in life

The Two Reasons Why Most Resolutions Fail (and what you need to succeed)

We’re 8 days into 2013. Are you still going to the gym? Still eating healthier? Still sticking to your budget? Have you taken the first step toward launching your business or writing your book?

As I was writing an article (which I’ll have for you later this week) about how I plan to “work less and do more” this year, I came to the thought of planning, goal-setting, and allowing/scheduling time to “create”.

One of my goals is to allow myself more time to let my mind wander. To write. To tangibly work on ideas. To think. Unhindered by email, social media, meetings, and other distractions. Rather than simply fitting it into my day here and there when I can, I want to make real time for creativity – even if it means I’m reading a book, listening to music, or sitting in silence and I don’t actually come up with anything.

This brings to light the biggest problem with making resolutions. Setting a resolution to “be more productive” is so damn vague. It’s like saying, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds” but not really understanding what it’ll take to get there – which quickly leads to your randomly going to the gym a couple times a week and wandering around the grocery store trying to come up with some healthy things to buy. A couple weeks later you’ll be sleeping in, avoiding the gym, eating donuts for breakfast.

Maybe that’s an exaggeration – but the point is – creating new habits is hard – maintaining old ones is easy. The problem 100% of the time isn’t with the resolution, but with the execution.

Why do most resolutions fail? Because they’re lacking the two things they most need to succeed:

1. A plan of action.

Creating a an effective plan involves one (big) first step: Asking yourself why. 

Why do you want to write a book? Why do you want to lose 20 pounds? Why do you want to be more productive? It may not be an easy question to answer – but it’s one that you must – and one that you can’t lose sight of if you’re going to be successful.

When I decided to run a marathon early last year – I asked myself “why?” – the answer: Above all, I wanted to prove to myself that something I believed to be physically impossible – something I use to be in awe of when other people would talk about it – was achievable and possible for me. I wanted and needed a big, crazy goal to drive me to establish healthier habits – and yes, I wanted to lose weight and feel better and not hate shopping and all of that – but for me, I needed a big, audacious goal to get me from point A to point B. 1,000 miles of running last year, and here I am, with a new habit that’s become a part of my day-to-day. Through it all, I understood the “why” – and that’s what kept me going.

2. A (realistic) schedule.

Odds are when you put a meeting in your calendar, you show up. When something is important, you add it to your schedule and you get it done. This can – and should – and has to be - applied to any goal or resolution you’re setting for yourself.

Most resolutions fail because (real) time isn’t made to take them from idea to reality. If your goal is to write a book – schedule time (put it in your calendar) to write. If your goal is to run – schedule time (put it in your calendar) to run. If your goal is to eat healthier – schedule time (put it in your calendar) to go grocery shopping and to cook emails. It may seem silly to add something like “cook dinner” to your Google Calendar – but in this day of age of being constantly connected and driven by what’s on our to-do lists – use these tools to your advantage and treat the time you make for your resolutions like any other important part of your day.

Also, remember to set a REALISTIC schedule. Don’t schedule two hours seven days a week to write. Don’t block out three hours in the morning to hit the gym. It’s not realistic and there’s no way you’ll stick to it. Set manageable and attainable goals for yourself. Thing big, but start small and work your way up.

I won’t lie to you, friends, this isn’t easy. But is anything that’s really worth it ever that easy? By creating a plan of action, asking “why?”, and setting a realisitic schedule, you’ll be well on your way.

And remember, the problem is never with the resolution, but with the execution.

What goals do you have for yourself this year? How will you execute them?

Add Your Voice



  1. Great article…. I made promises, not resolutions to myself. A resolution is easy to fail at and get discouraged and quit, in my opinion. A promise is not a punishment and can experience can allow you to fall of the wagon… but then resume, and hop back on the wagon. I think resolutions are more susceptible to a person failing and then giving up. I wrote my promises in the categories “Physical,” “Emotional,” “Mental,” and “Work &Greed.” Due to my recent medical issue, I have not been good at keeping up with them… but since they are promises, not resolutions, I can dust them off and keep up working on them.

    Great post Matt!


    • Yes, you really think good, I always thought this word – resolution – being too big, or too important, in our mind, I feel it hard, so, when you don’t get the resolution, you are tempted to guilt yourself, even punish. It’s a better way to deal with these “promises”. Sometimes, the resolutions are only thoughts in our head, whitout realistic schedule, like you wrote, are truly useless.

  2. Hi Matt,

    I really enjoyed this article. You have me sold: I’m going to start training for the Crescent City Classic, only a 10K, but it’ll still be a big deal for a girl who just bought her first pair of sneakers in four years. Actually, even worse, they were a Christmas gift. Anyway, thanks for the article, I am always checking your site. Happy Tuesday :)
    -Also, if I create a section/page on my site for articles, could I provide a link to yours? I’m not sure if I am even going to add the section because it’s off topic for what I’m doing. I am going to see what other people think, if I should add it or not. But in case I head that way, I would like your ok. Thanks!

    • Awesome, Cassandra! Best of luck with the training and if you ever need encouragement – look no further – I know exactly what you’re going through!

      To answer your question – yes of course feel free to link back here. I’d be honored. Thanks!

  3. Hi! I really love your writing. I think a lot of peeps ideas about resolutions are : go big or go home. Yep. No worky. I live the way you reframe for manageability. Keep on bringing the awesome!

  4. Hi Matt! I totally agree with you in scheduling whatever it is you want to do. For me it’s yoga. I put my yoga classes in my diary/planner and so far I’ve managed to wake up at 5.30am everyday, leave the house by 6am to get to my class at 7am. This is coming from someone who used to sleep through alarms (before I would set up 3 alarms to go off consecutively, you know, just in case). Now I sleep earlier too, wake up earlier and feel like I get more things done.

    About running, I’m with you about setting a goal to get you from Point A to Point B. That’s why I signed up for my first 10k run this (happening this end-Jan) and then my first 21k (end-May) so I have running events to train for. These definitely get my ass off the couch and out on the road.

    I really do feel that 2013 will be an amazing year! With all my fitness and health changes I somehow have more energy to also focus on planning for my business.

    Here’s to more adventures!!!

    • Hey Niki! Great to hear from you and I hope all is well.

      Scheduling is huge, I completely agree. If you’re not willing to even make it a part of your schedule – it’s probably not a worthy resolution.

      BEST of luck to you with the running and training. It really has become a part of my day to day and I can’t imagine not making it a part of my regular routine. It’s all about making it a habit and part of your lifestyle.

      Big things this year!

  5. Thanks Matt! I also included a resolution to allow myself the flexibility to revise my resolution list as I go along. I find this is especially exciting when it means that I can say I’ll do something more each day or each week if I have accomplished my initial goal, or if I find that a goal no longer “fits” after I have discovered what it was I was really trying to get out of my best-laid plans. I also resolved to forgive myself/not be too harsh if I don’t reach certain goals, or timelines right away. Nothing feels like a defeating “fail” and I can easily start them again.

    I like that Word thinks you should be “cooking emails.” Is that like cooking the books i.e. “check all as read.” :)