Why Aren’t New Year’s Resolutions Sticky? | UMC YoungPeople
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January 2018

Why Aren’t New Year’s Resolutions Sticky?

By Chris Wilterdink

Chris Wilterdink

We know we’re not perfect. We know we have things to work on. Many people take the start of a new calendar year to make “New Year’s Resolutions” and get to work on improving something about their lives. Some estimates say over 40% of people in the US take on a resolution in January.

Great idea. Normally doesn’t work. Hate to be the one to break it to you. New Year’s Resolutions simply don’t stick. Approximately 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February, and only 8% of the people who make them really achieve them in the US. There might be many reasons why…

  • We get too ambitious. In other words, we try to bite off more than we can chew. Perhaps we want something, but we haven’t really considered the time or effort it will take to get it.
  • We forget to track it. By the time February passes and you haven’t started, it’s easy to say “Meh, next year maybe.”
  • We think about the timing all wrong. We think a “New Year’s Resolution” is called that because it is made at a New Year’s celebration. What if we instead thought about it as a “Resolution that will take a whole New Year to accomplish?”
  • We don’t get the needed support. Too often we think we must do a change on our own. That makes it so much harder!

How can we improve our chances of making a resolution stick?

  • Consider making tangible, bite-sized changes and watching them increase over time! Say you want something simple, that isn’t very tangible, like “be a better Christian”. What does that really mean? Check out “Building Spiritual Muscle” for in-depth guidance on this idea. Make your goals simple, and break down the desire to improve your spiritual life into both actions and reflections. That way, you will feel like you are actually doing something and keep track of what you do to “be better”. Maybe you set a goal to pray more frequently, or add one new prayer practice a month, or remember to ask your family for prayer requests once a week. See how a definite goal feels much more doable than a vague one?
  • Plan it, track it, write about what has changed. Consult the FaithMinder Journal, an optional add on to “Building Spiritual Muscle”. It’s a helpful tool that celebrates what you’re already doing, guides you through spiritual practices to find out what you find meaning in doing, and provides space for you to reflect on how you’re growing. If you want to make a change, plan what you’re going to do to make the change happen, and give yourself time to journal how you are feeling as you go through the change.
  • Expand your timeframe. Many people want a lasting change to happen overnight. It just doesn’t work that way. Why not give yourself twelve months to fully complete your resolution? Make it a resolution that will take a year to accomplish, and the habits you’ll create over the course of that time will not only help you accomplish your goal, but will actually help make your resolution permanent. You’ll have learned that smaller habits, done regularly over time can add up to big time change.
  • Share and be accountable with friends. One of the cornerstones of Covenant Discipleship is accountability. Those seeking to become better share their accomplishments and shortcomings in honest, safe spaces. Having friends support you in your journey is so valuable! If you set a resolution, share it with others, and invite them to check in with you once every couple of weeks to see how it is going. It will help you be honest with yourself and how much you are really trying to make your resolution happen. It will also deepen your friendships, so bonus!

One of the great challenges of being a Christian is being called toward perfection. New Year’s Resolutions are certainly one way to be introspective (looking at one’s self) and deciding how to grow in a positive way. Just know that saying a resolution aloud isn’t enough to make it happen. It takes personal effort and community support to make thing stick.

Chris serves as Director of Young People’s Ministries for Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Chris has a BA in English Education, and an MS in Project Management, and over 15 years of local-church youth ministry experience. He is passionate about leadership and faith development in young people and helping ministry leaders understand their value in the lives of young people. A Stephen Minister, Chris is a native of Colorado living in Franklin, TN with his wife Emily, 2 children, and sausage-shaped beagle.