Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions (And What I Do Instead)

By Erin Ewart

How’s that fresh start going for you? 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had lots of ups and downs this first week of the new year: bursts of energy and motivation as well as exhaustion and mental fog. 

Coming back from time off is always challenging, and I tried to cut myself some slack and go easy on my schedule this week (which I’m immensely grateful for). 

But one thing I haven’t done this week is set New Year’s resolutions.

There are a few reasons why: 

  • I haven’t had time: December was busy wrapping up for the year, and my holiday break was very full with two young kids at home full-time. So while I did start to capture a few ideas (more on this below), I didn’t have time to get specific about what I want to focus on this year. 
  • I haven’t had the mental space. While I am really eager to reflect and plan, January is always one of our busiest months. With two events coming up and our next group program starting, I know that I realistically won’t have the mental capacity to do more detailed planning until later this month. 
  • I don’t really like the concept of resolutions anyway! They feel like so much pressure, and research shows that most people (more than 80%!) give up on them. I prefer focusing on a few areas of intention, with specific action items tied to each. And I’ve adopted the word of the year idea as a way to keep one central theme front and center. 

But I’m not stressed about my lack of resolutions, for a few reasons:

  • January 1 is an arbitrary date. The new year is definitely a good time to take stock and plan, but who said that has to be done by the first of the year? You can set goals and intentions at any time: today, tomorrow, next week. The key is that you’re ready to commit to them. I’m using this month to map out my personal and professional areas of focus for the year and I’m giving myself until the end of January to have some more firm ideas and targets in place.
  • I’m stockpiling ideas along the way. Since December I’ve been noodling about ideas for this year, and noting them down as I think of them. They are still a jumbled mess and need a lot of refinement, but when I actually sit down to plan I know it will be easier when I’m not starting with a blank sheet of paper. 
  • I’m investing in accountability. I’m beginning work with a new coach this month, and I’m really excited about having the space, structure and accountability to move forward on my goals. Yes, even coaches need coaches!

If you find that making New Year’s resolutions works for you, great! I applaud you.

But if you’re like the many of us who struggle with this concept, I invite you to release the pressure of having it all figured out at this point in the year.

Here are things you can do instead:

  • Designate a time to reflect and plan. Be real with yourself. When can you actually find some time and mental space? Put it on the calendar now, even if it’s weeks away.  (P.s. you don’t need hours and hours for this!) For career-focused reflection use our four question framework as a starting point.
  • Start with bigger ideas about what you want, and then get more granular. Can you start with one word or theme for the year and go from there? Then use our planning tips to get more detailed with your goal setting.  
  • Create accountability! Whether it’s through a regular check in with an accountability partner, working with a coach 1:1 or through a group program like ours, or an app that tracks your progress, external accountability is the biggest factor in whether you’ll achieve your goals and can increase your odds of success by up to 95%! We all need it.

I hope this helps you think about planning for the year a little differently, and I would love to hear how you’re approaching the process – I’m always eager to hear what works for others. 

And if you’d like to work on your career goals for this year with our team, we have a few ways for you to do that coming up:

  • At our Career Clarity Retreat next Tuesday 1/11, we’ll be working on creating career action plans for 2022. 
  • At our Social Impact Networking Happy Hour next Thursday 1/13 our theme will be around goals and intentions for the year. Join us to grow your network and get a head start on your planning. 
  • In our Job Search Bootcamp program starting 1/25 you’ll map out goals and a plan for your search and get lots of accountability along the way. 

Happy New Year, and happy planning!

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