You didn’t fail your resolutions. They failed you.


By Georgie Hosier

According to a survey published by The Guardian, 66% of us have given up our New Year’s resolutions by the end of January [1].

Well, here we are with the first month of 2018 drawing to a dreary close, and I ask you: are any of your resolutions still standing? Kudos to you if so, apparently you have more resolve than two thirds of the British public!

However, another 15% of you will join the defeated by March, so you might as well give up now and save yourself the effort.

The inevitable failure of our resolutions is marked by the very fact we have to make new ones annually. If we actually ‘self-improved’ – the aim of these wretched things – we wouldn’t need to repeat the ordeal each year.  Yet 2018 came around and brought with it our fresh resolutions: brimming with hope, bursting with determination and, I must say, accompanied by more than a slight whiff of desperation.

We’re desperate to be better and to do better than we did last year, so we set ourselves some guidelines by which to live. We think that we will be fulfilled, and feel more worthy, if we achieve x, y and z this year.

This is the year I quit smoking, start running, meet the love of my life… This will be my year.

One month in, how’s that going for you? If you’ve given up, do you feel rubbish? If you’re still going, is it really making you that much happier?

Let us suppose that you somehow miraculously keep your resolutions fully throughout 2018 – you exercise, and work hard enough to get that promotion, and start dating someone – do you truly believe you will feel a significantly better person when 2019 rolls around? My guess is that there would be other areas of your life that you would have become dissatisfied with (just in time to make some more resolutions).

So yes, there is desperation attached to this tradition, and it’s an insatiable thirst for change. We need to make things better because we fear the consequences should things continue as they are. This desire to transform ourselves isn’t limited to a ‘New Year, New You’ fad, but is something we spend our lives in pursuit of. At the heart of it is a concern built upon the foundational fear of not being enough. Our personal insufficiency, our lack of being, feeds this hunger for change.

Change is not a bad thing at all, but these improvements we try to make to our lives are unfulfilling. They never satisfy our need to be enough. I’ve wasted plenty of time on vain endeavours to self-improve and can tell you now: it’s not worth the effort. There is no contentment to be found on a self-improvement journey, because there is no end to it.

So what is the solution? If our resolutions are doomed to fail and, at root, just point to a desire to alter our identities and spend our lives in pursuit of being more, then what can we do?

Well, consider why you want to change yourself. The answer quite possibly lies in a bigger problem than your weight.

I would suggest that awareness of our own inadequacies points to the deeper truth that we know that there is something fundamentally wrong with humanity. We have this intrinsic desire for fulfilment, for goodness, for perfection, yet we are at a loss as to how to attain this, either individually or collectively. We keep striving because we can’t accept that there is a possibility that we might not be able to find fulfilment on our own, that our lack of satisfaction is caused by something fundamentally missing in our lives.

We cannot perfect ourselves in our own strength because we were never made to. Perhaps you struggle with the idea that God created you. But doesn’t this longing in your heart point to the fact that you were made for more? It is an innate desire for how things should be; it draws us into relationship with our creator.

The methods so many of us use — make the resolutions, change your behaviour, realise you still feel bad about yourself, repeat – just don’t work. One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that it is not effort and strife that changes your identity, it is the declaration over you that you are perfect because God says you are.

So if you’re feeling like a failure, or like you’re not enough, it’s okay. None of us are enough by ourselves. And this is far more powerful than any New Year’s resolution because it is stronger than permanent; it is eternal.

[1] George Arnett, ‘How long do people keep their New Year resolutions?’, The Guardian 31 December 2015

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