Which is better? A resolution or a goal?

Written By Allie Perry January 9, 2023

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

Even though January first is just a regular old day on the calendar, and for me stuck smack in the middle of the coldest, dreariest, least inspiring season, for many people it’s a magical reset button.  

It’s a time for self reflection, self-evaluation, and perhaps most importantly, new beginnings!

The old you? The one who procrastinated too much, didn’t exercise enough, and hadn’t had a glass of water in recent memory? They dropped with the ball on New Year’s Eve. This New You who woke up on New Year’s Day will procrastinate less, exercise so much more, and drink ALL the water!!!

Or, you’ll do those things until the end of January, or possibly February…but definitely not March, because while those declarations seem so enticing, they stem from a place of negative self-judgment. They tend to demand immediate perfection and set you up to fail.

Why do Resolutions often fail?

You can blame the failure on a lack of motivation or proper resources, or you can convince yourself that you just don’t have the time to achieve meaningful success, but I truly believe you fail at keeping your resolutions because when you start falling short of the high bar you set for yourself, it becomes far easier to make an excuse than it does to make an effort.

Drinking more water was going to be an easy resolution, right? You were going to drink the recommend eight glasses of water a day, and you were going to have glowing skin and healthy hair and you’d have all of the energy in the world, not to mention fewer headaches. A few weeks into the year, though, and somehow you’re only squeezing in four glasses a day, a mere 50% of your goal.  If you go back to your school days, 50% is a failing grade, and who wants to spend all of their time doing something they’re failing at?! Nobody, that’s who! That excitement you had at the beginning of the year is already overshadowed by this feeling of failure, and the shame that comes with it.

I think the easier, more sustainable path to self-improvement is through setting long-term goals.

Why goals are better than resolutions?

I’ve definitely done it, so tell me if this is you. You made a New Year’s resolution to work out three days a week, and then fell short of that number. Instead of feeling pride in the fact that you went once or twice a week (which, let’s be honest, was a *drastic* improvement over the two times you went in all of December) you’re probably far more focused on the fact that you’re failing to keep your resolution. The weight of that failure rests on your shoulders long after you decided to sleep in instead of hitting the gym before work, and it pushes your desire to go to the gym down further and further until you don’t want to do it at all.

Boom! The holiday decorations are barely down and your New Year’s resolution is already shot. Maybe next year will be better, but since you’re sitting on the couch in sweats drinking soda (instead of water) that’s clearly a problem for Future You.

Now let’s reframe it.

Instead of making a resolution to work out three days a week, simply set a goal to be more active. Every decision you make can help you reach your goal and bolster your confidence in your ability to stay on track. Measuring your success against your goal becomes as simple as evaluating each task by asking yourself, “Will this help me advance my goal?” If the answer is yes, you do the damn thing and get a taste of success! Way to go! Pat yourself on the back and imagine the confetti cannons and balloon drop! If the answer is no, you now have an opportunity to make it yes. Maybe you walk to the post office instead of driving. Maybe you just don’t have it in you to walk today, but you park at the far end of the lot instead of right by the door so you can get those extra steps in. Either way these victories, no matter how small, set you on the path to achieving your goal and inspire you to keep on going!

Long-term goals allow you to focus on the positive impacts on your life. They are also more flexible than resolutions, allowing for adjustments or missteps as long as you’re still moving in the right direction. They won’t feel like a chore to achieve, because rather than focusing on the negative things you don’t want to be, they bring you closer to the person you actually want to become.

If you need more structure when setting goals, maybe SMART Goals are for you!

What is a SMART goal?

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

To keep with the example of increased fitness, a SMART goal would be to walk 10 miles over the next three months.  It’s more specific than “being more active”, has a measurable outcome that can realistically by achieved in a specific time frame, and it’s relevant to your aim of increased fitness.

There are plenty of online resources that outline SMART Goals, and the SMART Objectives you can put in place to achieve them. If they sound interesting to you, I encourage you to do your own research and see if they will work for you.

I find some tasks are better accomplished by following broad goals, while others benefit from the SMART goal approach.  For me, flexibility in setting goals plays a huge part in my success!

In regards to my original question about New Year's Resolutions, it absolutely never made sense to me to start off a brand new year, all shiny and bright with potential, by highlighting some vague or arbitrary negative qualities about myself, or focusing on things I was doing wrong. Correcting our own faults can feel demoralizing, and I’ve found using long-term goals that focus on the positives, allow for missteps, and encourage growth over time, set me up for greater success when I’m looking to make lasting changes!

Whether you prefer resolutions or long-term goals, I wish you every success in the comng year!



Allie is the owner and goldsmith behind Allie Perry Designs.

Learn more about her here, or connect with her on Instagram!