Lasting Changes

January 16 2023 | by

Dear Mr Pfister: Now that the new year is here, I’m finding myself becoming more and more stressed about keeping my New Year’s resolution. Each year I make a new resolution for the upcoming year, but time and again I fail to keep it. Eventually it becomes pretty discouraging. I ask myself why I even bother making one because every year I watch myself fail. I don’t know how many more years I can do this without giving up. How do I make more lasting changes? What can I do to keep my resolutions whether for the new year or at any other time in the year?


Saint Josemaria Escriva wrote that, “To begin is easy; to persevere is sanctity.” Feeling as if we are failing time and again can become very frustrating. The way you’re feeling is both understandable and relatable to many of us. A crucial component of overcoming this mindset is to change the perspective we have on what we are trying to accomplish and why we are trying to accomplish it. The reason we seek to accomplish any given goal should always be for an honorable reason. For example, if our resolution is to lose ten pounds, what is the reason I desire to do so? Is it purely for health reasons? Or vanity? Maybe a combination? Losing the weight to gain mastery over our desire for food and to maintain good health is honorable. To ‘look good’ or to seek flattery is not. Even a drop of poison ruins the whole drink. 

This brings us to the first step in changing our perspective and becoming more efficient in achieving laudable goals: changing our perspective on what the goal itself is. We should focus on the virtue we are seeking to build rather than the goal we are trying to achieve. Growth in virtue should be the goal. For example, if I am trying to lose weight, I should be focusing on building the virtues necessary to effectively meet this goal, such as fortitude and temperance. Our success should be based on the virtue built rather than the weight lost.

The next step is changing our perspective in relation to what constitutes the goal. We tend to take on more than we can handle by trying to tackle the whole goal all at once. We throw general solutions at general goals. It’s analogous to opening a dark closet, throwing a dart, and hoping to hit the dartboard on the back wall. Rather, we need to effectively break the goal down into its individual components in order to address each of them in turn. We’ll increase our likelihood of success by breaking the goal into smaller pieces so that specific solutions can be applied to the specific components of the goal. In the aforementioned analogy, this would be turning on the light, identifying where the board is, and then throwing the dart purposefully.

The next change in perspective is in relation to how we see success. Success is taking the next step, not just completing the goal. Losing ten pounds is the result of the succession of many smaller steps that came together as one whole. We often become discouraged by focusing too far into the future. Rather, we should focus on taking just one step today. We’ll take on the next step when we get there. This way we’re accomplishing many little goals which result in the accomplishment of a bigger goal in the future. This helps to sustain our efforts for today, and allows us to achieve success in a more realistic manner.

Updated on December 16 2022