F*ck Resolutions: How to Set Goals You’ll Actually Achieve

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution for 2019? If so, there’s a good chance you’ve already given up.

And you’re not alone — fewer than 10 percent of new year’s resolutions are successful, according to an often-cited study by the University of Scranton, and a whopping 80 percent of people give up by February.

But don’t beat yourself up too much if you’ve already thrown in the towel. There’s still plenty of opportunity to achieve what you want in 2019. And 2020. And every year from now on without making a single new year’s resolution ever again.

It’s true! And I’ll tell you exactly how.

But first, here’s a little background on why your resolutions usually don’t last.

Why Our Resolutions Usually Fail

I recently watched Ellen Degeneres: Relatable on Netflix (which is delightful, and worth a watch). In her monologue, she talks about how, when you pack for a vacation, you often bring tons of things you’d never usually use. For some reason, you assume when you arrive at your destination, you’ll become an entirely different version of yourself.

You’ll bring a wardrobe of white linen, beads and a big floppy hat, even though it’s not your style. You’ll pack six books, even though you rarely read.

And then she says, “cut to you, sitting at a bar, drunk, in the same outfit the entire time.”

(Definitely relatable.)

I used to feel the same way about the new year — I saw it as a brand new reality where I’d achieve totally different results, even though I had zero plans to change my current habits.

Riding a high from the holidays (and too many New Year’s cocktails), I’d make wildly idealistic proclamations of what I’d achieve in the following twelve months. But the enthusiasm I felt amid the twinkle lights and champagne buzz eventually fizzled, the season ended and real life returned. Like most people, I was lucky if my resolution survived the first few weeks of a dull, gray January.

But here’s the thing: A resolution, by definition, is merely a decision to do or not do something — so it’s a great first step. But deciding to do something doesn’t make it done. (If that were true, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.)

We treat resolutions like wishes upon a star — nice little thoughts with no actual plans for how we’ll follow through.

Resolutions don’t fail because they’re impossible — they fail because they’re usually too broad and vague. “I’m going to lose weight,” “I’m going to get out of debt,” “I’m going to start my own business,” “I’m going to get a promotion,” “I’m going to travel more.” These aren’t insurmountable tasks but, without a concrete plan, they’re just pie-in-the-sky daydreams.

So what should you do instead?

How to Replace Resolutions with SMART Goals

A couple years ago, I stopped making resolutions and, instead, started writing SMART goals.

Ugh, I know. A SMART goal sounds like one of those cheesy corporate training mnemonic devices (because it is), but y’all, this shit works. I can attest to this because I’ve been using it and, after years of talk, I’m finally achieving things I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Unlike resolutions, SMART goals help you transform your vague ambitions into clear objectives. This method strips away the impractical and abstract and leaves you with a straightforward plan.

Here’s the rundown:

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

For example, let’s say you want to make more money as a freelance blogger. Here’s how you’d set up your SMART goal:

Specific = I want to earn six figures as a freelance healthcare blogger.

Measurable = I have to earn a minimum of $8500 per month.

Attainable = I will write ten $200 blog posts per week (an average of two per day).

Relevant = Growing my freelance business will help me achieve the financial freedom I desire.

Time-bound = I will achieve my income goal by December 31, 2019.

Seems pretty simple, right?

Of course, SMART goals aren’t magic. This method still requires hard work. It’s OK to proclaim “I’m going to make $100,000 blogging this year!” on New Year’s Eve, but you’d better be ready to hit the ground running with a solid strategy if you want to make your goal a reality.

For example, you’ll need to determine how you’ll measure your performance and schedule monthly check-ins to gauge your progress. You’ll also need to identify how to course-correct if you veer off track, and be flexible when life throws curveballs (like a two-week flu, a family emergency or a broken laptop.)

How I Use SMART Goals

At the end of 2017, I decided I was going to quit my job to become a full-time freelance writer and content strategist. As I’ve discussed in the past, it’s something I wanted to do for years, but never devised a legitimate plan.

At this point, I was already freelance writing as a side gig, so I sat down and determined how many more clients I’d need to be able to quit my job without disrupting my finances. I also calculated how much I’d have to save as a safety net in case something went amiss. (Something I highly recommend if you’re considering going freelance.) I laid out measurable and attainable monthly income goals and set a deadline to leave my job by Q2 of 2018 (time-bound.) Then, on March 29, 2018, I worked my last day as a full-time employee.

I followed the SMART method to set an income goal for 2018 and, by the end of November, I reached that goal, too.

I don’t share all of this to boast about my accomplishments, but to show you that you, too, can make shit happen for yourself simply by setting more strategic goals.

The truth is, resolutions rarely help you achieve the sort of growth you want in your personal or professional life — they’re merely the first step down a long and often challenging path. A SMART goal is a roadmap, a tool to keep you on your path until you reach your destination as well as a framework to help you recreate that success with future objectives.

So f*ck resolutions. You’ve got this.

Originally published at carriedagenhard.com on February 7, 2019.




Freelance writer, editorial strategist, certified nutritionist, mental health advocate, and relentlessly curious human.

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Carrie Dagenhard

Carrie Dagenhard

Freelance writer, editorial strategist, certified nutritionist, mental health advocate, and relentlessly curious human.

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