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New Year's Resolutions FAIL! Try Something That Actually Creates Lasting Change!

This is a guest post by Dr. Shawn Haywood

Be honest…have you ever stuck to a New Year’s resolution (NYR) for more than a few days or a few weeks?

So, that’s a NO then…Well, don’t sweat it; you’re not alone.

Maybe there are a few outliers out there who have stuck to an NYR for a bit longer! But on the whole, NYRs are a total flop!

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall into the NYR flop category; you have great intentions, and that’s awesome! Unfortunately, NYRs are usually set to fail, thus making them destined to flop.

At the root of NYRs is change. Positive change, healthy change. Which is fantastic, and a noble goal.

Why Do New Year’s Resolutions Fail Most of the Time?

1) NYRs are too flimsy: not enough meat! They are not tied to values.

2) NYRs usually do not include enough specificity and detailed action: they are too vague.

3) NYRs too often include deprivation, which is never a sustainable model.

Let’s look at these three ideas in a real life NYR example: Losing weight. After all, it’s the #1 NYR.

Most people want to lose weight 98% for vanity. This is not sustainable in and of itself. Vanity is not a heart-centered value. But, maybe you decide to remove gluten (grains, breads, etc.) because it makes you feel horrible, bloated, sluggish and depressed, like it does me. And because you REALLY want to feel good, happy and energetic (this is a meaty reason to make a change). Then, making this change becomes more sustainable, and removing gluten-containing products from one’s diet nearly always results in weight loss. This framework includes value-driven purpose and supporting details, as well as specific action (removing gluten-containing foods).

What about the deprivation factor? This is key. When we remove once-loved foods (especially if depended upon emotionally), there is a sense of loss and deprivation. In this way, making swaps or food exchanges is a great idea! You can make homemade spelt tortillas (delicious: email me for the recipe). OR you can simply add more fat; bodies LOVE avocado and coconut oil fats because they are usable! Hooray! I can eat twice to three times as many of these fat calories as I could bread, and my body and brain and emotions say, “hip hip hooray!”  Because I was strategic about making dietary changes, I don’t miss things like breads or other grains that make me feel yucky!

Make sense?  Any change or NYR hopes and dreams must have three components:

1) They must have a heart-centered purpose and be tied to values. An example of value attachment for me: I am not a fan of how small farmers are treated by big agriculture. Because I deeply value kind, fair, honest and equitable treatment of people, I don’t purchase anything with GMO corn (which is a SHIT ton of products). So now, when I look at that Cholula hot sauce that I used to put on nearly all foods, I see mistreatment instead of Mmmmm…simply because it contains GM high fructose corn syrup. And the decision is easy. The way my family eats is tied to this set of values; thus, we eat at home most of the time and cook with local (as often as possible), organic and humanely raised foods. This alone cuts out hundreds of unhealthy food choices that keep us from gaining unnecessary weight – or losing weight for someone else.

2) Specific and action-oriented change is paramount. If you want to begin a habit like journaling or meditation on a daily basis, then specific and actionable and DOABLE actions are needed. Begin with just two to five minutes each day. Commit to this specific, achievable action until it is a total breeze. Then, add two to three additional minutes. And repeat.

Most people attack change with lofty, unreasonable or vague intentions or goals. This is a recipe for failure. Our brains do not respond well to these kinds of goals. Specific. Achievable. Simple actions.

3) Make the change feel GOOD, fun or interesting. If you feel as though you are losing your best friend (bread, sleeping in, cheese, sugar, job or relationship, etc.) and do not have a solid framework for the desired change, you will end up feeling deprived, and your little inner rebel will say, “Eff it, I do what I want; this sucks!”  And, this marks the end of your well-intentioned NYR!

If you want to get up earlier to work out, read, journal, meditate, rest or relax more or even drink more water, then you must have a significant payoff for making the change(s). Otherwise, you are doomed. And sometimes, we just are not mentally, emotionally or physically ready for a desired change.

If I attempted to implement the changes I chose for this year three years ago, they would have been epic fails. We must know ourselves, be honest with ourselves and honor where we are NOW. If you are not fascinated by the idea and the potential results of meditation and have not done a ton of research regarding this new fascination and do not have ironclad desired payoffs that you feel you deserve, change will be very difficult to sustain. I meditate because I have removed 80% or more of all negative emotion in my life. This is a huge payoff that I was ready to welcome into my life. I was ready to delete drama and chaos and embrace calmness, peace, surrender, acceptance and deep connection. These may be ideas we ALL want but are not necessarily prepared to achieve. Honestly, people get high payoffs for drama, chaos, gossiping, perfectionism, being chronically late, eating crappy foods, being overweight and so on. So, you must be sure that you are really prepared for the changes you desire to make, that you are interested in the change on a deep level and that the ENTIRE process will feel 80% + good. If not, that pesky inner rebel WILL derail you in a very short time.

By the way, I am launching a fantastic Freedom From Chaos six-week tele/web course in February. For those of you who are serious about profound and consistent change, check out the deets here:

Tools to Set Change up for Success

Now that you have a solid framework for understanding the pitfalls of failed NYR and a few tips to inject desired change with powerful staying power…There are steps you can take to ensure that your goals and desired changes are set up to be successful. Let’s look at three actions you can take to ensure successful change in 2018.

1) Set a Theme

I have found it to be most helpful when I, and my clients, create and set a theme for the coming year. A dedication if you will, that will brightly and boldly color unfolding intentions, actions and decisions.

For example, over the years, I have set several annual themes: courage (I wanted to be more brave in my life in taking risks, setting boundaries and anything in between), receiving (I used to not feel deserving enough to open my heart to receiving; I preferred only to give), peace (I spent a year dedicated to creating calm and peace) and being present (I wanted to remove anxiety, and there’s no better way to achieve that than being present!). I have achieved many, many fabulously successful goals (and so have my clients) because of setting a conscious theme for a year.

This year, Chris and I (we set our themes together for extra staying power, accountability and FUN!!) have set our theme as Physical Mastery. We are super excited and have numerous specific, achievable, meaningful actions attached to this goal.

For example, we have added two additional workouts each week. We currently have physical habits of rock climbing, Pilates, yoga/stretching, hiking and cycling (unless it’s too cold!). We are now adding two workouts specific to training for three 10-15 mile mud/obstacle course races for the year!  We are also upping the length of time for meditation and removing any alcohol containing GM corn (something we hadn’t previously thought about).

It’s not like we believe we are going to be the physical masters of the universe, but the theme Physical Mastery feels fun, silly and exciting to us! Plus, engaging in annual family planning together is the bees knees for building connection, intimacy and vulnerability!

Now it’s your turn.You’re welcome to set your 2018 theme to anything you choose. Family, greater abundance, courage, slower pace of life, more free time, healthier eating, vulnerability, healing, freedom from chaos and drama or physical wellness.

Setting each year to a theme helps ensure an overall supportive architecture for each unfolding week. When the theme is hovering consistently in the back of your mind, you’ll be encouraged to make decisions that align with your purpose-filled theme.

For example, if 2018 is dedicated to wellness, and wellness is actively echoing in your mind, you’ll have an easier time making choices that support wellness, as opposed to dieting, which encourages deprivation thinking until a collapse occurs.

You’ll want your annual theme, or dedication, to be meaningful, important, heart-centered and aligned with your purpose, or at least a facet of your purpose. Otherwise, you will stray and ultimately derail.

2) Set Heart-Centered Objectives

Now for more specific objectives. I encourage clients to knit their annual objectives for career and personal life closely together. Again, this will keep your conscious and subconscious mind on track seamlessly. Of course, if a few goals or desired changes drift from center, no need to worry. This is a guideline. 

Secondly, set your desired changes for 30-day increments. At the end of each 30-day segment, you can evaluate, make needed edits and move on. For example, if you want healthier eating habits for functional, heart-centered reasons, then make just one or two small changes for 30 days. Remove JUST cheese (keep everything else, including pizza or fries) and add coconut oil for cooking. OR remove gluten and add avocado. This is sustainable. If you go hog wild and try to make 30 changes simultaneously, i.e. change your whole diet or begin working out one hour per day when you do not work out at all, I assure you, you will FLOP!

“Sustainable progress is FAR superior to perfection!”

Once any desired change is firmly in place and has become emotionally easy to practice, then you can add another goal.

3) Hang out With Your Inner Rebel

Oh the inner rebel – or shall we say, stinker, turd, brat, scamp, rascal, pain in the arse! 

Yep, this part of our psyche is strong, bold, independent and alive and well, with plenty of sass, in each and every one of us. Sometimes, our inner rebel serves us well and even has a unique intuition. Other times, it’s like she’s (or he’s!) turned against us!  No matter what our intentions, all she wants to do is go against the grain and thwart our good efforts. 

She sounds like this, “Don’t tell me what to do; you can shove your salad and workout where the sun don’t shine; I want cookies, pizza and a day of binge-watching Netflix!” 

Or, you fill in the blank, “Don’t tell me what to do; I’ll _____ (over shop, over spend, eat what I like, spend three hours on social media, numb out with alcohol, think myself into a frenzy, gossip and judge others) in an effort to feel better.”

Yep, that little inner rebel can be a real handful. 

So what gives? What is her deal? And why does she rear her sassy little head at the worst possible moments?!


It’s very simple. She wants FREEDOM. And rebelling seems to satiate her, or at least gives the illusion of temporary satiation and a feeling of freedom (albeit fleeting and followed up with guilt and shame…).

Your rebel pops up most of the time because of three main reasons, usually having to do with some form of self-neglect!

1) She pops up when you’ve been too stringent, hard, strict or demanding of yourself, thus, NOT allowing time to PLAY, REST and ADVENTURE! You need play, rest and adventure to be your best, most balance self. These habits help you maintain equilibrium. So as you navigate change in your life, be absolutely sure that play, rest and adventure are scheduled with specificity and action. Otherwise, your inner rebel WILL throw you off course.

2) Everyone requires beautiful loving care in order to keep the inner rebel at bay and to be your best, happiest and most confident self. This means, unconditional self compassion, which does not include self criticism, self meanness, or self abuse of any kind!  Practice more self tenderness and care and you’ll have a much easier time staying on track with goals and desired change.

3) Lastly, your little inner rebel will make herself known when self protection skills like boundaries, saying no and speaking your heart (even when it is difficult or scary) are not being practiced. In this case, your inner rebel pops up in an effort to defend you in any way possible, even if it means emotional eating to soothe you when you didn’t set a much-needed boundary.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Wrap it up!

Permanent change is VERY possible. But, most people go about it very poorly because they lack the knowledge and tools. Try out the tips above, and if you need more help or get stuck, hit me up: I’d love to help you!

For comments, questions and feedback, email!

By the way, I am launching a fantastic Freedom From Chaos six-week tele/web course in February. For those of you who are serious about profound and consistent change, check out the deets here:

Cheers to love, liberation and sustainable change!



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