Don’t Bother with Resolutions This New Year

Don’t waste your time with resolutions this new year. Instead, focus on something far better: resolve. While the words are similar, the difference is significant.

Photo credit: Windell Oskay (Creative Commons)

A resolution is something you make; resolve is something you have. Call it semantics, but I think the distinction is important.

This year, a lot of people will make resolutions and then immediately break them. Why? Because they’re not really resolving to do anything different. They’re just wishing.

Here’s the bottom line: Without a stronger resolve, you have no hope of accomplishing your resolutions.

In other words, you need to commit. To choose into an intentional process that will make you better. Not a set of audacious goals you’ll never meet.

Goal-setting, while admirable, is essentially pointless. Goals, in and of themselves, aren’t sustainable. They tell you where you want to go, not how you’re going to get there.

What you need are new habits, a new way of living that will bring different results.

It’s time to commit to being the type of person you’ve always dreamed of being. And that begins with creating new disciplines. Here are three important ones worth mastering, if you want to be better this year (at writing, making art, or anything else):

  1. Set aside a time to practice. Be it early morning, during lunch, or late at night, it’s important to have a special time to spend with your craft. Although I at first hated it, I’ve now grown quite fond of my 5:00 am writing times. There’s something peaceful about the solitude of working while the rest of the world is asleep.
  2. Show up. When I say I’m going to write, I often procrastinate and run out of time. I give excuses and justifications and end up creating nothing. I hate this. So I have refused to allow myself an “out” any longer. I must write every day, no matter what, even if for only 15 minutes. The crazy thing is this is where some of my best work comes from — concentrated blocks of forced productivity.
  3. Give yourself grace. This goes hand-in-hand with the last one. A natural byproduct of discipline is dread. When you start showing up to do the work, you may grow fearful of the desk. I know I have struggled with this, feeling like my work is never good enough. At times like these, remember to be playful; have fun. Remind yourself why you go through the painful parts, because there is joy waiting for you at the finish line.

Sure, there are other strategies for setting and achieving your goals this year, but those three are enough to get you started.

Most days, if you can remember to set aside time to practice, to actually show up and do the work, and to give yourself grace when you fall short, you are going to be just fine.

What about you? What habits are you trying to work on this new year? Share in the comments.

124 thoughts on “Don’t Bother with Resolutions This New Year

  1. Jeff,
    Thanks for all the great insights this year. I really appreciate them.

    You have certainly provided value to my fledgling career. Since I was a kid I loved to write and it took a chnage in my life 5 years ago for me to start to open up to new ideas. It took me a few years to realize that I can pursue my passion and finally I have the confidence to do so.

    The habit I want to develop is simply allowing myself to let the ideas flow, get them down and not worry so much about structure right away. I know this is fundamental but hey, as I said, I am relatively new at this.

    Have a great year!

  2. I never thought I’d voluntarily set an alarm for 5AM, but this has also made all the difference for me to foster the element of grace.  It’s been a challenge to just write, even when it’s far from perfect, but I find that I can ignore the internal editor much easier when it’s still asleep.

  3. Amen, Jeff Goins. Instead of making plans this year, I’m actually going to START something. Mostly because I’ve been disappointed with how bad my “planned” resolutions turned out, so this year I’m going to start working on the important things. Your suggestions are actually a few of the  things that I really need to do, which are to set aside some time for writing aside from my day job, and actually showing up more often.

  4. Hi Jeff
    I have been taking your advice and although I haven’t followed all of it I have become hooked on the blogging and started something new yesterday. I had an idea to write a prayer for the day, not new but new for me and the people who have been following me so far. I’ve also started posting on Twitter today and the hit rate has soared. 

    Maybe people are looking for prayer but whatever the reason I know from some of the comments its touched something in folks. It’ll be hard to keep up because I will be away with my work but I am determined to keep going. Thanks for all your help and support. May God bless you and your family in 2012. 

  5. Jeff,

    One of the things that I discovered over the last few week is that if I work in 30 minute blocks without interruptions I get  a good amount done. I’m going to be using this on a daily basis and the other thing I’m going to do is allocate my time to finishing books as opposed to daily blog posts.  Of course along with that there is the podcast which is growing daily. 

    1. very cool. I’ve experienced a similar thing: for me, it’s not always quantity of time that matters, just that I show up for one focused block. I can get a lot done if 15 minutes, if I’m focused. Happy new year!

  6. After reading this I think the “lights” have finally come on regarding some habits I need to start/just do in order to produce more written material. I’ve been saying that I want to write, but I only do it sporadically or when the inspiration hits me. Hopefully making writing a daily part of my schedule will be a step in the right direction. Thanks for this post. I’m inspired once again!

  7. This is such a simple yet powerful reminder! Thank you 🙂 I definitely want to complete writing a story I’ve been working on by the end of 2012. It’s simple, based on my own experiences and imagination. Sure hope I’ll be able to do it! Happy new year!

  8. I absolutely agree with your 3 pointers, especially the showing up part. The main job of the writer, firstly, is always to write. Unfortunately, no matter how much we love the craft, sometimes we’ll be bored by the mundane activity, dreading the word “discipline”. We just want to live the dream, but we don’t want to do all the work! And ah-ha, life has its own way to teach us the lesson when we don’t walk the talk.

    I find out that when we simply show up and do the writing daily, the rest will just fall in. So that is my 2011 writing goal– daily writing.

    For 2012, I need to practice “shipping”, which I am incredibly afraid of. I done most of my writing private, even though I feel it’s time to let some of my words out for the world. These words are nudging me now. I currently am starting a blog, and was stuck. I could feel the resistance yaking me not to embarrass myself, but I know at the end of the day, writing is a gift, and gifts, are meant to be shared.

    Thanks goodness I subcribed to your “International Blogging” and it helps me a lot!

  9. Preach it, preach. I hate New Years Resolutions, and despise myself for making them regularly. If something’s important enough to get done, it’s important enough to do it right away, regardless of the date. 

  10. I wrote a blog yesterday in a matter of 20 minutes. In fact it was focused on the same subject; avoiding the resolution trap. When you say to yourself I only have x amount of minutes to write, something will come out of your brain and on to the screen. Simply amazing. I enjoy your posts Jeff.

  11. Thanks for a great Blogg, I enjoy reading it. The idea of focusing on resolve is excellent – inspiring – Happy New Year to you and yours!

  12. My primary goal is to make sure that when I’m writing, I’m actually writing. Turn off the wifi and write.

    And my other goal is to quit with the constant editing while I’m writing. Over the past two weeks where I’ve not been blogging, I’ve been doing this much better at this, and I just need to keep doing that. I think that’s an area where blogging has hurt me. Because I’m a quick and dirty blogger, I tend to edit as I go. But it makes writing big stuff way, way, way more tedious. 

    Thanks for the great advice, as always!

  13. I agree, goals are great. But must be backed up with a (new) habit. 

    I write at least five days a week…..that is, on days when I can block out at least an hour or so.  

    I feel as though I cannot create something good in a short period of time. I need the hours! 

    But I am slowly learning (through your blog) the importance of showing up and writing something, anything, everyday. 

    In this new year, that’s my goal…just show up  and do something. 

    Sometimes what I write may never see the light of day (as in, it’s just private ramblings) But the discipline gets my “habit” juices flowing, grows me as a writer and makes me better at what I do. 

    Thanks for sharing. 

    And a happy new year to you and yours 🙂

  14. Hey Jeff,

    Give yourself grace. Love it. A good thing to remember, to have fun with it and not take myself so stinkin’ seriously. 

    Along with that, my plan is to share more deeply about my story …  get more personal. I find that that brings up all kinds of fears and doubts, making it very easy to not click the publish button.

    In 2012, Just Hit Publish.

  15. The priest at my parish had a thoughtful homily on the different between wishing and a resolution. Wishing is just hoping for success. A resolution is a thoughtful plan of how to get to a goal. It made me think of  what I can do to market my book.

    I hear you, Jeff. Facing the computer in the early hours of the morning can be daunting.  I want to avoid, to watch the news, drink my coffee. If I just open the file, it gets me started…usually.

  16. Finish finish finish.  Set up a time to write in order to finish! Thanks for the most needed advice to set aside a time to write! For me, that’s currently the most important factor! Thanks again!

  17. Love this post Jeff.  Definitely motivating, something worth taking to heart.

    I’m curious…can you expand on creating a creative environment for writing?

    1. Good questions, Jeff. Make it a place with limited distractions: turn off the phone, disconnect from Internet, and have something that soothes you (maybe music or coffee or a beautiful view). Then kill the excuses and write!

  18. Wonderful post Jeff!! Step number 1 is personally the biggest challenge for me because by the time I get home from work, I’m emotionally taxed and have very little creative energy to sit write anything other than a resignation letter (I wish I could write a resignation letter today- crossing my fingers 2013 will be the year I leave my job). 

    I’m absolutely not a morning person and during lunch I go to the gym. That being said, what I need to learn how to do is not allow the frustration of my job seep into my creative space. Not only does allowing the junk of my workday stall my ability to write, it zaps the joy right out of me. This is simply not acceptable! Come what may, I need to write, write, write. Moreover, I need to incorporate time to read articles, books, blogs, etc. Basically, read from as many different sources that I can on a daily basis. I love to read, so this is simply a matter of my fitting it into my day, perhaps on my train ride into work. I believe that reading strengthens my writing as well as provides material for me to possibly write about. 

    Disconnecting myself from my iPhone, iPad, and Macbook Air is also imperative. It’s all Apple’s fault, 🙂 

  19. Thanks, Jeff, for this.  This morning I woke up and thought, “I feel more like a writer in 2013 than in any other year thus far…”.  I have you and a few published pieces to thank for that!  I AM a writer!

  20. Mr. Goins, You are wise beyond your years. You never disappoint. In my busy world, every mine I steal to read something you wrote is worth it! Keep on pursuing your passion. SANDY

  21. i think goals can be good – but only if you have a plan about how to achieve them. If you just set a goal and don’t know how to achieve it, then you won’t. It’s that simple. I’ve got goals this year, but I have a plan too. I know how i want to achieve my goals. And the final part of this is, as you say, showing up. Actually doing the work. And all the plans are useless unless you show up. But they can be useful, they can give you direction and focus.

    Goals and plans only work if you do the work – but if you do, then they are helpful. The real problem is we treat goal-setting and making a plan as the objective, to make us feel better. But it’s not an objective, both are to help us to achieve the major objective – helping us grow. But actually it’s doing the work, showing up, every day, which is the objective, And goals and a plan help us achieve these.

    I agree about habits – and getting into new habits is about having a plan, a strategy, and being realistic about your plans too, taking time over them and setting deadlines.

    And above all, it’s important to begin with values. That’s how you know what’s important, and it allows you to set realistic goals with a genuine plan and strategy to achieve them.

  22. So glad I stumbled on your 500 word challenge…..I needed a jolt of lightening to finish a book I’m working on and this is it! Great encouragement, thanks Jeff.

  23. I have never been one to make resolutions. I am a goal setter, though, and that is on the agenda for this weekend – probably tomorrow while I am snowed in. This year, I am hoping to get into the habit of spending more time on my spiritual and personal development, as well as my professional development.

    1. That’s sounds like an important goal, Kirbie. I think we need to develop our spiritual and personal side to stay balanced. How do you plan to go about it?

      1. I have shifted my “outside” work to 120 hours per month, which allows me to have time to build my business AND set aside time for both of those. Spirituality has fit into my first of the morning routine. I read, go through associated journals; then I journal some about what I’m grateful for, etc. Personal development will be more tricky to fit in but I am going to try fitting it in at lunchtime – read/journal and eat lunch.

        1. Sometimes, just eating lunch can be a form of personal development. 🙂 Good luck with your resolutions and resolve this year!

  24. Last year was an incredible year, I learned what it mean to truly live. This year I want to build upon the foundation that was laid. I formed new habits last year that have helped get results, this year the sky’s the limit!

  25. Everyone seems to be down on poor old resolutions. For me as a community planner, goal-setting is a bodily function. I owe every success in my life to my adherence to goals, objectives and strategies. So obviously I took a little different slant in my post. What’s cool is we both ended up in the same place – focusing our intention and desire on what we want more of in our lives.

    In my experience, resolutions (or goals), together with resolve, are exponentially more powerful together than they are in isolation. A goal (noun) is direction and resolve (verb) is propulsion. They are both required to reach a destination – in many cases the destination is a new habit.

    You had an inspiring 2013 for all of who live vicariously through your success Jeff, best wishes in 2014. Your writing had a huge impact on me and my family in 2013 and I look forward to more of the same in the year to come.

    Best, Sam

    1. Great thoughts, Sam. Community and accountability are essential. I’m not down on goals; I just don’t think they’re enough, as you wonderfully illustrated.

  26. Resolve is comparable to my word choice for 2014 — strive. I’ve set writing goals for myself and to reach the finish line, I need to strive forward. Today I took a step in the right direction and joined your 500 word challenge, thanks to my friend, Joan Hall. She is one of my best encouragers and when I found out she was signed up, I decided to do the same. Today was my first day, and I hit 1200+ on my draft memoir. Excited and striving!

  27. Great post – I wouldn’t knock resolutions, though – I made a few last year that I did manage to follow through. I think if you maintain your focus – and RESOLVE – there’s no reason why they can’t work out. One of the tricks is not to give up if you start backsliding, but to pick yourself up, brush yourself down and carry on – or, as you put it, give yourself grace. This year I’m resolved to continue writing some fiction every day and to prioritise this over my blogging activities, which have been eating up too much of my time, and to get more books published on Kindle, having just published my first this week. I’m also resolved to maintain a daily meditation practice, which I’ve started in recent months.

  28. Hi Jeff,. Have a one help for me, how to practise reading lots of books,. Am already interested but not taking for an long time,. So any solution for this,.
    can u let 2my email ?

  29. For the past few years I have made resolutions and resolutely stuck to them, achieving all I set out to. I make my list in much the same way as one sets up a business plan, with achievable goals. I write them down, having started working on them earlier in the year, and then by the first day of the new year, I have them memorised. Each morning, when I walk, I repeat them to myself and assess how I’m doing. So, I agree with you. Don’t bother unless you’re serious.

  30. This is so good. I fall short of most of my goals every year, because I lack resolve. It’s like for me, I need that change of my mindset, how I think about my goals. I need that resolve!

  31. I have two post it notes on my desk – right under my nose. One says ‘write every day’ and the other says – well – S.D.S. which reminds me to Save my work as I go – you can fill in the D word. I am loving the 500 word challenge.

  32. Resolve vs. resolutions: I’ve never thought about the difference between those two words, but thinking about it does cast a new light on the New Year.

    My resolution this year is not to do something, but to explore the relationship between effort and surrender. It reminds me of the post’s advice to “show up” (effort) but to do so with “grace” (surrender). Flowing in between both is necessary to be satisfied and content. I’ve written about my resolve on my blog

    Thanks, as always, for the interesting perspective, Jeff.

  33. *Resolves to set time*
    Lessee….Wake up at 5 normally, need to start doing that again and just drag myself to the desk and write for 5 minutes.

  34. I just finished writing a very LONG piece during NaNoWriMo (68,959 words). Now here it is the first of the year and I was looking forward to getting back to it after Christmas only to find myself suddenly taking a full-time job for tax season. I journal daily (Morning Pages ala Julia Cameron), but I’m wondering if I need to set some kind of goal for staying engaged with what I wrote in November. Suggestions welcome…

  35. I’m resolving to be more focused in terms of resources. I have way too many, and I’ve been always looking for the next best thing, the next magic bullet.
    Not any more.
    I’m resolving to apply those resources I have now, to achieve specific results this year.

  36. This is timely – In the process of planning my 2014 and realized how I need to focus on disciplines rather than goals. Thanks for the post.

  37. Thank you, Jeff. I plan to work on finishing projects that I start. Also, I would like to develop a regular writing habit.

  38. I love the distinction you make between resolutions and resolve. Determination, tenacity, I believe they are brothers of resolve. Stick-to-it-tive-ness. I am resolving to stay on task with things that will further my projects. There are so many other things that are good, but they take time away from our own stuff. I want to be deliberate about this.

  39. So far i’ve written 500 words every day! But I know there will be days I don’t get there so thanks for that reminder of grace. Also, I’m working on scripture memory with a community of people.

  40. Consider me inspired. I’ve been having some issues with motivation and drive for work. But it’s great to know that all writers feel this way. I might follow your sample and create time for writing. Thanks Jeff.

  41. Great post Jeff. I have a background that includes neuroscience so resolutions were never plausible to me. The human nervous system is engineered to react automatically to the problems and challenges in the environment (both internal and external). To that end, I think investing in the process through resolve and commitment highlights one of the most precious resources we have which is attention. In my mind, attention is the ability we have to focus only on that which we want to perceive each moment. I find when I ‘show up’ intentionally each moment, my efforts to close the gap between point A and B are more sustainable. Thanks for sharing this timely thought.

  42. You are right, JG! A good inspirational quote is your post. But beneficiaries are only those who get inspired to perspire and persist. Thank you.

  43. So true Jeff.

    Its so common for people to want the result of change without undergoing any change. Simply not possible.

    The best part is that the change is contagious. Once you start, momentum often transfers change to other beneficial areas in life!

  44. What a great post! I love the idea of resolve versus resolution, and what writer doesn’t enjoy semantics 🙂 I like choosing a word as a theme for the year and had I seen this post I might’ve picked this!

  45. I’m certainly in agreement Jeff! This is the reason that the regulars at the gym, hate the month of January, because those who make resolutions and lack resolve will fill the parking lots and take up the machines for a few weeks. But by February, those who have discipline and drive will be able to reclaim their favorite machines and those who made a resolution will be paying the gym each month for no reason. Thanks for the post, I addressed this issue of resolve myself in a poem I titled Porous. Anyone who is interested can get my entire 25 poem e-book for free until January 15th on my website Have a blessed 2014!

      1. It’s in giving that we receive 🙂 I listened to your podcast on The Creative Penn and you described some of your writing as “poetic” in nature, have you written any strict poetry, or compiled a chapbook of poems by chance that we can read?

  46. My word for the year is FINISH. I want to finish what I started. This takes resolve. Most of the goals I created for 2014 require a resolve to accomplish. A couple of the writing related goals will take a strong focus to FINISH. Great post, Jeff!

    1. Me too, Jon. My word is EXECUTE. I came up with a bunch of ideas last year and executed on maybe half of them. There are literally books I’ve written, products I’ve built, and blog series I dreamt up that simply never saw the light of day. My mantra for this year is “80% is good enough to ship.”

  47. I didn’t make a resolution this year. I set a list of small actions that I could do every day that would lead me towards goals in 4 major areas of my life. And I started on December 6… Because starting on January 1 has been a recipe for disaster for me. It’s been really great so far.

  48. HA! Love this. I’ve been on the anti-resolution bandwagon before and been guilty of setting the same resolutions year over year only to fail repeatedly.

    It really comes down to how bad you want something, and how much blood, sweat and tears you’re willing to invest. Hmmm… I guess in that context all of us hustling are on Wall Street. 🙂

  49. I don’t make resolutions, but I do pick one word to apply to my life for the year. This year, my word is commit.

    1. I do the same thing! This year, my word is “embark.” I’ve had the word stuck in my head for months after reading about a philosopher/theologian who talked about how life has already started, with or without us being engaged.

  50. This is great, Jeff. I think the best resolutions are connected to deeper themes of meaning and identity. Starting with resolve instead of resolutions is a helpful idea toward that end!

  51. I started addressing my fear of failure (especially in front of others) in 2013, and during this process, I realized that almost everyone has this fear. It’s taught me that we don’t need more success stories; we need more stories of people who were willing to fail big time in order to achieve change.
    So this year, I have decided to make a real commitment to last year’s resolution of running a half marathon. Will this require countless hours of running, not all of them enjoyable? Absolutely! Will it be worth it when I cross the finish line in May? Absolutely!

  52. I’m working on a habit of writing on a one word subject everyday – trying to pen 3-5 paragraphs. The grace part has already been huge, plus I have a chart where I mark how much I write each day. It helps provide some accountability and is a great visual.

  53. Twice within the first week of this year, i have been challenged to focus on RESOLVE, rather than on making resolutions. So I resolve to STAY COMMITTED. Stay committed to my goals. Stay committed in my relationships. Stay committed to my dreams. Thanks for the inspiration.

  54. Great post! Each year, I select one word on which to meditate. Last year it was diligence, but I like the word resolve better. It has more gusto.

    This year’s word is “EMBARK.”

    If you are resolving to be more brave, adventurous and daring, or if you are seeking to live live to it’s fullest, or if you are burned out and looking for a way to become invigorated again, join me at as I do the same.

  55. I resolve to ponder over how one can manage so many things at a time! Really, some people do!
    A Chinese proverb is “One can not manage too many affairs: like pumpkins in the water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other”
    I’d like to learn the trick of what I do I’m just thinking about that with undivided attention then I will be able to do all things expeditiously and efficaciously.

  56. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, I’ve never liked them. I have better success, as you say, resolving to adopt a new habit hen I’m ready. I’m on day 40 of daily workouts now, and day 7 of writing every day. These are the chains I’m working not to break right now. And I’m loving the results so far.

    Happy New Year Jeff!

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