This New Year, Don’t Make Resolutions. Set Goals Instead.

don't make resolutions
Stacey Freeman

By Stacey Freeman | Jan 5th, 2023

My New Year’s resolution is to…

“Lose weight.”

“Look for a new job.”

“Exercise more.”

What do all of these statements have in common, that is, besides how I’ve made each of them at one time or another? The answer is they’re merely resolutions, as in what I have resolved to do in the coming year, with no plan whatsoever for keeping the promises I made to myself. Because of that, although well-intentioned, the likelihood of me failing before I even begin tackling my pursuits is high.

Goals, on the other hand, are more than just statements. They’re courses of action, with plans for both the short- and long-term. We set them with intention, and when we achieve them or fall short along the way, as does sometimes happen, we become stronger, more motivated, and fulfilled.

To give yourself the best possible chance of finding success, here are a few quick tips for setting and reaching the goals you set.

Set goals when you’re ready.

Even though the new year is upon us, don’t put yourself under pressure to set goals for yourself if you’re not ready. Instead, use the time to think about your life and reflect on what you have accomplished thus far and what you would like to in the future. What’s advantageous about setting goals versus making New Year’s resolutions is that you can set goals any time you want throughout the year.

Make sure your goals are personal.

When you set goals, they should be individual to you. You should not set them based on what others want for you or themselves. When goals hold meaning, you will feel more inspired to work toward reaching them.

Be specific.

It’s not always enough to say, “I want to lose weight” or “I plan on looking for a new job” or “I’m going to exercise more.” These statements are vague and, therefore, do not hold you accountable. When you set a goal, it’s strategic to make that goal specific, so you have a target or targets to work for along the way.

Be realistic.

One of my latest goals is to get back into a workout regimen. As someone who’s not a night owl and does much better exercising in the morning as opposed to the evening, I know it’s in my best interest to start early. Though I’d like to have a full hour in before my usual wake-up time of 6 am, I know from experience this isn’t going to happen. When I get up at 5 am, I feel groggy all day or, worse, will roll over and go back to sleep when my alarm rings. I’ve failed at this effort enough times to know 5 am just isn’t happening. Five-thirty, however, is a much more realistic goal for me and that is why I’m going to give that schedule a try.

Give yourself a timeframe.

Yeah, I would love to lose 15 lbs in three weeks, but I’m afraid I would have to get divorced again to do that. Small joke. All kidding aside, the goals you set for yourself should be realistic, meaning they should be attainable. If I set a reasonable goal for myself of losing one to two pounds per week before spring and then set my mind to it, I’m pretty confident I’ll be wearing my skinny jeans come summer.

Tell others about your goals.

You don’t have to shout out your goals on the Internet as I’m doing right now (call me crazy), but sharing them with one or a few individuals can go a long way toward legitimizing and putting your goals on the map for you, keeping you honest with others in addition to yourself.

Write your goals down.

Even better than thinking about your goals and sharing them with the world is writing them down. When you have a tangible statement to look at, it becomes that much more real to you. Consider this article part of my goal setting strategy for the coming months.

Refer back to your list of goals.

Equally as important as putting your goals in writing is referencing them later. Keep your written goals in a place where you can look at them often. That will keep them in the forefront of your mind, where hopefully you will not only think about them but act on them too.

Keep track of your progress.

Check in with yourself regularly. Depending on the particular goals you set for yourself, how many times you monitor your advancement in a given period will vary. Set milestones for yourself as you work toward larger goals, each of which builds on the ones preceding them. Remember to congratulate yourself on those so-called smaller triumphs as well. They can be just as inspiring.

Cut yourself some slack.

You will hit setbacks for sure. It’s an inevitable part of goal-setting and life in general. Things happen. The critical lesson is not to get discouraged and to get back up again should you fall. In the wise words of Alexander Pope, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” So why not begin by forgiving yourself?

Stacey Freeman

Stacey Freeman

Stacey Freeman is a New York City-based writer, lifestyle editor at, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track.


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