Why I Set Goals Instead of Resolutions

Why I set goals instead of resolutions and what in the heck is the difference

Why I Set Goals Instead of Resolutions.

And what in the heck is the difference?

As we approach the new year, many people start talking about setting their New Year’s Resolutions.

I used to set New Year’s Resolutions too.

Kate Spade Daily Planner Agenda Calendar

I’d brainstorm about all the different things I wanted to change about myself or my life and come up with a short list of resolutions.

And when I’d come up short, I’d feel like a failure.

Now, this may not be how all people feel. I have perfectionistic tendencies. This is defined as a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.

Yep. That’s me.

Which is why resolutions were a problem for me.

So I decided to start setting goals instead.

You might be asking yourself what in the heck the difference is between the two. So I thought that it might be best to share the definitions of each of them.


A firm decision to do or not do something.


The object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.


As you can see the words are very similar. In fact, they share some synonyms (aim, plan, intention). But this is one of the things that I love about language…I see a nuance between them that actually affects how I tend to think about each word.

The Difference.

Resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something whereas a goal is an aim or desired result.

I interpret this in that a goal is fluid, not the pass/fail or black/white that I see in the term resolution.

It gives me room to change and tweak my goals as I move forward.

It also means that if I am moving forward and actually progressing toward the goal, there is still something to celebrate.

Where with a resolution I either achieved it or I didn’t.

I understand that this can be seen as semantics.

But this reframing helped me to recognize those things that I did achieve instead of beating myself up over not hitting the “exact” result.


To share a few examples from my own 2018 goals:

  • Grow blog to “x” number of followers. As a resolution, I would have failed because I didn’t achieve that number. Truth be told. I wasn’t even close. As a goal, I acknowledge how much I did grow by, assess what I might have done differently and factor that into a future goal.
  • Read 10 novels. This one I actually substantially surpassed. In no small part due to the fact that as part of my #thisis40 year of monthly challenges, one was a reading challenge. However, if I’d only managed to read 9, that still would have been aiming toward the goal instead of failing at the resolution.
  • Visit 3 Countries. I actually accomplished this goal as well. Aruba, England, and Scotland. But life is fluid. Things come up. Raising three teens keeps me on my toes. There was always a possibility that this might not have been doable as I was setting this goal at the end of 2017. But it was my aim.

    Over to you.

    Now that you see how I differentiate between the two words, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

    Do you see a difference between a goal and a resolution?

    I’m just getting starting on brainstorming on what goals I’d like to aim toward for 2019.

    How about you?

    Do you plan to set any goals for 2019?

    Feel free to share them if you’d like!

Look closely at the present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming. - Alice Walker

Let your light shine!


30 thoughts on “Why I Set Goals Instead of Resolutions

  1. Hi Amy, I agree with you on setting goals versus resolutions. For me, a goal can also be a work in progress, with steps along the way, accomplishments along the way. Interesting post. Made me think. Thank you. Erica

    1. Hi Erica! I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. I agree, the steps and accomplishments along the way make so much difference. When we find moments to celebrate instead of feeling like we didn’t “measure up”, I feel like it’s much better for our mental health. And also encourages us to keep going.

  2. I think that people who like words appreciate the subtlety between similar words like resolution and goal.

    To me, a resolution is like a promise. For someone like me who thinks promises are meant to be kept, not fulfilling a resolution is a major failure. Like you said, it’s black or white … not somewhat.

    Goals are more forgiving. It’s an aspiration and even partial completion can be a success – especially if it’s a big, hairy, audacious goal. At work, we called them B-hags.

    This year I’m thinking about a slightly different approach to my planning process and considering my goals in terms of ‘keeps’, ‘stops’, ‘starts’ – ie what do I want to keep doing, stop doing, and start doing. 2018 has been a great year for me and I’d like to take the learning from this year and use it to plan an even better one in 2019.

    Thanks Amy – you actually helped me solidify in my mind some of plans for next year.

    Good luck with your planning! My view is that ANY planning, regardless of how you want to approach it, is better than just drifting aimlessly.

    1. I love your thoughts on resolutions and goals. Not fulfilling a resolution does make me feel like a failure, that’s why I do so much better with goals. I like your approach to 2019. That sounds like a great way to approach my brainstorming session! Best of luck with your planning!!

  3. I am neither goal nor resolution oriented. I used to be very goal-oriented and struggled, so I let go, like how people give up drink. lol
    I DO think goals are better than resolutions for the exact reasons you mentioned.
    I like to check my life for imbalances. Consistently. And then make adaptations as I go. Little changes can change big things.
    I enjoy your outlook.

    1. The goal setting is for this new phase. I haven’t done it in the past. This will be the third year.
      I don’t know if I will always do them, but they give me a sense of direction right now. Kind of like the challenges during my #thisis40 year.

      I like goals because they feel malleable. I had a Twitter goal that I set at the end of 2017, but then decided I didn’t enjoy Twitter and felt no guilt about deciding that was no longer a goal. I suppose that falls in line with checking for imbalances and adaptations. I like that concept as well.
      Little changes definitely change big things! 🙂

  4. I absolutely LOVE this perspective!!! I am taking this with me. I’m going to start saying “New Years Goals” rather than resolutions from now on.

  5. I can so relate to this Amy, in fact I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. About my goals for next year and what I want to achieve. It’s a great way to look ahead and feel a sense of purpose. Good luck with all of your planning. xx

  6. Indeed agree with you. Goal works not resolution. So instead of making a list of resolution one should prepare to do list of goal. Nice blog

  7. Hi Amy,

    Like all those who have commented already, I like this slight adjustment. Changing from resolutions to goals sets you up to succeed rather than encourage failure. That is an idea we should all get behind!

    I will have a think about what goals I want to aim for throughout 2019.

    1. I definitely see goals as setting you up to succeed rather than to fail. I’m so glad that you like this adjustment. Have fun with your planning for 2019. It reminds me that I need to really get working on mine!!

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