Stop Making Resolutions!

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By Eileen Habelow, Ph.D.

Just as ‘strategy without execution is hallucination’, it is also true that ‘resolutions without a purpose and a plan will falter.’

Are you paying attention to the commercials on TV and on the radio?  Weight loss programs have deals.  Fitness centers have deals.  Financial planners have deals.  It is no coincidence that these ‘deals’ being advertised coincide directly with the top three New Year’s resolutions made by Americans –

  1. eat better
  2. exercise more
  3. spend less money

According to one survey, more than 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.  Here’s the problem, though.

“While Americans are more likely to make a New Year’s resolution than vote in a midterm election, few have the resolve to actually see their resolution through. New Year’s resolution success rates hover just above 9% — and over 40% of those who make a resolution will give up before the end of January.”

Those are not good odds.  I am sure there are many reasons why we consistently falter in making our New Year’s resolutions a reality. Maybe we should just stop making resolutions all together… at least we won’t fail, she says tongue-in-cheek.

Or, we could add two things to our resolutions to increase the likelihood they will stick.  There is so much great research out there now about habits.  And, let’s face it, that is what our resolutions really are – goals to change habits.  Eating better is a habit.  Exercising more is a habit.  And spending less is a habit.  To change habits takes time – some say 30-days.  Two additional ingredients are Purpose and a Plan.


I have been watching the @getoneword movement on Twitter over the past few days.  The concept behind the one word is focus – what is the one word that can positively impact all dimensions of your life?  If you keep that one word front and center throughout the year, what would be different at the end of the year?  I also read a book last year called “The One Thing” – the book answers the question “what is the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

Personal disclosure – I chose my one word for this year and it is ‘ENOUGH’.  That might sound like a counter-intuitive choice… maybe ‘exceed’ or ‘achieve’ or ‘grow’ would be closer to what you might expect.  But, for me, if I keep the word ‘ENOUGH front and center in 2018, I will have made progress toward being more moderate in all things.  I tend to be an over-doer.  An over-thinker.  An over-spender.  You get the gist.  I over-do all things, good and bad.  I go big or go home.  I could have chosen the word ‘moderation’, but frankly that sounds like a four-letter word to me.  “Enough” is more motivating – I can say it to myself.  I can give my family and friends permission to say it to me.  “Enough” is the word I am going to use this year to slow myself down, focus on fewer things, and do them well, not over-done.


We all know the value of a plan.  We know if we don’t plan to do things differently, we will end up with zero change.  If you do have a resolution to do more of something, you better book an appointment block in your calendar.  If you plan to do something better, you better block time to practice and prepare.  It is the culmination of many simple, but consistent steps that will lead you to the goal.

Resolutions work best when you have a purpose and a plan.  What’s yours?

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