Forget New Year's Resolutions... Let's Focus On Goals

For most of my life I was very focused on New Year's resolutions. Or at least I tried to be... 

Around this time of year, I would think about all of the things I wanted to change about myself or be better at and I’d write a list.

Past items on my resolution lists include things like:

  1. Floss every day
  2. Go to the gym 5x per week
  3. Lose 5-10 pounds
  4. Drink more water
  5. Eat healthier

I’d write them down neatly in a journal, attempt to maintain them for a few days and then, within a week, I’d fall off track or completely forget about them.

Then, every time I’d come across said list in my journal, I’d beat myself up about how bad I was at keeping resolutions and not following through on the things I said I would do.

The same thing happened every year. Without fail.

But then a couple of years ago, I started to really think about this New Year’s resolution pattern I had formed. I can't quite remember what caused me to rethink this strategy, but in doing so, I realized that I was going about it all wrong.

I was actually (unknowingly) setting myself up for failure.

Because when I really looked at my list, I was writing my resolutions based on “shoulds” (ex. I should floss my teeth every day) and judgement (ex. Lose weight).

Rather than focusing on things that would truly make me happy and help me grow, my list read like a guilt trip to myself.

Do better, Carolyn. Be better. Look better.

Ugh! Who the hell responds well to that sort of mean girl talk? Clearly I wasn’t.

So I decided to shift my attention away from resolutions (which is such an inflexible, harsh sounding word) to goals.

To me, goals are broader, more flexible, more enjoyable. They take into account how you want to feel and grow. They are about ambition rather than guilt or judgement.

This realization - that goals fit so much better with my soul and personality - felt so comforting and inspiring. Like I'd finally found something that worked for me and I could stick with. I no longer hastily write a list of guilt trippy resolutions for myself each January. Instead, I create a list of up to 5 goals (so it feels manageable and realistic) that I want to accomplish throughout the year.

When coming up with my goals, I use a feeling centered process so I can make sure the goals are coming from a soul-level, not external pressure or expectations. I know now that this is a key factor in creating goals that you can actually stick with - they have to come from you.

Below, I’ve outlined the process I use for goal setting, which goes beyond merely setting a goal, but also focuses on making sure you stay on track. I've also included a FREE 2018 Purposeful Goal Setting Worksheet for you to download (scroll to bottom of post) so you can follow along with these steps yourself.

Purposeful Goal Setting

Step 1: Reflect on the past year

Before you dive into the new year, take some time to think about 2017. You’ve come along way since this time last year, so give yourself the space to reflect on and celebrate what you’ve accomplished.

Reflection is an important part of the process. It helps you understand where you've come from and where you are now so that you can create goals accordingly.

I actually wrote a whole blog post about reflecting on 2017 in December (with its own corresponding downloadable worksheet), so feel free to refer to that post before you continue with the rest of the goal setting process if you'd like.

Step 2: Take a snapshot of your life

Beyond thinking about your successes over the past year, take a look at the different areas of your life (career, health, family, friends, love life, etc) overall.

Which areas feel like they’re totally in flow? Which ones feel a bit out of sync? Which ones bring you the most joy? Which areas have you been avoiding? Which ones do you know deep down that you're ready to start working on in 2018?

Step 3: Determine your desired feelings for 2018

How do you want to feel this year?

Understanding the feelings and values that are important to you will help you to create purposeful goals. They’ll help guide you in the coming months to determine whether or not those goals are working for you - and adjust accordingly.

Additionally, getting clear on how you want to feel will help you continue to make decisions in line with those feelings in all areas of your life and make it more apparent when a situation feels a bit off.

So, when you imagine yourself rocking 2018, how do you want to feel? 

Step 4: Create your list of goals

Looking at your successes from 2017 and the areas of your life you’re ready to work on, think about what you’d like to accomplish in 2018. These goals can be big or small - it’s entirely up to you.

As you write down your goals, check in with those desired feelings you just came up with and make sure that each goal you set ties into them. Why have a goal if it’s not helping you feel the way you want to feel?

Step 5: What is your why?

After you set a goal, write down the “why” for that particular goal.

Having a "why" for each goal can help you stay on track because it will serve as a reminder of the reason you created the goal in the first place. You won’t just be accomplishing a goal for the sake of accomplishing a goal - you’ll have a personal, meaningful reason behind it that motivates you.

Step 6: How are you going to make sh*t happen?

Now that you have your list, it’s time to think about h0w you’re going to achieve those goals.

What do you need to physically do to achieve each one of your goals? Write those action items down so you can refer to them as you work towards your goal.

For example, one of my goals for 2018 is to be a guest on 5+ podcasts. Some of my action items include researching which podcasts resonate most with me, creating my ideal list and proactively reaching out to podcast hosts.

Step 7: Set Yourself Up For success

Awesome - you’ve created some killer goals for yourself! How are you going to make sure you follow through with them?

Here’s the thing: no one is perfect. Life can understandably get in the way at times - shit happens. But, if you’re taking the time to actually write out 2018 goals, you want to set yourself up for success. Right?

So before you say "Okay great, I'm done with setting my goals!", think about how you're going to stay on track.

Ask yourself questions like: What methods of accountability do I respond best to? Where are good places for me to post reminders about my goals? How am I going to celebrate each goal once you achieve it? Who can help hold me accountable?

Everyone is different when it comes to accountability, so there isn't one "right" way to make sure you stay on track. Find what works best for you and put the right support systems in place so that you will remain motivated to accomplish what you say you want to do.


And that, my friend, is my goal setting process! Make sure you grab your FREE copy of my 2018 Purposeful Goal Setting Worksheet below so you can take yourself through this process and set yourself to crush some awesome goals this year!

As always, if you’d like any help with goal setting or accountability once you’ve come up with your goals, I’m here to help!

Happy New Year and be well,


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