Do New Year’s resolutions work?

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A resolution by definition is something you firmly decide to do. Is that true of your New Year’s resolutions? It wasn’t always true of mine.

This time of year people are thinking about New Year’s resolutions. You may be thinking of things you want to do better next year. Maybe that’s losing weight. Maybe it’s making a new friend. Maybe it’s reading your Bible every day.

Think back with me for a moment to this time last year. Were you like me? Each year in the week before Christmas and New Year’s I think about the year ahead.

I used to make New Year’s resolutions like “This year I will exercise every day.” These resolutions usually failed the first week or two in January. They were way too unrealistic.

Then I decided to make a resolution just for the month of January and see if I could start new habits that way. I would decide things like, “This January I will not eat any chocolate or ice cream.” Yikes! Tough, but I thought do-able. Then I would have major tests or life would get really crazy and I made a Sonic run for a chocolate covered cherry ice cream Blast. There goes another resolution!

When I moved to Florida as a young adult, my team leader challenged us to set goals rather than resolutions for the new year. We were to have at least three goals in each area of our lives (personal, professional, relational, and spiritual). These goals were to be concrete and measurable with set deadlines. Sub-goals would be milestones to get us to the final goal.

That worked better, but I still missed some major goals, especially in the personal and relational categories. That took the air out of my sails and made it harder to work toward the goals still to come. Other goals changed in the middle of the year because of things that happened or new information. The most obvious was when I moved to Colorado in June of 2011. What do you do with that?

Each year I continue to try to find the balance between realistic goals and taking the unknown element of God’s plan for my life into consideration. I still set goals for the New Year, but mostly now I just dedicate the year to the Lord. You can do that too.

How to make lasting New Year’s Resolutions

1. Begin by celebrating what God has done for you in 2016. Scripture says it is important to remember what the Lord has done for us.

“Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
Remember His wonders which He has done,
His marvels and the judgments uttered by His mouth”
Psalm 105:4-5 (NASB)

2. Tell God what you struggled with last year. Ask Him to help you do better. He promised He will.

“You are tempted in the same way all other human beings are. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted any more than you can take. But when you are tempted, God will give you a way out. Then you will be able to deal with it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIRV)

3. Share with God your desire for 2017. Ask Him to show you what He wants for you.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)

“Make me know Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day.”
Psalm 25:5-6 (NASB)

4. Then ask God to show you what you need to do to make that happen. Ask Him who you can ask for help.

“So Christ himself gave the gift of the apostles to the church. He gave the prophets and those who preach the good news. And he also gave the pastors and teachers as a gift to the church. He gave all these people so that they might prepare God’s people to serve. Then the body of Christ will be built up. That will continue until we all become one in the faith. We will also become one in the knowledge of God’s Son. Then we will be grown up in the faith. We will receive everything that Christ has for us.” Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIRV)

5. Then promise God you will do it with His help.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB)

Click here for your free downloadable New Year’s Resolution Prayer of Dedication for Kids (updated every year).

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Nancy Ruth

Nancy Ruth is the Co-Founder and Primary Content Creator at Parent Road Ministries. Learn more at

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