When Your New Year’s Goals Didn’t Work Out

I’ve been planning my whole life since I was about fourteen. I used to make charts of “Days Left Until College,” or “Classes to Take in College.” At fourteen. Welcome to my spreadsheet-loving-world (only I didn’t know about spreadsheets at fourteen, more’s the pity!). Suffice to say, I am a huge goal setter, planner, organizer. So what DO you do when your New Year’s goals didn’t work out?

Because I LOOOOOVE mapping out the new year! But… then year slips by one busy day at a time. I wake up on December 26, 27, 28, 29… and those goals I set…? Lost in the shuffle somewhere between March and May (maybe earlier).

Dear readers, this is me every year. That fourteen-year-old self buried inside my twenty-year-old self, inside my thirty-year-old self, inside my…, we can stop counting, right? Well, every year I ended up disappointed that I didn’t get more done.

Not achieving goals discourages the best of us, especially us goal-setter types! That same planner-girl in me still has high hopes for her checklists!


Have you ever felt that same sense of failure at the end of the year? Oh how we long to BE our best self.

Why do we run around like crazy setting goals at the year-end, only to ride the same ol’ hamster wheel of “hurry-up-and-do-all-the-things” then WHOOP! The hamster wheel flips us upside down and we’re flung against the side of the cage where we lie there catching our breath the rest of the year. This is why I try to avoid analogies…

I truly believe this desire is ingrained in us by God. A yearning for a higher calling, a better life. So… how am I supposed to handle it when my New Year’s goals didn’t work out?

God’s Word has something to say about how to handle every aspect of life. So let’s go there. I hope it helps you, but I’m really writing this because I need to learn it!

(Let’s suppose our goals are God-honoring, just to have a tight focus.)


God isn’t discouraged or disappointed in where I’m at with my goals. If I am living in God’s Will, the things that got done or didn’t get done … was by God’s design. We might set goals for the new year, but God directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9). Could it be, the very goals that “didn’t work out” – God had a different plan? That is entirely possible!

Are there times we trip up, get tired, and don’t realize the full blessing of God? Sure, but God picks us up and gives us another chance to try again. God isn’t tripped up by our calendars. I’m so glad!


Do not beat yourself up about what did or didn’t happen this past year. God’s Timing doesn’t end with the old year. He keeps working on us. And extends grace. Grace piled upon grace! The Bible tells us God gives MORE grace! (James 4:6). You can’t run out of the grace of God.

So if you’re discouraged about your goals, tell God. Acknowledge your want and discouragement with a humble heart. God gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34).


The thing is: we probably accomplished more than we think. That is, God was faithfully guiding you all along! Paul speaks of being “forward a year ago”(2 Cor 8:10). It’s a great New Year’s verse, talking to all of us who have “begun before” to keep inching forward in the right direction.

“Plan from behind” – Look back at your year and write down what DID happen. List what God did in your life – even if unrelated to your original goals.

At the beginning of the year, I did NOT have a goal to attend a writing retreat. But lo and behold, God wonderfully gifted the chance to go to a writer’s retreat to me just days before the retreat started. I came away refreshed and with a host of new writing friends! Who would have expected THAT!? Not me! Now I can put that on my list as a HUGE thing God did for me this year.

Write down:

  • Accomplishments (big or small)
  • Fellowship
  • Knowledge gained
  • Happy moments
  • Progress towards goals (big or small!)
  • Travel or activities
  • Giving
  • Hospitality

You think your New Year’s goals didn’t work out? Well, look what God DID work out in you!

Maybe it doesn’t line up with YOUR original goals, but… you’ll see God’s faithful guidance, when you “plan from behind.” Toss last year’s goals list and write the still-current year at the top of this amazing list!


Looking back on my goals to restore six areas of life last year, a few areas definitely fell flat (like exercise! ahhh).

As I felt the familiar discouragement, God brought to mind a scrap of a verse: “strengthen the things that remain.” That phrase ran through my head, although I couldn’t recall the context. I looked it up and it’s from Revelation, to the church at Sardis (Rev 3:2). Oh great! I thought. Totally out of context! Ha!

But I saw a practical application. Sardis had a reputation for living but being dead. Don’t we do this!? We “live” through goal-setting and aspirations, but by year-end, our fire has fizzled. Our motivation lies near-dead and we feel we failed.

To me, this verse is a practical reminder that not all is lost. There are“things that remain,” things we need keep alive!

When I sift through the events of the year, I see God’s hand, working progress in me.

I have more work to do. Sure, we all do. I need to “strengthen the things that remain” and not reverse the progress.


Guess what? Goals shouldn’t discourage us; they should encourage us to focus our lives. The truth: we’ll always be “pressing toward the mark.” We won’t truly reach our goal until we’re home with the Lord and hear that “Well done…” Until then, when your New Year’s goals didn’t work out…

Reflect on God’s goodness, restore with God’s grace, and rest in God’s guidance for the future. 


This post originally appeared at happystronghome.com, published with permission.

Julie Kieras
Julie Kieras
Julie Kieras is a wife and homeschooling mom of two boys with a passion for natural living, loving learning, and building strong families. You can follow her at HappyStrongHome.com.

Related Posts


Recent Stories