Why Set Goals vs Resolutions

Laurie Palau
4 min readJan 7, 2021


photo cred: Danielle MacInnes

Welcome 2021, I’ve never been so glad to see you.

Each year the week between Christmas and New Year’s I sit down to reflect on the present year and set some goals for year ahead. Before I get into my actual process, it’s important to make the distinction between Resolutions and Goal Setting.

By definition, a resolution is a firm decision to do or not do something.

Goal Setting involves a plan of action designed to motivate and guide a person or group toward a goal.

With Resolutions You either kept it or you didn’t. You failed or you succeeded. Which is why statistically only 8% of Americans actually keep their resolutions according to a recent Forbes article.

Goal Setting allows you to see progress and hit benchmarks along the way. If done well, goal setting sets you up for success by providing action steps and a plan of how to make incremental change getting you closer to reaching your goal.

Most importantly, even if you experience stagnation or setbacks, you can get back on track and pick up where you left off, and still cross the finish line further along than where you started; which is evidenced with the success rates for goals to be almost doubled from people who set resolutions.

My Process for Goal Setting

Like most things I talk about, there’s not a one-sized fits all approach, but I will share with you my method that I have been doing for years.

  1. CATEGORIZE: The first thing I do is look at my life across 4 categories: PERSONAL, PROFESSIONAL, SPIRITUAL, & FINANCIAL. I assess each of these areas and make note of what I like and what I would like to change or improve in the coming year. (TIP: feel free to break it down even further into categories like health, financial, etc. if it helps you)

2. WRITE IT DOWN: I pick 3–5 things in each of these areas. If I add more than that, I risk spreading myself too thin or abandoning the goals all together. Writing it down also allows me to check in throughout the year to track my progress. (I use a google sheet, but you can use a notebook, google doc or whatever is easiest for you.)

3. BE SPECIFIC. If you want to grow your business, avoid generalizations like “I want to make more money.” Instead consider framing it something like this: “I’d like to increase my annual revenue by 10% or bring in one new client per month.” If you want to have more quality time with your spouse, write down “I’d like to have weekly date-nights” (even if during Covid that means having dinner & drinks after the kids go to bed).

4. ASSESS: At the end of the year, I re-evaluate what goals I had set at the beginning of the year and ask myself some questions that will help me to better understand my own habits, motivations and behavior.

Were the goals I set at the beginning of the year still relevant today?”

“Of the goals I achieved, what strategies made that possible?”

“For the goals that I have yet to reach, what is the hold up? Do I need to dedicate more time, be more consistent, get an accountability partner?”

“Was there one category that was easier to stick to than another? If so, why?”

5. BE REALISTIC. Be honest with yourself: Look at your life, your family situation, health, finances, available time and what is important to you. I carry over any goals that I have yet to accomplish, remove ones that are no longer relevant, and add any new ones that I want to work towards. If 2020 taught us anything it’s the importance of being able to pivot and re-adjust. Sometimes what we thought was important, really isn’t.

Why separate categories?

I’m a visual person, and sort of a data nerd. Maybe it goes back to my organizing roots but corralling like items together always makes it more manageable for me to digest. I am also a big fan of time blocking and batching, so when I break out my week, I make sure that I am allocating the appropriate time to each category.

Intentionality is half the battle.

Goals don’t just “happen.” They require work, dedication, even sacrifice at times. Whether you are skipping dessert so you can try to reach your goal of losing 10 pounds or putting in 10 extra hours on the weekend to build up your side-hustle so you can eventually quit your day job and follow your passion, the goal should be worth it. It doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be easy, but it should be rewarding.

As I continue researching personality types and behavior, it’s becoming more apparent that some people need an accountability partner more than others, and others prefer to tackle their goals internally. If you find yourself procrastinating, feeling frustrated or stuck in a rut, you may want to dig a little deeper to see what is holding you back. Talking it out with a trusted friend or expert is often all you need to get you back on track.

Most importantly, don’t worry about what someone else is doing, or measure your success by someone else’s standards. We often see a snippet of their reality and have no clue of what’s going on behind the scenes. If you stay in your lane, take it one day at a time, and be intentional with your time and actions you’re destined to be the best version of yourself.

I’m cheering for you!



“It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish”

-Zig Ziglar



Laurie Palau

Writer • Host of This ORGANIZED Life Podcast • Coffee Lover • Enneagram 8 • Homebody • Wife • Mom to 2 grown-ish kids • Champion of the Underdog •