The Surprising Benefit Of Failing At Your New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's resolutions

I’ve heard (or seen written) lots of people say they’re through making New Year’s resolutions. Past defeats regarding follow-through and maintaining resolutions left them feeling guilty and embarrassed. Who needs more of that?

Well, that’s one way to handle defeat. Embrace it. When you go down, stay down. And gather a tribe content with failure to keep you company there. Maybe that’ll show guilt and embarrassment who’s boss.

What You’re Really Giving Up

The dictionary says a resolution is: “the act of resolving or determining upon an action.” It’s goal-setting with teeth – objectives backed up by the strength of personal resolve. The problem is, a lot of us are short on resolve and determination. And we’re long on laziness and excuses. Let’s just be honest about that.

One way we try to circumvent the necessity for such unflattering honesty about ourselves is with language games. We know we need to set goals to move forward, but we opt out of tying our character to actual progress. So we say we’re “making intentions”, “receiving by faith”, “manifesting”, “declaring” a particular thing will happen – as if goals might be met with hopes alone and zero effort on our part.

Can I just say, (because somebody needs to) if you intend or declare you’ll have lost 25 pounds six months from now and you take no action steps toward making it happen, your intention or declaration is a delusional folly. Might as well make your goal a birthday wish on some candles. You simply cannot get around the necessity of applying resolve to a goal no matter how you try to escape the word “resolution”.

But when we give up on resolutions, we give up on ourselves. We give up doing hard work that benefits us. Still, there’s no guarantee we’ll succeed. The spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak.

Hack Your New Year’s Resolutions

If you’re not giving up on yourself, put the teeth back into your goals and make some New Year’s Resolutions. Here are three foundational tips.

1) Make sure your New Year’s resolution is something you actually want. If you resolve to lose weight but keep putting donuts in your mouth, you actually want donuts more than weight loss. But if, like me, you’re unwilling to throw your hands in the air and let the pounds accumulate, then maybe you resolve to swim 3x/week and eat fewer donuts. (Quantify “less” based on your donut habit.)

2) Don’t build in failure from the outset by making unrealistic resolutions. For example, don’t commit yourself to going to the gym for 2 hours per day, 7 days per week. Don’t plan to become debt-free and financially independent by playing the lottery. And don’t vow to memorize the Old Testament. A good resolution is reasonably attainable with appropriate effort.

3) Finally, if you should fall behind or fail to keep your resolution and experience the pangs of guilt and embarrassment, so what? Pick yourself up and start again. That’s how you develop strength of character. Developing a strong character is likely a vastly more significant accomplishment than the goal you originally failed at.

The Benefit Of Failure

Character development is the biggest reason New Year’s resolutions are still a good idea. Resolutions are a challenge by definition. When you fail at them, your response will show you what you’re made of like no psychologist can. If you put your big pants on every day, resolutions – including messing them up – can help you become a woman of strength. This is growth that matters.

A good tribe is important to this growth. Anyone can join in your commiseration. You want women who support your goals with their own resolve when yours is weak. Who will risk your rejection of encouragement to be steadfast because they truly want you to succeed. And who will remind you a pang of guilt is often a very good thing. (Not all guilt is false guilt. Most of it isn’t.)

Guilt is your conscience trying to convict you of truth you don’t want to hear. Click To TweetGuilt is your conscience trying to convict you of truth you don’t want to hear.  That doesn’t mean you have to wallow in it. Receive the message, take corrective action, and move on.

Be a woman unafraid of the challenge of New Year’s resolutions. Gather a like-minded tribe of women. Be inspired by those you trust to tell you the truth about yourself. (This list of resolutions by Jonathan Edwards inspires me.) And if you falter in your resolution, respond like the woman you want to be.

New Year's resolutions