Many of us grew up believing if we worked hard enough, then we could accomplish anything: Lose weight. Get out of debt. Build a dream business. Find a loving relationship. Set firmer boundaries. Be happy. 

Drive Research reported in 2023 that 38 percent of people made New Year’s resolutions but only 9 percent of them stuck to them all year. Eighty percent of those resolutions were forgotten by February. 

There is a reason why you struggle to change, feel stuck or lack the motivation to achieve your goals. It’s not because you’re a loser. 

Willpower Isn’t Enough

In 2000, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. every day to work on my debut novel while I was home on maternity leave with my second child. I had a husband, 3-year old daughter and newborn son—plus a job, volunteer commitments, family and friends, but I was like a woman possessed trying to get that story into a book.

I did it, but I also became a hot mess years later because my willpower turned into won’t power. Forcing myself was no longer an option. It’s not just me. This is why you might:

  • Keep having the same argument with someone.
  • Get the same workplace evaluation every year.
  • Make money then lose it.
  • Keep dating (or marrying) the wrong person.
  • Fear failure. Fear success. Lack motivation. Imposter Syndrome.

There’s a smarter, more science-rooted way to succeed.

Yay, Science!

Mindset is your mental programming from the past, and it affects your relationships to everything: family, friends, coworkers, romance, career/business, finances, faith, health/fitness, hobbies, politics and more.

More than 1 billion nerve fibers make up your nervous system. It starts at the base of your neck and runs throughout your body, monitoring automatic functions like blinking, breathing and your heartbeat. Your nervous system records and remembers everything you’ve ever said and done—as well things said to you—and prefers familiarity. It wants to operate on autopilot. That’s why it overvalues your childhood programming on love, money or success. It resists changes—even good changes.

This skews it toward negative thoughts like: 

I’m not good enough. I’m too young/old. I don’t have enough experience. I don’t know what to do. I don’t matter. I’m powerless. I’m bad.

The bigger the change, the more your nervous system resists. When you get stuck and can’t make headway, the obstacle is old programming. You need a reset.

My Mindset Backstory

Here’s my loudest inner critic: I’m not good enough. Nobody ever said these words to me, but somewhere along the way, I learned to hustle for my self-worth. To prove myself with grades, awards, approval. That drive got me into a good college, and earned me promotions and bonuses in the working world. 

I believed if I wanted more, then I had to do more. Be more. It worked, until it didn’t.

The good news is everything is changeable. No matter what inner programming you grew up with, you can rewire your thoughts, behaviors and outcome. Mindset is everything. Here’s how to reset it:

Get Clear

What do you want? Be specific. Don’t just say, “To be more successful.”

Success means different things to everyone. It might be a million dollars in the bank. Or spending more time with family and friends. To travel the globe.

Since your brain prefers familiarity, it can be hard to articulate what you want. Try this: What do you not want? Make a list of your complaints. (Friends or family might be able to help with this.)

Once you have clarity, write it down. Describe your new, incredible life and how it would make you feel: Grateful? Happy? Proud? Confident? Secure? Joyful?

This is your WHY. It’s important. Return to your WHY often, especially when you want to quit.

Get Started

Change doesn’t happen overnight so taking aligned action is key. Overthinkers might be tempted to research first. Procrastinators may also struggle. These are old programs that keep you stuck. So take the first, ugly baby step. Then the next. Learn from others doing what you want to do. Watch videos, read books, join a group. Support
is everywhere.

You don’t have to wait for fill in the blank to happen. Remember your WHY. Feel those feelings now. The more you tap into those positive emotions, the quicker you’ll rewire your mind toward your new identity.

Get Comfortable with Discomfort

Once you start to change, negative thoughts will bombard you. Expect mental resistance. Mistakes, detours and failures are all part of the process. Keep going. Get back on track when you fall off—because it will happen.

Find what calms you down and lifts your spirits: Walk with a friend, watch a funny sitcom, listen to music you love, garden, ride your bike, do yoga. Be creative.

What do you do if life happens and disrupts your well-made plans (March 2020, anyone)? Begin again.

Forget willpower. Mindset is the key to making your dreams come true. 


  • Marcy McKay

    Marcy Is an award-winning author and speaker. Her book, Transforming Your Stress, hit No. 1 on Amazon Hot New Releases. For 25 years, she has helped nonprofit boards, businesses and individuals work and play better together in the sandbox of life.

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