Instead of New Year Resolutions…

It might still seem like a month or two away, but the new year is upon us, and a wave of those optimistic new year resolutions and goals are coming with it. That snarkiness right there might lead you to think I’m a naysayer about resolutions, but that’s not the whole truth.

I know there’s myriad strong opinions out there about resolutions, mostly making cases about whether they’re good or foolish for one reason or another. Those often look something like this:


  • Get stuff done
  • Gives sense of purpose
  • It’s fun
  • Helps to think ahead
  • Provides accountability


  • Usually don’t accomplish them
  • Many are trivial anyway
  • People just want to brag
  • We shouldn’t wait all year to do something
  • Creates more guilt than hope

Here’s how I see it: we have the right idea, but the wrong approach.

We do need goals, which is what resolutions are. We need to have things we want to accomplish, and we need to clearly know what those things are. So it’s good to take a little time to think about what those things might be over the next year. However, where our plan falls short is, well, we don’t have a plan.

We don’t need new year resolutions, we need new year plans. “Oh, semantics, you nerd!” Scoff all you want, but there’s a tangible difference between goals and plans, and it’s this: people with plans can answer questions.

Let’s use the most famous resolution of all: the “going to start working out” resolution. It’s a noble goal, but I can almost guarantee that if you start asking questions to folks with such a goal, it won’t take long until you start getting puzzled looks. The conversation will go something like this:

Gym-er: “My resolution is to start working out this year. I’m gonna do it!”

You: “Oh great! When are you going to start?”

Gym-er: “Oh um, you know, first of the year.”

You: “Nice. Which days are you going to go?”

Gym-er: “Umm, well, I think Tuesdays and Thursdays, and maybe Saturdays.”

You: “I see. What time do you think you’ll go?”

Gym-er: “Well…I need to check the gym hours…and my schedule…and…”

There’s no plan here, just a goal and a gym bag full of wishful thinking. Ask questions of a person with a plan and you’ll get answers, and answers mean fewer excuses, fewer surprises, and better preparedness. And that means greater success.

From Resolution to Plan

If you’re ready to actually accomplish your resolutions this year, it’s time to convert your resolutions to plans. For that task, I have developed an online wizard that automatically converts your resolution files (.res) to plan files (.pln).

Just kidding.

But what I will do is offer some questions to get you most of the way. Because creating plans is mostly about asking questions and making decisions to answer those questions. For example, When will you begin your new year resolution? That one’s pretty simple, but it’s important to decide! Here are some questions to consider for each of your resolutions:

  • When will I begin working on this?
  • Is this a resolution I will complete, or is it perpetual?
  • Are there any unknowns that might affect my success? (ex. scheduling, other people, expense)
  • How will I measure success, and what is a minimum level to be considered successful?
  • How will I be held accountable to this goal?

Another important question to ask is this: Why am I resolving to do this? Sometimes answering this question can shed light on our true intentions. Make sure you understand why you’re doing this in the first place.

Finally, write it down. There are numerous advantages to writing down goals. I won’t get into that here; but please, write down your resolution(s), and write down as much information about it as you can. Write it clearly and thoroughly enough that someone who has no idea who you are or what your goal is would be able to perfectly understand and successfully complete it.

I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t make a new year resolution this year. Do what you want. But if you do plan to make a resolution for 2018, set yourself up for success. If your goals are worth talking about, they’re worth planning.

If you’re trying hard to plan for success but you’re totally stuck, email me.

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