New Year’s Disillusion: Taking Action When Motivation and Resolutions are so Dang Hard


If looking ahead to the next 358 days makes your head spin… welcome.

I’m pretty sure the majority of the planet is hoping twenty-seventeen holds more hope, less violence, higher joy, and lower prices. Of course thinking globally is admirable, but if you’re anything like me you also think about the first few weeks of January in a personal way.

The years I tried to keep a resolution always started out with Dick Clark on the tube and a night full of renewed enthusiasm.

“Yeah, baby—drop that ball and watch me change!”

“Count it down, brother; I’m about to detonate with motivation.”

“Three… two… one… HAP-py New Year!”

Kiss kiss, clink clink, sip sip.

“Watch out, Douglas… a better wife is on her way.”

“Neighbors in need? I’m your woman.”

“Those six pounds I gained better run ‘cause I’m fixin’ to track ‘em like a coonhound.”

“I’ve been inspired! Nothin’ gonna stop me now.”

SO much determination at midnight-o-three. This is gonna be great. 

January 1: Rockin’ it, even on vacation.

January 3: So patient with my people as we return home. I totally got this.

January 6: Eating better. Exercising. Feelin’ fantastic.

January 8: Still unpacking. Forgot how annoying this is.

January 16: Wow—MLK Jr.’s bringin’ out the cravings like a boss.

January 23: Are we done yet?

January 31: February’s obviously going to be easier with three fewer days.

Then I flip the calendar, sigh with irritation and trudge forward. Super Bowl parties got me taking two steps away from the chips, and three steps toward the dips. Dang it already; how can one game last four hours?

Six weeks in and the feelings of disillusion hung thick.

Why can’t I do what I said I wanted to do?

I thought “being a better ______” would come easier than this.

A year feels too long. Can’t we just go through March and call it a win?

So obviously I’m not a resolution-maker anymore, but annual thoughts of being a better whatever, saying no to more sugar, stepping up the heart rate, and resisting fear/worry still ring in the new year like old friends.

I hear and read about people who say they want to be a better wife/husband/parent/friend. Fantastic. I’m right there with ya. A noble challenge indeed. But I’m a hands-on girl. Can someone please explain what that actually looks like?

Those challenges look so attractive, especially when I hear them from a church stage, but I need ideas, cheat sheets, practical applications. I can’t just walk around thinking about how I want to be better; I need to flesh it out… put feet on it… make a decision.

Yesterday I read an article from Forbes that surprised me with a few facts about resolutions. Did you know achieving your goals isn’t about willpower? How about the fact that only about 8% of the population actually achieve their resolutions?

Wow. That doesn’t exactly make me want to point my good intentions toward the elite when a 92% chance of failing mocks me before I even start. Perhaps this is why I need something besides the R-word.

Commitment? Pledge? Promise? Yes–better.

For me, most of how I could be a better wife, mother, friend, etc. revolves around my attitude. Such a fun noun, I know. I used to think my circumstances were to blame when my ‘tude went sideways, but when a youth pastor friend hammered some students with “Don’t be circumstance-driven,” we adults sat up and took note.

He reminded us there will always be difficult, inconvenient, annoying circumstances coming at us; how we choose to deal with them is our choice.

Chuck Swindoll nailed the attributes and consequences of attitude when he put skin on the word and made me read it over and over. I loved his challenge enough to print it out and stick it on our fridge. Here’s one of the best excerpts:

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.”

So here we go again. Are you ready for some changes? Of course not—none of us are. We can scream into the sky with resolute drama, “Bring. It. On!” Yet we all know keeping up such stamina for twelve months feels a little impractical and a lot laborious.

I found a ray of hope when only one week into the new year I sit still, struck by Henry Van Dyke’s prayer from my calendar:

“Dear Father, help me this year…

to be glad of life, because it gives me the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars;

to be satisfied with my possessions, but not contented with myself until I have made the best of them;

to covet nothing that is my neighbor’s except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manners;

to think seldom of my enemies, often of my friends and every day of Christ.”

I sit back and turn his prayer into self-evaluation….

Am I “glad of life” even though I don’t talk that way? Am I satisfied with my possessions? Content with myself? Do I covet anything you own that I don’t? Do I surround myself with people who are kind? How much time do I waste stewing over my enemies? And what if I don’t really have enemies–just people who make me coo-coo year after year? Do they continuously creep under my skin and into my brain, or is Christ the dominant dweller in my mind?

I do not want to live in disillusion anymore, acting as though control alludes me when it comes to my attitude and patience level. I want to be a better everything. And I’m pretty positive such goals start with in-my-face acknowledgment, intentionality, and good old fashioned work.

Let’s be people who take action, not disillusioned casualties of resolutions gone bad.

I just pushed go. You with me? If step one means ditching the R-word, go for it.

Feliz Año Nuevo, amigos. I hope your eighteenth year of the millennium becomes full of rich lessons, less busy and more joyful.

Have you ever completed a full resolution? What worked?


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  • Jeanette Morris

    Love your humor, honesty, and wisdom, Carrie. As for me, I don’t know when it happened, exactly, but I definitely stopped making New Year’s resolutions when I realized that putting up a new calendar didn’t signify anything more than ONE MORE DAY of my life passing by. If I can be better (or stronger, or more intentional, or more kind) for just ONE DAY (today) and do so for God’s glory rather than my own (not always easy), then I can close my eyes at night with a satisfied smile on my face. Small bites. Of avocado!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Thank you, Jeanette. Great words and insight. I just finished watching a movie about Mother Teresa, and your desire to be better, stronger, more intentional, kinder, etc. remind me of her. What great goals for us all. Love your ending too! 🙂 Thanks for chiming in.