New Year’s Resolutions Are For Losers – Make Goals Instead

make goals not new years resolutionsEvery year you hear about all sorts of great goals people set to better themselves or a situation in the coming new year.

They are called “New Year’s Resolutions” and most of them get forgotten within a few weeks of the new year.

Sadly, the motivation normally fades but the sad truth comes out on February 1 when everyone has already given up on the awesome goals they set.

Related: How To Start The New Year On Good Financial Footing

Why Do We Only Vow to Improve Ourselves at the End of a Year?

I finally decided not to mess with new year’s resolutions anymore a couple years ago.

For a few years my new year’s resolution alternated between “I resolve not to make a new year’s resolution next year” and “I can’t make one this year, I resolved I wouldn’t last year”. Why?

We should always be trying to improve ourselves yet many only focus on improving when setting their New Year’s Resolutions. It doesn’t really matter why it happens and why people fall victim to this trend.

What matters is that you recognize this is a problem and decide not to fall victim to that mindset that everyone else follows every year.

What You Should Do Instead Of Setting New Year’s Resolutions

Look at your life and try to figure out what you aren’t happy with. If there is more than one thing you want to improve, pick the most important one and focus on that. Once you have that figured out try to come up with a way that you can realistically improve that part of your life.

If you’re having trouble with your finances try to figure out exactly what the problem is. If you aren’t earning enough money, devise a plan to get a better job or pick up a side gig. If you’re spending too much, set a goal to track and reduce your expenses or make a budget and stick to it if you don’t have one yet.

Related: 5 Ways My Wife And I Make Extra Income On The Side

Don’t Set Many Goals At The Same Time

It might seem ambitious to have a long list of new year’s resolutions or goals but if you can’t devote enough energy to each goal it will likely end in failure.

There are often many things I want to improve but it always seems most effective when I focus one just a couple of my ideas. Once you have those goals accomplished you can move on to the next set.

Related: How To Pay Off Debt When You Don’t Know Where To Start

Some other ideas to be as successful as possible with your improvements are to set targets or deadlines. Make sure you have a support group (this can be as simple as friends or family) and announce your goal to those people. Ask your support group to hold you accountable!

Related: One Simple Trick To Push Forward When You’re Ready To Quit

It Doesn’t Have to Take a Year

The other part about new year’s resolutions is that many people feel that they need to accomplish massive goals that take a whole year to complete. When you set the target so high it is very hard to get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results.

Instead, try breaking a large goal into smaller parts. I believe that people make better progress when things seem more in reach. These smaller goals can have shorter time frames and won’t allow you to procrastinate as much.

If I set a goal to lose 20 lbs next year I could keep pushing it off until later into the year… well, until it is too late altogether and I’ve forgotten about my goal or given up. Instead, I could aim to lose 10 pounds by the end of March. Once that’s complete, I’d consider making another goal to lose 5 more pounds by June.

Don’t Call It A “New Year’s Resolution”

Please, don’t call your next goal a new year’s resolution. Recognize new year’s resolutions for what they are… GOALS! Set smaller, shorter goals and start knocking them off your list.

When you finish one set of goals, start the next. Don’t wait for the new year to start your next goal. Work to continuously improve yourself.

What goals do you have for yourself in the near future? What about the long term? I’d love to hear about your goals and how you plan to accomplish them in the comments below, even if they aren’t financial goals.

Photo by: Text added by: Lance Cothern

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. Great post Lance. Setting new years resolutions is a waste of time for most people. They would be far better off realising that they are setting goals and try to stay on top of them. Set new goals each month and slowly work towards the big goal.

  2. I’m not into the new year’s resolutions either. With that said, it is a perfect stopping point to reflect back on the year that was and re-visit the goals you originally had. I like the idea of breaking down large goals into smaller ones. Instead of saying “I’m going to get in shape this year.” Why not say “I’m going to go to the gym 3 days a week in January.”

    Then, after January is over you can see how you did and make a new one for February.

  3. Ira Flatow had a great discussion on his Science Friday show last week about making New Years Resolutions that stick.

    The part I found the most interested was that tripping up in the first few weeks was not correlated with ultimate success. Those that succeed are just as likely to trip up as those that don’t – it’s just how they respond to it.

  4. Resolutions and goals are not the same.

    A resolution is a result of a problem. Not only to come up with a simple answer but also to review the problem before answering.

    A common example is with losing weight:
    Problem: I have a high BMI and am at an unhealthy weight.
    Solution: Lose 15 lbs
    Resolution: Why am I overweight right now? Because I don’t have time to make meals at home? Because I don’t have time to grocery shop? Because I don’t know how to cook? Because I haven’t signed up to a gym? What do I need to do to make time for these things? Which one is most important in resulting in the solution. Is this the right solution, should I instead focus on eating healthier rather than a set weight?

    Rather than setting an arbitrary number because it sounds good in our head, resolutions require us to admit to a problem and break-down what we need to do to solve it.

    On the other hand, a goal is a personal challenge. A goal results from having a resolution as they help us to push ourselves past our comfortable limit.

    Let’s say you learned to cook and started running and now your BMI is lower. You have solved the problem but now you want to see just how far you can go. You like running now and want to challenge yourself to run a 5K. That would then become a goal.

    Ideally, someone would have both: 1) a list of problems and their resolutions, 2) a list of static areas in their life and goals to overcome them.

  5. Brett Wilson @ wstreetstocks says:

    Great post. What you said is very true. Many people make new years resolutions, but they don’t follow through with them. People need to remain focused if they are to accompish their goals.

  6. I agree and resolved to just commit to my projects this year. Goals should be separate anyway! We’ll see if it makes any difference.

  7. I’m always on the fence with these. I love setting goals, but I really like the fresh start a new year gives you, and it’s a time of (almost) forced reflection. Resolutions are more of an attitude shift, and as a result, you can then hit your goals.

  8. Nice post! I find myself on the fence. In one aspect, I hate how many new years resolutions are created that are left unaccomplished. On the other hand, if it works for you, you might as well stick with it. I’m more of a goal person (and usually set my financial goals from Oct to Oct), but I do find myself setting “resolutions” or goals – whatever you want to call them.

  9. Tushar @ Everything Finance says:

    I think the new year symbolizes a new, fresh start for a lot of people so they focus on resolutions instead of goals all year. Most people fail their resolutions so its important to keep up with important goals year-round. Resolutions will be successful if you would make them regardless of the time of year.

  10. I do always try to improve myself, but I tend to fall into the same patterns as everyone else around the first of the year. The whole “turning the page/fresh start” idea around January 1st is kind of a good reminder that we can make major changes in our lifestyle any time if we put our minds to it..

  11. Well said – it kills me that people can only attempt the make positive changes on January 1. My favorite line is when I hear “I’m start blank diet starting January 1.” Why not start now?

  12. Good points, I’m not sure what it is about a new year that makes everyone feel they have to start things over or new. If it’s really a goal it should be something you can start working on at any time. I tried to keep my goals for this year reasonable and measurable, that way I can track my progress.

  13. Fresh perspective, I like the post. I tend to agree that we shouldn’t have to resort to New Year’s resolutions. We should be setting goals all the time, and along those lines, I try to have long-term goals, annual, AND monthly goals. That being said, there is something a bit different about a new year. Companies have annual reports, jobs often have annual reviews….it just seems like our culture is drawn to the calendar year. It takes effort to also look at things differently, which is what I try to do.

  14. Great post! Couldn’t agree more with the idea of why change/growth/goal planning/etc shouldn’t be reserved for just the end of the year. It takes time throughout the entire year and beyond to make lasting changes AND reach the various goals we set for ourselves.

  15. Agreed, resolutions and goals are not the same. Since I met my wife, I’ve learned to make goals and review them each month to check on progress. Much success to you this year.

  16. Smart advice. By limiting it to being an “end of year” thing, we’re missing out on a lot of opportunities for self-improvement.

    As soon as we see an opportunity to become better, healthier, and happier people, we should try to take it.

  17. We don’t believe in new years resolutions either but we do have goals that we work on every year which put us towards the future we want. We just made our lists the other week and we are already working on some of them. I have full confidence we will stick with them the whole year.

  18. I love making resolutions, it just part of the fun of the holiday season for me. For the most part I am a goal oriented person so my resolution normally have the qualites of SMART goals. Normally, I start thinking about the New Year after Thanksgiving. The whole process is fun for me. This year I read The Happiness Project were the author sets 12 monthly resolutions. Sounds interesting to me and I think it will make the year more fun.

  19. Very true and honestly most goals should be set for a 30 day window, not 365 days. Losing 30 pounds over 365 days sounds great, but what happens when you’re 2 pounds in with 28 left to go after a month? It suddenly looms as too big a number and most people just give up, whereas if you put a goal of 3 pounds for the first month, you have that as motivation to complete, and chances are you’ll hit that extra pound or double down and get it next month when you set the new goal.

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