Rethinking New Year Resolutions

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The first week of January I went to my kickboxing gym, looking forward to punching some bags after being on vacation for about 2 weeks. As I walked in the door, my eyes bugged out of their sockets. I totally forgot that it was 2018 now, and that a new year meant twice as many people at gyms all across the country.

New Years Eve parties are peppered with conversations about Resolutions. People are downing champagne and thinking about what they would like to change in their life.


We all know what the typical New Year Resolutions look like:

  • Eat healthier
  • Exercise more
  • Lose weight
  • Save money (for once)

In fact, a recent YouGov poll found just that. The most popular resolution for 2018 is….drum better. I know I shocked you with that one! If you’re picking up on my slightly sardonic tone, you’re right.


Think back and reflect: how often did you actually keep to your resolution?

Probably never. Save more money should theoretically be easier: instead of going to coffee shops every day, make my coffee at home and go the library. Eat healthier could mean just one more piece of fruit a day, or cutting down on my copious amounts of coffee.

I mean, I’ve never kept to a traditional resolution, and I’ve never known any of my friends to keep to one either. And this year, after such a crappy 2017, I’m reflecting on why that is, because dang are there some things I’d like to change.



Perhaps why New Year Resolutions are doomed to fail are because they are, at their core, negative.

Think about the correlative meaning of each of those resolutions listed above.

  • Eat healthier = you eat like crap now
  • Exercise = you are totally lazy and want that ‘beach bod’
  • Lose weight = you think you are overweight and have lower self-esteem
  • Save money = you have no control over your spending because SHINY THINGS

Resolutions are not necessarily a tool of empowerment, they are a tool of shame. Everyone enters the year highly optimistic that they’ll finally kick those nasty habits they think they have, but they already are starting out behind.

The Atlantic did a fantastic piece, “The Power of Negative Thinking,” where they explored a recent study showing that pessimists fare far better that optimists. Pessimists are more realistic- they assume things will fail so they aren’t disappointed when they do, or they plan for the worst. Agreed. But is negativity the right method for goal setting?


Businesses do goals right

New Year Resolutions are a fantastic goal setting tool. Just Google “Why should we set goals” and you’ll get about a bajillion articles detailing how goals help you focus, help you sustain momentum, help you create, help you better yourself. The reason we are so drawn to making resolutions at the turning of a new year is to help propel us forward in our life.

Goals are made to keep us moving.

In business, setting goals is the only way to succeed. Setting levels of achievement, whether that be products sold, clients gained, or blogs written, is the best way to make you actually do those things.

Without a goal, why are you doing what you’re doing?

It’s important in any business to think about quarterly and yearly goals that are actually achievable. In fact a business goal should be pretty much the opposite of standard New Year Resolution. They shouldn’t be “sell more products” or “reduce overhead costs.” Just like normal New Year Resolutions, these aren’t actionable goals. They are just dreams. And negative dreams to boot.

In a business, a good business woman would take those dreams and break them down into action items.

For example, “sell more products” could look more like this (in a very simplified version of it):

  1. Quarter One: Do a complete audit and overhaul, if needed, of sales funnel and copy for conversion optimization.
  2. Quarter Two: Optimize email strategy and pitches. Develop strong paid marketing tactics.
  3. Quarter Three: Do another audit, see what worked and what failed, and fix it.
  4. Quarter Four: Update copy, do customer surveys on what they love and didn’t, and fix it.

Now THAT is a New Year Resolution.



I’m just setting out on my freelance copywriter journey and have made a robust spreadsheet of goals, broken down by time frame and month. Little goals to get me to that big goal of being financially solvent and ability to travel.

So why, on the personal level, do we so massively fail at setting realistic goals for ourselves?


Reworking a Resolution

Now it might not seem like it from this post but I’m a hell of a optimistic person. Ask anyone who knows me. It can be nauseating at times.

Ok optimism, how do we rework New Year Resolutions to have them be a more positive goal setting tool?


1. Take your ‘dream’ goal and break it down.

What does ‘eat healthier’ mean? Does it mean you go vegan, or only eat organic, or eat more veggies? If your goal is miles away from how you live your life now, break your dream down into chunks.

One of the main reasons Resolutions fail is that people try to do it all, all at once. These things take time!

Take a look again at the business goals. See how they broke down the dream of selling more products into smaller, actionable chunks that they could realistically complete? Do that for yourself.


2. Rename your goal.

Your goal shouldn’t be ‘exercise more.’ It should be ‘learn and master a new exercise movement every month’ or ‘run for 5 more minutes each month on the treadmill.’

In 2016 my Resolution was to learn, test, and master a new type of bread each month. I have been baking bread my whole adult life, but had never really adventured outside the typical whole wheat loaf. By the end of the year I had 12 delicious recipes that I made into a book and voila- the holiday “omg-what-do-I-get-people” stress ball was vanquished.


I’ve set some pretty fun goals for 2018.


  1. Go hiking someplace new each month
  2. Read 30 books (a bit more than 2 a month)
  3. Work at least the equivalent of a weekend a month on my forest farm project


  1. Write at least 2 pieces of content a month for myself
  2. Follow the spreadsheet I made myself of quarterly financial goals
  3. Double check every decision I make to make sure it answers: “Is this what I want to be doing?”


What are yours?

I’d love to hear them, personal or business. Break them down for me- how will you get there? Shoot me an email ( or comment below.

Let’s start this year off on a super positive note!


UPDATE: You know what's cool? I wrote another post along these same lines for an awesome local meetup, Rise & Design. Check out that post here! January 2018: create awesome resolutions