In his twenties, Benjamin Franklin, a Founding Father of the United States, set out to achieve "moral perfection." He identified what he considered to be the core virtues for a person of character, wrote them down, and dedicated himself to acquiring them.
However, his early efforts at self-improvement taught him that good intentions were not enough.
According to Franklin, "Habits take advantage of inattention. While my attention was taken up and care employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another. . . I concluded at length that the mere speculative conviction that it was in our interest to be completely virtuous was not sufficient to prevent our slipping, and that the contrary habit must be broken and the good ones acquired and established before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct."
Franklin was saying that we must break old habits before acquiring new ones. This suggests that to-do lists, resolutions, and goals are often doomed unless we acknowledge what's holding our old habits in place. We must work to counter old habits if we hope to adopt new ones.
For example, if we wish to lose 30 pounds, we must adopt new habits of diet and exercise. But first, we must examine all the habits that made us 30 pounds overweight, then break each of those habits one by one.
This may or may not work for you, but it is an interesting way to examine this year's New Year's resolutions!