Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, Do This

The author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, recently said in a social media post: goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference. 

In a previous post, I shared how systems protect you from you. If you have a system in place, you’ll be able to make choices more objectively, no matter what time of year it is. Systems help us stay committed to the process and follow through with our goals and resolutions. 

So, instead of setting New Year’s Resolutions, do this: create a system that works for you. 

A system is a framework that helps us stay in the groove of achieving and refining our goals and resolutions continually. No matter what happens during the day or week, a system in place will help us get closer to where and who we want to be. 

Resolutions are helpful, but only if you consistently work on them. When setting goals and resolutions become part of our lifestyle, and part of our systems, it doesn’t really matter what time of year it is. This means that we are openly and constantly looking to improve ourselves, our lifestyles, and everything in between (relationships, careers, etc.).

When we make resolutions and set goals, a system in place will help us focus on refining our daily choices and reflecting on those refined choices so that we can see results that bring us closer to our desired lifestyle.

Why Resolutions Fail

The reason most resolutions fail is that they lack a well-designed system. People get an idea and see the end-goal, but they don’t set up a system to help them stay within the guardrails of living their desired lifestyle. They follow their current system, which keeps them from living how they actually want to. Their current system sets them back because they don’t reflect, refine, and commit to making changes. They live according to only what they know.

To create a well-designed system, our aim is then to pretend ourselves forward. In other words, we act as if we are who we want to be. We become the person and do the kinds of things that someone who achieves those goals would be and do. 

This makes me think of Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. In first Corinthians chapter 9, he says, 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

A system helps us to not run aimlessly, but with discipline and control that helps us live the lifestyle we ultimately desire. It’s no longer about how many goals or resolutions we can achieve, but about the transformed lifestyle we want to live, the character we want to have, and the integrity with which we do all things.

This can seem like a difficult concept to grasp, but it comes down to the quality of life we want to lead daily, instead of the quantity of goals and resolutions we set yearly. So, to help us get started, let’s scratch the quantitative resolutions and create a system that works for us with the following four steps.

These will help us live the life we want to lead in the long run.

Create a system that works

1. Start with your what and why

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

Psalm 57:2

Instead of setting New Year’s Resolutions, think about what kind of life you want to lead and then ask yourself why. Write down your desired lifestyle, your ideas, goals, and dreams, and really question everything with why. Why do you want to do that? Why do you want to be this way or like that? And what or how would a person of that lifestyle behave, act, and live, and why? 

2. Establish intentional routines

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33

After your what and why, start establishing intentional routines that match the person of your desired lifestyle. Morning, evening, daily, and weekly routines, consider them all. What would the routines of who you want to become look like? Check in with yourself regularly by asking, would the person who lives this lifestyle make this or that choice? Would they have this routine in place? What does their routine comprise and how can I implement it into my life? What routines are realistic?

3. Set small daily goals

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

Proverbs 21:5

Think of yourself in terms of the future. Your future you will achieve the bigger goals, but the you right now needs something easier to grasp. Something that you can stay committed to. Small daily goals can look like waking up on time, exercising three times a week, writing or reading for fifteen minutes a day, etc. When people think of resolutions, they often set the biggest goal in mind and bypass the little steps that will help them get up to that goal. If resolutions are firm decisions to do or not do something with the quality of staying determined in those decisions, then it’s a lot easier to start small instead of getting overwhelmed by something that’s “impossible” to the current you.

4. Don’t be hard on yourself

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

It’s not about how much you accomplish, it’s the fact that you have a sense of purpose. It’s not about the doings, but about being. You, as a being, are worth more than your accomplishments and achievements. So when you pop out of your system and your day doesn’t go as planned, don’t be hard on yourself. You’re acting on your life to make changes that will set you up for success.

Push yourself towards your potential and purpose, towards where and who you want to be, but extend grace to yourself in the areas you are not yet familiar with. You’re doing what you need to do to make your life the best. You’re doing what most people don’t want to do. It’s hard because it’s new, and it’s challenging because it’s unfamiliar. You’re embarking on a journey to get stronger, and your system is malleable to the extent of the life you want to live.


At the end of the day, it’s not about all that we accomplish, but who we’re becoming in God. When we live according to His kingdom, we separate ourselves from a works mentality and pursue a lifestyle of transformation, where you do things out of abundance and the assurance of being in Christ.

Instead of New Year’s resolutions, do this: create a system that works for you by following the four steps above. Setting goals and resolutions is helpful, but only if you do so consistently, not just once a year. Create a system that helps you continuously improve, refine, and grow in every aspect.

Happy New Year!

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