4 Reasons New Years Resolutions Don’t Work and How to Make Next Year Great!

Donald Miller

Research shows only 8% of people achieve their New Years Resolutions. That means most of your friends won’t be following through on their goals. But there’s hope!

Here are four reasons resolutions don’t often work, and a few tips for making 2013 better:

    1. Our Resolutions Weren’t Meaningful. 
    Goals like “lose weight” or “decrease debt” are vague and uninspiring. Goals work much better when they’re set within a narrative context. Frodo would not have gone on his journey unless the fate of Middle Earth depended on it.

    It’s like that with us, too. Without a narrative context, we have little motivation to become different people than we are. When God created the Garden of Eden, He didn’t put a gym in the middle of it. Instead, He gave Adam an ambition that made him come alive. He told Adam to name the animals. Then he motivated Adam with a love story, then a family. He launched man into a story and man has been designed to live within a story ever since.

    Want to lose weight? Try participating in a walkathon or tennis tournament for charity. Maybe teach an exercise class at a retirement center. You’d be amazed at how changing your narrative context engages your mind, heart and spirit.

    2. We Failed to Make a Plan.
    The counterpart to planning is spontaneous order. And most New Years Resolutions rely, sadly, on spontaneous order. We think a goal is going to pull us through, but it won’t. We need to make a plan. Planning involves considering and organizing activities required to achieve a goal. Without a plan, resolutions most certainly fail. I’ll talk more about making a plan below.

    3. We Forgot.
    Seriously, once the car broke down and the baby got sick and the boss demanded we get the assignment in early, we simply forgot we made resolutions at all. We didn’t write the resolutions down in a place we could check from time to time. Posting the stories we want to live in a place where we can see them and review them often will keep us on track well into February and beyond.

    4. They Just Weren’t For Us.
    So what if being a skinny super model or a fifty-year old jock just isn’t for you? We will never be motivated to fulfill somebody else’s expectations. Sadly, many people’s resolutions fail because they’re trying to become something they aren’t. Instead, what if our resolutions were in line with our own stories, our passions, our desires, our deepest wants? Of course, the key is to better understand what our passions actually are. We recommend clarifying your life using Storyline or MySubplot.com. You can learn more below.

Here are a few tips from Storyline on creating New Years Resolutions that will have you outpacing most anybody this year:

    1. Choose a meaningful ambition.
    A meaningful experience is usually relational. So a more meaningful resolution might involve other people. Rather than simply deciding to lose weight, you might try running a half marathon as a family, or climbing a mountain with friends, or riding a bike in a special bike ride that benefits a charity. If it’s a financial goal, decide as a family how much of your debt you want to pay off by this time next year, then post it on the fridge. Do great things together if you’d like to create a more meaningful experience.

    2. Create a plan to accomplish your ambition. 
    Creating a plan to follow through on our resolutions requires sitting down with pen and paper and putting real goals on real dates in a real calendar. Anything else is just wishful thinking. But making a plan also involves following through on major steps. This year, to follow through, we need to sign up for that exercise class or create that savings account or have a garage sale. Stating a vague goal is great, but creating “inciting incidents” is what really gets us moving. At Storyline we teach the power of inciting incidents. The term comes from novelists and screenplay writers and it involves an incident in which their characters are forced into the story. So, when we sign up with friends for an exercise class or go down to the bank and open a savings account, we are taking a step that launches our story. Creating an inciting incident may be the most powerful tool we have in following through on our ambitions.

    3. Engage conflict. 
    Most people avoid conflict and it’s for good reason. Conflict isn’t any fun. But when we realize no good story is told without conflict, we can redeem it in our minds. While it may still sting, we can also see conflict as meaningful. And when conflict is seen as meaningful, it’s more bearable and even, to some strange extent, meaningful. (Learn more about engaging conflict by downloading the free chapter of Storyline here.)

    4. Share your story with the world. 
    We’ve created free a tool to help you plan your life like a story and share it with the world. Simply visit MySubplot.com and follow the tutorials. An hour from now, you’ll already have made powerful resolutions that you’ll be much more likely to keep! In addition, you’ll be joining THOUSAND OF OTHERS who are telling better stories with their lives.

If you do these things, your New Years Resolutions will be more meaningful and you’ll be much more likely to keep them.

If you want to make 2013 your best year yet, attend the Storyline Conference in San Diego, February 23rd and 24th. Hundreds of people are coming together to learn, network, be encouraged and inspired. At Storyline we’ll spend about five hours talking about how to live a meaningful story and we’ll spend much more time interviewing people living incredible stories themselves. Let’s make 2013 different. Register today.

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is all about story. He's helped thousands overcome a sense of meaninglessness by helping them create their Storyline life plan. If you're struggling with a sense of meaningless, pick up Storyline today. After studying story for years and successfully using the elements of story to engage customers, Don created StoryBrand, a process any business owner or marketing team can go through to create a communication script that will increase sales. Don is also the creator of the Storyline Productivity Schedule, a free daily schedule using modern psychology to increase a person's productivity. Don believes getting your story straight changes everything. Follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.