I want to be a leader for my family” which begs the question is “well, what’s preventing you from being a leader for your family?” He responds “I’m not focused enough.” Leaving the question, “well, what does that mean? Focused on what?” Without a specific goal it’s impossible to identify what you need to do or change.

Not writing it down: When you write your goals and desires down you become a creator. Seeing it on paper helps bring clarity. It makes it REAL. Writing it down tells yourself that you really mean it. Every study that we’ve ever read about success and goal achievement shows very clearly that taking goals out of your head and making them concrete by writing them into a statement (or better yet, a plan) is absolutely mandatory for achieving that goal.

Not creating an actionable plan: A “plan” means a “plan of action”—otherwise it’s just a neat list of ideas. Writing down goals is important, but breaking them down into steps that can actually be taken is the only way to have any power to create those goals.

Not taking right action: This is the defining step that most people miss… taking the steps. There’s a big movement of people are waking up to recognize the power of their thoughts, focus and INTENTIONS… but they fail to understand they fail to realize that “intend” means “intend to DO.”  It is true that you cannot force anything to happen—and, in fact, you shouldn’t try. Goal attainment isn’t about relentless action, it’s about right action. It’s about getting your mind focused with clarity on the outcomes you want and then taking deliberate steps in that direction

Letting road blocks derail you: The biggest road block of all is being caught off-guard by road blocks. The key here is to anticipate that there WILL be setbacks and obstacles along the way. No matter how meticulously you plan, life will always throw something on your trail. It will never be perfect. Not being prepared for this can lead a bump in the road to knock you off course for good.

Continuing to do what doesn’t work: You say “I’ve tried like 1,000 ways” but when I ask you to name those ways, it turns out it’s really about 3, and you’ve tried those same 3 over and over again. You need to assess what is working and not working and regularly re-evaluate your plan. Just like a baby who is learning to walk, don’t give up after falling 3 times… keep trying NEW strategies until you find the one that works.

Not having accountability: Most people don’t address the fact that starting or stopping a habit or making a long-term change can be really hard. Commitment to change takes vigilance, which takes accountability to something or someone outside of themselves.

So, now that you know what leads to failure, you know what leads to success (and what you need to do)!

  • Take the time to determine your goals
  • Get clear on WHY you want them
  • Make sure your goals are specific and achievable
  • Write this all down
  • Write a strategic, detailed plan of action
  • Take action steps and commit to following through
  • Prepare in advance for road blocks
  • Evaluate your strategy and adjust accordingly
  • Find an accountability partner

We have used these goal setting techniques for ourselves and our clients, and they’ve proven over and over again to be a catalyst for success.

The truth is that change isn’t hard. Life changes in a single moment.

Everything else leading up to that moment is planning, preparation and inspired action, getting you ready to take advantage of that opportunity to transform when the timing is right.


Natalie Rivera is a firestarter, speaker and entrepreneur. She is passionate about empowering others to GET REAL and live authentically. After a decade of living a life that wasn’t hers and developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Natalie let go of everything and completely transformed. Through her journey to healing she rediscovered her true self and greater purpose—to inspire others to transform their lives. Natalie “retired” from the rat race at 24, put herself through school as a freelance designer, created a non-profit teen center, and later created Transformation Services, Inc., which offers motivational speaking, curriculum development, life coaching, event management, and publishing. She is also the Publisher of Transformation Magazine. Visit www.ignitelife.me.


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