Ditching New Year’s Resolutions for Better Goals

For many years, I made New Year’s Resolutions at the end of December or the beginning of January, and my pattern was pretty similar. I made some resolutions that I was excited about, but part way through January or February I struggled with keeping them. My internal dialogue went something like this. “That wasn’t a realistic resolution; I should focus on other things instead.” Then I would let it go and generally forget about it. After a few years of this, I decided that making New Year’s Resolutions in general wasn’t helpful, and I just stopped making them.


Last year I did something different. I didn’t do it at the beginning of January, but in the last few months of 2016. I made a conscious decision to set several daily goals and to continually challenge myself to meet them. For some reason, the word goal in my mind was so much more meaningful than resolution. With a resolution, if I broke it a few times, I would give up. But with a goal, I keep striving, knowing that I might fall down along the way, but that just means I needed to get back up and keep going. And it worked.

I started making long term goals to be met over weeks or months, and I also gave myself daily goals. The daily goals were like a to-do list, but I framed them differently in my mind than I had before. It was more like, “These are the top five things that must get done today.” And with this kind of simplicity, I was able to take on challenges that I would have backed away from a few years ago. On the days when I didn’t finish all of the to-do’s, I would just take the one or ones from that day and move them to the top of the next day’s list. What I found through this process was that I felt more confident, and I stopped some of the loop of giving up on something if it felt unrealistically hard.

Some of this came through necessity. Our family was going through huge life changes, and I had to be focused to get everything done and still maintain consistency for our boys. But I also realized that this mode of thinking can be a whole way of thinking and living, whether in transition or in everyday times. All I need to do is look around the house (and in my boy’s closets!) to see that I have lots of goals to set and meet in 2018, but they aren’t resolutions.

Instead of resolving, I let go. I let go of feeling guilty if it didn’t all get finished. I let go of giving up on something new when it’s too hard. I let go of negative self-talk. And instead, I choose to believe that I can do the things that are scary and new because those are the things that make you grow.

That is exactly what I want my boys to do. I don’t want them to give up when something is challenging, but instead, believe that they can keep going. 

As a mom, most days I feel like my mind is a computer with about 100 windows open at the same time. There is so much to remember and balance and do, and sometimes it seems like I need to be accomplishing about 3 things simultaneously just to get the daily things done. But this goal-oriented way of thinking helped me to stop and focus in a new way. The computer mindset is typical for moms, but I just told myself that those other tabs in my mind will stay open because that’s my mom-life. But I can choose to focus on these goals anyway.

What I took away most from 2017 was the value of consistency, even through big life changes. No matter what month of the year it is, I want to be consistent through it all. What I also discovered is that when I was able to focus more fully on what I was working towards, it was also easier to let go and relax and have fun.

I want my boys to see that life the values of consistency, persistence, and courage lay a strong foundation. And for those off days, it’s time to pick myself up, and keep going. 


Stephanie grew up with her family in Kirkwood, Missouri. She earned a degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, and then a Montessori degree in Atlanta, Georgia.  She also lived in Oklahoma for several years, and now calls Baton Rouge home. She taught PreK and Elementary school part time, full time, and had some stay-at home mom time when her babies were little. She teaches PreK four at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, and she loves being a teacher mom. In her free time, she enjoys going to Barre class, cooking, traveling, singing, girls' nights, trips to the beach, and spending time with friends and family. She and her husband have two adventurous, adorable boys, ages seven and thirteen, who keep life exciting and hilarious. 


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