The 5 Why’s: How to Turn Resolutions into Commitments

Resolutions don’t work. It’s time to turn them into Commitments and more specifically, commitments to yourself.

2020 is Ending…Finally.

It has been an eternity of a year with all types of events contributing to increases in mental health and addiction disease concerns. Many of us may be thinking that to make up for this year, some New Year’s Resolutions may be in order. New year, new me — as they say. I applaud anyone who wants to consider making healthy and positive changes in their life, but I caution anyone about making resolutions or using the “New year, new me,” mantra.

Resolutions Are Just Flimsy Decisions

It’s been estimated that about 80% of new years resolutions fail. Simply saying “I’m going to lose 100 lbs,” this year is not going to make it happen. That’s not even really the resolution. That’s an overarching, large, and fairly unobtainable goal if you have not done the work to prepare for such a huge task. That’s why we need to stop making resolutions and start making commitments.

The definition of resolution is just “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” When we make resolutions though, they are not really all that firm. We normally don’t think about how to hold ourselves accountable to that decision and all the mental and physical effort that goes into making a decision stand firm. When we reframe resolution to commitment, that’s where things can become stronger.

A commitment is defined as, “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” Therein lies how we change the New Years Resolution Process to a New Year’s Commitment process. It is in being dedicated and understanding the quality of that dedication where we can actually make the change.

“It’s not a new you. It’s the same you with a better outlook on life and a stronger commitment to yourself.”

I work in the mental health and addiction disease field. I have seen many people make resolutions to quit using alcohol/drugs or moderate their use. They make the declaration, but that decision is rarely ever achieved without proper preparation or commitment. So instead, we have to look below the surface of why they want to quit using or, to our earlier example, why someone wants to lose the 100 lbs. My educated hypothesis is that they want to feel healthier, less anxious, less stressed, and just more content in their lives. And you don’t have to lose 100 lbs to do that. In fact, you don’t have to lose any weight to do that because the weight may not be the actual root of the resolution.

The 5 Why’s

What we do need to do is make a commitment to the goal of treating the new year as an opportunity to commit or re-commit to being the best version of ourselves. You may not lose 100 lbs, but you may start adding 10 minute walks into your daily routine. It’s not a new you. It’s the same you with a better outlook on life and a stronger commitment to yourself. So, to help us move on from flimsy resolutions and onto making quality commitments to improving our lives, here is a strategy using the “5 Why’s.”

A Use Case for the 5 Why’s

Let’s use the example of “I want to stop using alcohol,” taking it from resolution to commitment.

Resolution (Seemingly firm decision): I will stop using alcohol.

Why 1: Because I want to feel better.

Why 2: Because I don’t feel good about the way I act when I’m using.

Why 3: Because I say things that are hurtful to my family and friends.

Why 4: Because I can’t control myself when I drink.

Why 5: Because I can’t stop with just one drink, it has to be 12.

Commitment: I will dedicate this year to -

Option 1: Moderating my drinking. I will not drink more than what is considered healthy in one sitting

Option 2: Removing alcohol from my life.

Resolutions into Commitments into Actions that Encourage Dedication

Look at what was accomplished there! The “firm” decision of wanting to stop drinking is a good first step, but not enough. It doesn’t set the person up to understand the actual “why” of the decision. When we continue to ask “why,” we dig to the root cause of the decision. When this is made more conscious, we can build the commitment to achieve it. Now we know that it’s because this person drinks heavily and this results in them saying hurtful things to friends and family. There is guilt and shame in here that need to be addressed. But, we now know why it’s an important goal. We have a better view of what can be done to improve the quality of the dedication to this goal.

We can encourage them to seek professional help. We can encourage them to explore where those hurtful comments come from and develop better strategies for working through problems they may be having with the others in their life. We can help this person stay dedicated to this commitment by giving them the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to try acting on those potential commitments. We can help them by giving them the hope that change is possible. It becomes even more possible when you make decisions and turn them into commitments supported with small and actionable tasks that make being dedicated easier.

So next time you before you make a resolution, ask yourself “why.” Then ask it again and again, at least 5 times until you find the root of your decision. Then make it a commitment; dedicate yourself to being the best version of you that you can be. Set small, achievable goals that keep you committed to your goals and you will achieve them. And, always remember that there are people who want to help. Therapists, counselors, and coaches are all available to provide assistance. New year, best you yet — now that’s a mantra I can get behind.


If you or someone you care for is experiencing issues related to addiction disease or substance use concerns, please reach out to me:

Halcyon Health provides addiction recovery support that’s accessible on your phone wherever and whenever you need it.




Mental Health Professional, Synesthete, Foodie. My Real Housewives Intro would be: “I’m loud, proud, and Profound.”

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Quotes From Psychologists That Will Get You Ahead

Pour Your Purse Back into Your Health

Pour Your Purse Back into Your Health

Do Good Whenever You Can

Why Are We “Alive”?

BLOG.008 | #TakeFlightDocumentary

An Aggressive Approach to Life

Defining Happiness

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Matt DeMasi

Matt DeMasi

Mental Health Professional, Synesthete, Foodie. My Real Housewives Intro would be: “I’m loud, proud, and Profound.”

More from Medium

Four Essential Tips To Make Your Sourdough Starter Actually Work

The Perfect Marshmallow

You Can Have An Epiphany Every Day.

Why we should take it personal