The Sneaky Way You’re Sabotaging Your Own New Year’s Resolutions

Every January, we pledge that this will be the year we keep our resolutions—and then we don't. Why is that? Inspirational author Jon Acuff's new book, "Finish," has the answer you never saw coming.

A whopping 92 percent of people don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions. While we can hardly blame ourselves for letting them go in 2020, our resolutions can fail for any number of (non-pandemic-related) reasons. New York Times bestselling author and speaker Jon Acuff thinks he knows what the real problem is—and it has everything to do with the expectations we put on ourselves.

Acuff built an entire career of motivating people to achieve their goals and live fulfilling lives. In 2013, he encouraged readers to begin to do work that matters with his book Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters. At the time, he believed the reason we never reach our goals, or keep our resolutions, is simply that we fail to begin. Starting helped Acuff for awhile, but when he examined his own motivations and successes more closely, he discovered the problem wasn’t getting started—it was finishing.

(Related: Check out the best health resolutions for every month of the year.)

What exactly keeps us from crossing the finish line?

In his book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, Acuff pinpoints exactly what keeps us from taking it over the goal line: Perfectionism.

Acuff tells Reader’s Digest that perfectionists often look like the people who care the least, when in fact, it’s the opposite. “You see perfectionism comes into play in simple things like having a clean car or a clean office. The person with the messiest car is often a perfectionist. This seems counter-intuitive, because shouldn’t they be neat freaks? They can be, but if a perfectionist can’t clean their car down to the toothbrush level with every inch covered, they won’t even start,” he explains. “A perfectionist would rather get a zero than a C minus. They’ll say, ‘My goal is to run five miles a day, but today I only have time for three – so I’m not going to do any.’ Is three more than 0? It is, but if it can’t be perfect, they won’t even start.”

(Related: Here’s how to change the way you think to achieve your health goal.)

So, how can a perfectionist beat the odds and keep their resolutions?

Acuff recommends preparing for the inevitable imperfections that are bound to happen along the way. He says, “One way to beat perfectionism is to prepare for what I call ‘the day after perfect.’ This is the day after you’ve broken your diet or dropped the ball on some goal. This day is critical.”

According to Acuff, the secret to keeping your New Year’s resolution might be to make it a fun one. “When a PhD and I studied nearly 900 people for six months, the people who made their goal fun were 46 percent more successful,” he says. Wondering how to begin your year with the best of intentions?

Next: The Importance of Making Memories During Pandemic Life

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest