Why New Year's Resolutions Don't Work: How To Create Real, Lasting Change

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In the northern hemisphere, it’s winter. Where I live, in Michigan, the temperatures have been hanging out around 10 degrees Fahrenheit for the past few weeks. It’s cold. The days are short and the nights are long.

I actually love the winter because it’s a time of dormancy, rest, and turning inward. As an introvert, I can really relate to nature during this time of year. I feel my most creative and embodied in the wintertime. 

I also love change and transition, and usually, starting a new year with fresh intentions and resolutions is one of my favorite things to do. 

But this year has been different.

January 1st came and went, and the inspired energy that usually accompanies the day never came. No big epiphanies, no surge of energy, no sudden changes in behavior. Just a quiet, soft, creative persistence to bring previously set intentions to life.

And because the monumental shift I had hoped for never came, I began to judge myself. I began to shame myself with "shoulds": “I should be working harder.” “I should work on my goals.” “I should, should, should…”

I realized what I was doing and stopped myself, but I began to wonder… How many of us make goals based in shame and self-judgments? Goals based in the belief that we’re not good enough? And how many of us make goals simply because everyone around us is goal-setting?

It seems to me, if the goals we set are motivated by "shoulds", the pursuit and attainment of these goals isn’t going to be enjoyable. In other words, creating goals out of shame and self-judgment will only lead to more shame and self-judgment. No wonder so many New Year’s Resolutions fall short a few weeks into the year.

What if, instead of looking outside of ourselves for motivation, we took our cue from the wintry natural world, and turned inward? What if we got curious about the things that are trying to emerge from within us, instead of forcing something to grow? What if we let go of the pressure? What if the quiet, soft, creative persistence was enough?

We've got to be willing to look inward first, and cultivate acceptance around what's actually happening. Only then can we graduate from superficial change to lasting change.


If you need a gentle, creative way to look inward at this new year transition, check out the New Year Mandala Workshop. This 60-90 minute, intentional exercise will allow you to tune into yourself and illuminate the things within you that are trying to grow in 2018.