Why I’m Done Making New Year’s Resolutions (And What I’m Doing Instead)

New Year’s resolutions are fun.  The new year is one of the only times of the year that people come up with massive goals – and who doesn’t like dreaming big?

That’s part of the problem.

A new year’s resolution is a great way to set yourself up for failure, I’ve found.  It’s not to say that people can’t live up to the lofty resolution that they’ve set, but let’s face it:

Most people don’t.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Set You Up for Failure

Look, I have nothing wrong with setting goals.  In fact, I believe goals are absolutely necessary. So what’s wrong with setting some big goals at the beginning of the year?

Unfortunately, they are often forced, too general, and not well-thought out.

Do any of these goals sound familiar?

1) I’d like to lose 20 pounds.

2) I want to get in really good shape.

3) I want to quit my day job.

4) I want to earn over $100,000 per year.

They’re common goals, and honestly, I’ve set each of them as a personal new year’s resolution at one time or another.  Two of them are very specific (losing 20 lbs. or earning over $100,000) and the other two are ridiculously vague.

What they all have in common is that they are fairly lofty goals that require a lot of planning and execution in order to be accomplished.  On the surface (and this is what’s misleading), they are all very realistic and achievable.

That’s the big reason why new year’s resolutions are the perfect setup for failure: They are seemingly easy and achievable, yet they are so often established with very little thought about execution.  

A Look Back at My Failures

As much as I hate to reflect on my (failed) new year’s resolutions, I think it’s helpful to look back at them.  Below are some that I’ve selected to reflect on. (There were others in addition to those listed below – some that I achieved and others that I failed.)

In 2011, these were a few of my goals:

  •  ”Dominate” and enjoy my new “9 to 5″ job – I had recently quit my job of nearly three years in public accounting, and took a very odd turn in my career: I became an executive recruiter.  Although this job used a lot of the knowledge I had built up in the accounting industry (I was recruiting accounting and finance professionals for various companies), it wasn’t like anything I had done before.

Although I succeeded in this job (it was commission-based, and I made more than I had previously made as an accountant), I ultimately quit the job after a year because I missed accounting and would prefer to do that while I continued my entrepreneurial quest.  Flash forward to today: I actually like my current job a lot, so perhaps I did achieve this goal in a roundabout way.

  • Earn $2,000+/month from an authority site - This obviously never happened, and the site I was referring to at that time is now somewhat dormant (though still appears in my income reports).  Even though this particular site failed, I think this goal is appropriate for the site I will be launching in the next couple weeks (which I will discuss in full detail here).
  • Blog at My 4-Hour Workweek 1-2 times per week - While I’d love to do this, it never happened consistently (I did succeed with this goal for 2011 – just not beyond).  Now, I blog here 2-3 times per month.  It’s not that I can’t write more often, but I prefer to blog when I actually have something to write about, instead of blogging for the sake of sticking to some predetermined schedule.

In 2012, it didn’t get much better:

  • Create 250 niche sites by the end of 2012 –  Looking back, this was a pretty funny goal. Today, I’m a bit smarter in that I know you can’t just slap together a bunch of thin content sites and hope to rank them.  I’m much more focused on depth, and quality…and that definitely doesn’t translate into 250 niche sites.
  • Create a Facebook page for My 4-Hour Workweek - It’s actually quite strange that I didn’t attempt to achieve this goal (given how easy it is), but I realized that I prefer to focus my social media efforts on Twitter (follow me and let’s chat).   For my new site, Facebook WILL be a large part of the social media strategy, but I never felt too compelled to do it for My 4-Hour Workweek.

Spoiler alert: 2013 still brought failure:

  •  Create at least 2,000 Squidoo lenses - When will I learn that creating lots of cheap content isn’t the path to success? Hopefully I’ve learned that by now.  The little Squidoo experiment was starting to go well, until they decided to go through and lock most people’s lenses, essentially making them worthless.  Moving on…
  • Get my authority site (Slow Carb Diet Experiments) to 10,000 unique visitors per month - As mentioned above, this authority site is now dormant, even though it still receives a lot of (non-converting) traffic from Pinterest.  I know I could turn this site into so much more, but I’m just not into it.  Considering I don’t really stick to the slow carb diet anymore and it’s a lot of work to consistently create new recipes, the site will be difficult to revive.  With that said, I know it has potential, and I could revisit it at some point in the future.

Moving On: What Now?

I still think goal-setting is extremely important.  It may be difficult to hit the bulls eye on any given target, but if you don’t have a target at all, you definitely won’t hit it.

More than just having targets, you need to be constantly going after them.  Or, as hockey legend Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Putting up a target on January 1st and never coming back to it just doesn’t work.  And while massive goals are inspiring, they need to be divided into bite size chunks so that they are safe for consumption.

All cheesy metaphors aside, goal setting needs to be a continuous process that happens throughout the year.  That’s why the concept of the “new year’s resolution” is so flawed. I’m certainly not the first person to come up with this idea, but this is the first time that it’s really hitting me hard.

Personally, I need goals I can stay close to: mini-achievements, part of an overall goal that evolves as I learn new things and adapt to whatever obstacles I come across.

And for that reason, I can’t tell you what my 2014 goal is beyond this:

I’m planning to launch a new site the week of January 13th, and I’ve already taken the steps necessary to make sure the launch will happen.  Stay tuned, as I’ll be writing more about this project next week.

Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts on goals and new year’s resolutions.  What’s in store for you in 2014?

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27 Responses to “Why I’m Done Making New Year’s Resolutions (And What I’m Doing Instead)”

  1. Eric, while you might not have hit your goals you at least had something to aim at. And you still did more than most people with a 9-5.

    So don’t see your ability to not hit the goals as failures but celebrate them as the successes of “taking bold (and very public) action” that they are.

    I’m sure that you will kick ass in 2014!
    Rasmus recently posted… Looking Back at 2013 and Setting Goals for 2014

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Rasmus, I appreciate you finding the silver lining in my current situation. ;)

    Here’s to a more successful year in 2014!

    [Reply]

    Rasmus Reply:

    *where’s the friggin’ like button on this thing* ;)
    Rasmus recently posted… Looking Back at 2013 and Setting Goals for 2014

    [Reply]

  2. I love making new year’s resolutions. If I didn’t make any, I would have nothing to strive for during the year. I always look back at my resolutions every quarter to make sure I’m still on track to accomplish them or to change them if I need to. I usually accomplish most of my resolutions. My 500 Squidoo lenses resolution didn’t work out to well, since Squidoo decided to lock all of them. :( However, my resolution to lose 15 pounds turned out great! I lost 30 pounds and am aiming for another 25 this year which should get me close to my goal weight. Here are my 10 resolutions for 2014:

    1. Start 5 Amazon affiliate based websites and get them ranked in the top 10 in Google for their keywords.
    2. Save at least $500 in an emergency savings account
    3. Lose 25 pounds
    4. Read 6 books
    5. Complete Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred
    6. Save $2,500 towards a house down payment or apartment security deposit (I really want to move but want to have a good savings built up first)
    7. Learn to tune my guitar (I want to learn to play it but I don’t even know how to tune it)
    8. Try 1 new recipe a month
    9. Visit the dentist (just got health insurance for the first time in years thanks to the Affordable Care Act so I can actually afford to get my teeth fixed now)
    10. Buy a smartphone (and get rid of my dumb flip phone)

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Ally, more power to you if you can stick to your resolutions! Everyone works differently, and for those who find new year’s resolutions to be helpful, definitely keep making them.

    I really like your list for 2014 – very specific, attainable goals.

    And to help you knock one off your list…

    Here’s a link to an online guitar tuner that I’ve used many times before (even though I’m terrible at playing the guitar):

    http://www.gieson.com/Library/projects/utilities/tuner/

    [Reply]

  3. Financial Samurai Reply January 6, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Man Eric,

    You fail a lot! :)

    At least you are ambitious. My main financial goal is to just grow my bet worth as much as the SP500 increases.

    Sam

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Good goal to have, Sam. Best of luck.

    And yes, I fail a lot when it comes to my internet business projects. :) Hoping to fail less in the new year.

    [Reply]

  4. Looking forward to reading about the new site launch Eric.

    IMO, the reason people fail at their new years resolutions (myself included) is because they pluck goals out without actually starting with the most important part, which is the WHY. I want to make $20k/month online – WHY? Do I really want that?

    The WHY keeps you in the game; the prize at the end of achieving the goal. The goal itself is just a means to an end.
    Greg Nunan recently posted… (Case Study) Finding The Quickest Way To The Cash Part 1: Authority Sites

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Totally agree, Greg. And I think a lot of people leave out the “why” because it’s actually not always easy to determine.

    I’d love to make $10k/month online, but the “why” is not so clear. Sure, I’d like to quit my day job. But why? I don’t know. I like my day job, as much as I’d prefer to have more control over my day.

    The WHY reasons need to be compelling, and you really have to believe in them. Without that, I agree that goals become much harder to achieve.

    [Reply]

  5. Hey Eric, I recently found your site and it has really helped me out a lot. I just wanted to thank you for writing up all your helpful posts and continuing to update this site. You’ve earned a new follower, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with this year.

    -Aidan

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Aidan, happy to have you here!

    [Reply]

  6. Are you starting to wonder if its possible to make any money without an adsense account?

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Good question, Floyd. To be honest, I’ve almost completely forgotten about AdSense, and I’m fine not having it in my life. I think there are plenty of other ways to make money, and not having AdSense actually forces me to focus more on quality and finding ways to make money that actually fit with the content that people are reading. With Adsense, your main goal (in a way) is to get people to click the ad and get away from your site – that’s not a great objective when you’re trying to build a real community and reader base.

    That’s not to say Adsense doesn’t work – I still think it’s the best way to monetize a lot of sites, and as many people have shown, you can make a lot of money with it. But in my mind, Adsense is the “low hanging fruit” that won’t be there forever. While I wish I still had an Adsense account, I’m also happy I’ve moved on. It’s more challenging, but once I find a way to monetize that works, I know I’ll be in a better position than if I were just relying on Adsense.

    [Reply]

    Floyd Reply:

    sorry looking back at your income reports, I thought that you had more income from it.

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    I know Floyd, I wish I had more income to show in my reports!

  7. Hey Eric

    I love following your blog and consider you a success in internet marketing. I know you will achieve the goals that you set for yourself in 2014. Keep on posting the great content.
    Adnan Ramzan recently posted… Our Favorite Blogs of 2013

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Adnan, I appreciate the support!

    [Reply]

  8. I usually write down my resolutions on a note and stick on the wall. As I read this article, I found somethings that I find really helpful. Thanks for sharing them here.
    Claude S recently posted… SEO Training And Career

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Claude. I like the idea of writing down your resolutions and sticking them on the wall. Probably helps a lot to remind you of them on a regular basis.

    [Reply]

  9. I’m looking forward to your new site’s launch!
    Mike recently posted… Our 2014 Goals

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Thank you Mike!

    [Reply]

  10. This is a great question IMO. I’m still very frustrated after losing my AdSense account and not having a path to get it back. I’m not sure my frustration is ultimately about money, but instead is about the complete injustice of a policy that punishes so completely and non-transparently.
    Mike recently posted… Our 2014 Goals

    [Reply]

  11. Wise man. Yeah, I still fall into the New Years Resolution hype, but what’s important to me is two-fold.
    First, they have to be small, chunkable, and achievable. If it’s “too big” you’ll procrastinate, and then you’re fighting the psychology of knowing you’re “failing.”
    Second, looking back on them. We all know, we set Resolutions, and then bury them on our desk until a few month in when we realize we’ve forgotten and are now so far behind. You must look at them daily, and recommit to them!
    Jon Patrick recently posted… My Fun Life Scam

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Agreed with everything you said – half the battle with resolutions is setting them correctly!

    [Reply]

  12. New years resolutions don’t work because why would you wait till the start of a new year to start acheiving goals? Plus most resolutions never make it past February.
    Dionne recently posted… Blogging isn’t for the faint of Heart

    [Reply]

    Eric G. Reply:

    Unfortunately, what you’re saying is true for most people. That’s one of the reasons why I’m not doing traditional new year’s resolutions for 2014.

    [Reply]

  13. I recently found your site and it has really helped me out a lot. thank u.

    [Reply]

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