Why You Need to Drop the New Year’s Resolutions (and What to Do Instead)

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I love new beginnings. The feeling of a fresh start is just so motivating, it’s addictive. Emotionally, it’s the equivalent of reading a great love story (stay with me here). You’re cheering for the budding romance, wanting so bad for it to work out. Just like a new beginning, right?

Why You Need to Drop the New Year's Resolutions (and What to Do Instead)

So, like the apparent romantic fool I am (who knew?), I crave new beginnings and new goals to cheer for pretty often.

And like clockwork every New Year’s, I find myself tinkering with the idea of setting resolutions for myself, even though I know better. I’m not sure if it’s the need for tradition, or I’ve overdone it with the holidays, or I just love the idea of a fresh start.

However, I will not be creating resolutions this year (and I haven’t for several years), even though it goes against my natural instincts to always work towards a better version of myself. Here’s why I won’t set another financial or personal resolution, and you shouldn’t be doing so any time soon either.

Why I’m Not Setting Resolutions, and Why You Shouldn’t Either

At the start of every new year, most people set resolutions to change aspects of their lives they dislike. Their weight, their financial situation, finding a relationship – you name it, someone’s got a resolution for it, I’m sure.

We all start out with the best of intentions. THIS is the year we’re gonna make it, right?

And by mid-February, the gyms are empty again, we’re hitting the drive thru and using our credit cards like there’s no tomorrow.

How many of your resolutions created during years past have you actually achieved? Oh, don’t worry – I’m definitely not calling you out. I can proudly say that 100% of my resolutions have failed miserably!

Why Resolutions Always Fail

It’s got nothing to do with willpower or being lazy. It’s about setting unrealistic expectations. That’s why we fail, and then blame and shame ourselves for it not working out. Sounds familiar, right? Quite the vicious and tiring cycle, personally.

Unrealistic expectations and goals are: too aggressive, not specific enough, are too big of a change, or you’ve taken on too many at once.

Setting Goals vs. Creating Resolutions

Creating change in your life is great. What’s important is that you go about it the right way, instead of creating resolutions that are bound to fail because they’re just a setup for failure. The best way to create successful, permanent change is by following a basic set of guidelines when creating your goals. With resolutions, they tend to be very broad, such as, “I want to get out of debt this year.”

That’s great – welcome to the club, we’re glad to have you! However, there’s a ton of problems with this resolution. There are no specifics to it. How much debt do you want to pay off? By what date? How are you going to do it? There’s no game plan and no direction on how to make it happen. It’s more like a wish than a goal.

How to Set a Goal that You Can Achieve

A better goal would be:

By the end of the year, I want to pay off $20,000 of credit card debt.

This is a SMART goal because it’s: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time based.

Now that you have a realistic, detailed goal set, you need to chunk it down into smaller milestones. Maybe a milestone is paying off a certain amount each month. Or, it’s reading 2 blog posts a day about debt repayment to keep yourself motivated. Or, it’s finding someone to be your accountability partner to help keep you on track.



Other Important Factors to Achieving Your Goals

  • Focus on one goal at a time.
    The problem with resolutions is that we make about 3 – 5 at once, and try to pound them all out at once. Of course we’re going to fail! It’s fine to have multiple goals for the year, but slow and steady wins the race. Prioritize them and start off by working on just one. Then, add another in a couple of months so that the steps to achieving the first goal are pretty set in place.
  • Celebrate milestones.
    Every milestone deserves a celebration. It’s a great moral booster and keeps you moving forward!
  • Have an accountability partner.
    This is a great way to keep on track. Make sure they’re willing to call you out when you’re misbehaving or acting in a way that doesn’t align with your goals. I suggest NOT picking your shopping partner-in-crime to hold you accountable for your financial goals! 😉
  • Keep your goal top of mind.
    The best way to keep focused on your goal is to do one thing every day towards your next milestone. It’s a great way to remind yourself of the bigger picture. It doesn’t have to be an hour long task every day. Even 10 minutes is enough to keep focus on your goal.

So when the New Year’s resolution bandwagon comes a-knockin’, and you’re feeling the itch to embrace the new beginning vibe, feel free to say no thanks. You’re much more likely to be successful by setting and conquering your SMART goals one at a time. The best way to get that new beginning feeling is by meeting – and exceeding! – the SMART goals you set for yourself any time of year.

Have you given up New Year’s resolutions? What prompted it? And what do you do instead? Let me know in the comments below!

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A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More

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13 Comments

  1. Natalie @ Be Kind 2 You on December 4, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    The focusing on one goal works for me. I used to have so many goals to concentrate on and in the end I achieved none of them. Why?? I was spreading myself too thin and now I don’t. I know what I want and I am heading in that direction fast.

  2. Heather on December 6, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    Thank you for this. Sometime between Christmas and New Year I am going to sit down with my husband and set goals for our blog in 2018. SMART goals of course. Then decide which is our top goal and pursue it full steam ahead.

  3. Rachel on December 7, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Yes, I agree that we should ditch the resolutions and set achievable goals instead!

  4. Paul Albert on December 8, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    All great tips Tana and so true. I find accountability to be the most important factor for me. Without that, I don’t feel any pressure or motivation to complete tasks.

  5. Colin McArthur on December 8, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    As someone who has spent over 10 years in the fitness industry I see people setting resolutions all the time only to abandon them a few months later. You’re right when you say resolutions often fail.

    For me, the key is not to set a resolution but rather develop a habit through discipline. Discipline is the key to keeping those resolutions. After 3 months of disciplining yourself to doing something daily it will then become a habit just like brushing your teeth or waking up at a certain hour

  6. Bri on December 9, 2017 at 6:11 am

    This is exactly what I tell the clients that I health coach! Only 8% of people actually stick to their New Years Resolution! It’s better to just make it a lifestyle <3

  7. Tiffany Bailey on December 9, 2017 at 9:59 am

    You are so right – I’ve stopped setting New Year’s resolutions because I really think it sets you up for failure. Finances are one of my big goals for next year so I’ve downloaded your trackers!

  8. Alyx Kjorven on December 10, 2017 at 12:38 am

    i’ve never really got into the whole resolution thing. but this is a great idea to try and pay off my student loans.

  9. Kim B Smith on December 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Tana, I wrote something similar last year as well. Owning a fitness business and teaching group fit classes the gyms and classes are packed in Jan and by March 1st, GONE! I am not a believer in New Year Resolutions, I believe we need to carry on and revise, celebrate and move forward instead of a big bang every year that falls by the wayside!

  10. DJT @ Thinking Thrifty on December 12, 2017 at 10:06 am

    Seem I’m half and half with you here because I do make resolutions for the upcoming year. However, I totally agree with realistic, achievable sized chunks to knock off as you go. I think its important to set yourself goals and in all honesty I feel the start of a fresh year is good a time as any. I’m just not down for silly unrealistic nonsense such as dropping 8 dress sizes and becoming the embodiment of health and spirituality when it is something you are not interested in and will never achieve. Social media has a lot to answer for where ‘sheeple’ promises in their masses to achieve the same thing to keep up with the Jones’

  11. Melissa Jellie on December 18, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    I agree! I never make a new years resolution. I like to improve overall any time.

  12. Vanessa Cast on December 26, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Great post, I’m going to share it on my Pinterest too. Hugs and thank you for adding value ♥

  13. Misty on December 26, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Great tips! I work on 1-3 goals and keep them written down where I can see them daily. Love the idea of an accountability partner.

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