Why Your New Year’s Resolution Fails


by Aaron Tiger

For the past twelve years, I have made the same New Year’s Resolution: be more organized. Like most people, I do better for a few weeks, but before too long I resort to my old, unorganized ways. I am not alone in my failure to stay with my New Year’s Resolution. 92% of the people who make a New Year’s Resolution fail in their efforts to keep the Resolution. So, if you made a resolution this year, good luck. Maybe you are the exception to the rule, but most of you are like me. Our New Year’s Resolution is destined to fail. Thus if we want to be improve, then we have to try something different.

Why are we so awful at New Year’s Resolution? Why is it that we cannot change the behavior and accomplish the goals that we know and want to change? I read a few articles online about it, and one of the interesting conclusions was that our willpower was not as strong as we think it is. One of my favorite movies growing up was Back to the Future. I saw that movie as a kid, and one of the lines that still sticks with me is this, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” I loved that line, but that line is a lie. I know that because in sixth grade, I put my mind to being Michael Jordan. Let’s just say that that never happened. I became a better basketball player, but I could never be Michael Jordan, and I could never resolve myself to grow taller. Have people accomplished great things by setting their minds to it? Absolutely. But most of the time, great changes don’t just happen because we resolve to do it. We need something different.

So if New Year’s Resolution are such an unlikely vehicle for change, then what can we do? I think we can take a lesson from Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery. These organizations help people who are dealing with their hurts, habits, and hang-ups. They have a twelve-step program, and let me share the first few steps with you.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
  3. We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the first step of making a significant change in our life is to admit that we are powerless to change it. It is only when we are willing to acknowledge our great need for help that we can begin to receive the help that we need to make a change. This is the anti-resolution. It is not about my resolve, it is about my humility.

In the Old Testament (2 Kings 5), there is the story of Naaman. Naaman was a general in the Syrian Army. He was rich, powerful, and accomplished. He was also a leper. He was told by an Israelite slave girl about the prophet Elisha, a healer. So he did what he thought was the rich, powerful, and accomplished thing to do. He went to Israel’s King with his riches because that is where an important person gets healed. The King of Israel could not heal him, so Elisha sent word to have Naaman come to him, and he will tell him how to be healed. So Naaman brought his riches with him to Elisha. Elisha didn’t even come out to see him, and instead sent his servant to tell Naaman that if he wanted to be healed, then he would have to go wash in the Jordan River seven times.

Naaman was furious. Elisha didn’t even have the decency to see him. He had brought his riches with him, because he expected to buy his healing. He basically thought he would solve this problem like he has solved all the rest of them: through his own effort. It was not until he admitted his powerlessness and submitted to the words of Elisha that he finally relented, washed in the Jordan river, and was healed instantly.

I think a lot of us are like Naaman. We don’t want to ask God or anyone from help. We all act like a three-year old who says, “I can do it myself.” So I want to challenge you this year not to do a New Year’s Resolution. Instead of resolving to do something, I want you to receive something. I don’t want you to decide on what you think you need, instead I want you to respond to who God wants you to be, and it is as simple as One Word.

A few years ago, I came across this concept of One Word. Basically, it is One Word that focuses you and challenges you throughout the entire year. My wife Heather has really responded well to this, and has grown significantly through this over the past few years, and I want to invite you to receive this gift. Some examples of words that people have been given include, “wait, trust, soak, perspective, and restore. So how do you get your One Word?

  1. Ask the question, “Who is God calling me to be?” What are the characteristics, situations, and growth opportunities that surround you? Do not start with who you think you should be. Start with who God wants you to be.
  2. Seek, pray, and reflect on that question. For some people the word will just rise almost instantly to the surface. For others, they need to spend time praying and seeking God’s Word. I’d start by reading some Psalms if you are unsure where to turn.
  3. Receive the One Word that God would have for you. The One Word is a gift. It is not something you choose. It is something that is given for you. Receive your word.
  4. Share the One Word with others. Accountability matters. So tell people about your word. You can share it on social media using #OneWordTulsa. Tell your spouse, your friends, or comment on this post.
  5. Begin a practice centered on that One Word. So, if your word is gratitude, maybe your practice is writing a thank you note each morning before you go to work. If your word is listen, maybe your practice is to put your phone away during your conversations. Tell someone what your practice is, and ask them to hold you accountable.

I hope you receive your One Word this year. Want to see where this began? Visit myoneword.com. Don’t forget to share your word using the #OneWordTulsa. Have questions email Aaron at aarontiger@fumctulsa.org.

Aaron Tiger is a husband, dad, pastor, and is still very unorganized. This post was based off a sermon given at FUMC Tulsa on January 1st, 2017. Aaron is the editor-in-chief of the918.org, and his One Word for the New Year is “receive.” 

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