Resolutions vs. Goal Setting

By Morgan Stanley, Accountability Coach

Picture it. It is December 31. There are two minutes until the clock strikes midnight. You are about to be a completely “new you” in exactly two minutes. That is how it goes, right? – New Year’s Resolutions. People think the calendar switches to a new year, and it’s magically the time to get all your life goals in order.

Except the calendar changes every month, every week and every day. Why are we convinced we have to wait until January 1 to start pursuing what we really want? This mindset – and the attributes that come with it – cause many of those so-called New Year’s Resolutions to fail.

So let’s talk about what real goal-setting should look like and why those New Year’s Resolutions fall short. I am going to give you 3 helpful tips to ensure success in your goals – no matter what time of year.

Find Your Why

Have you ever started a new workout routine or began eating healthier because it seems like a “good” thing or you have a friend or family member doing it? When in reality, you’re not very invested in that new goal? More than likely it’s because you never found and correlated it with your “why.” WHY do YOU want to do the workout or eat healthy? WHY do YOU want to lose the weight or create the change?

A common New Year’s Resolution is to start the year off with “Dry January” – an entire month without consuming alcohol – and a few days in, the vast majority have already failed. I was one of those people for so many years. Then I found my “why.” I sat down, wrote out my goal and started listing the reasons WHY I wanted to complete dry January. I got introspective and dug deep into how this would make me feel, how this would impact my life, what my long-term goals were and how a month without alcohol would actually bring me closer to the person I want to become. A simple exercise that led to lasting results.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Think about a goal you wanted to start in the new year: work out more, drink less, start reading, etc. Now I want you to think about how you wrote each of those goals as a New Year’s Resolution. This year I will work out MORE. I will drink LESS. Both of those are weak goals with little to no specificity. “More” and “less” have no context of what you actually want to accomplish. If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it, and it will not get done.

So what if we just changed the wording a little? “This year I will work out 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes a day.” “This year I will consume alcohol on only one day per week.” Those two goals contain the same as ideas as the previous ones – the difference is that they are now written as S.M.A.R.T goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound. This is how you need to write your goals in order to yield real, tangible results.


Have you ever created a goal and really knew you wouldn’t follow through, so you didn’t tell anyone about it? This is because, as humans, we are willing to disappoint ourselves, but we don’t want to disappoint others. So not telling anyone means zero accountably and zero disappointments. Sounds great, right? Except we need the accountability. To be held to the high standards we set. To make sh!t happen.

The best way to stay accountable is to finding an accountability partner. This needs to be someone who will commit to pushing you to follow through with what you say you’re going to do, even when you don’t feel like it, or someone to go through the journey with you. This shouldn’t be your super sweet best friend, or the person who will let you slide for a day or two. This person needs to have your back and be willing to remind you of what you set your mind to and encourage you to do hard things, even after the mood you said it in has passed. Find an accountability partner and stick to the goals you set out to achieve.

These 3 tips are simple, manageable ways to ensure that, instead of setting lofty, vague resolutions, you will set realistic goals that stick and end in success – no matter what time of year. We’ve all heard ourselves say, “I will start tomorrow.” But why wait?

“If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.”