Resolutions: Goals vs Habits

Y’all, it’s January 16th.

How are your resolutions going?

I know I’m not alone when I admit that I’ve made New Year’s resolutions and broken them before January is finished. I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about effective resolutions, and how to actually get things done.

oh jen darling

One thing I’ve found in my own experience is that goals are good. They give you something to look forward to. But, once you’ve accomplished the goal, it’s entirely possible that you fall off the wagon and go right back to where you started.

Example A: Goal is to lose 10lbs. Once the goal is met, you have no motivation to keep exercising or eating healthy.

Example B: Write a book. Last year, my goal was to write a book, and I did that. I wrote one book. But it took me 18 months to do it. I didn’t start and finish a novel in one year, I finished the novel I actually started in 2015. I didn’t get any further because I didn’t have a daily writing routine. I had an “I’ll write today because I feel like it” or “I’ve had strange dreams 9 nights in a row, my subconscious needs an outlet, so I’ll write today” routine.

Habits, on the other hand, are much better than goals. The only New Year’s resolution I’ve kept in my entire life was to floss every day. By setting myself up to form a new habit, I was able to accomplish my goal. I’ve now gone almost two years without disappointing my dentist (or getting a cavity). That’s a pretty long game considering I started flossing daily on January 1, 2010.

oh jen darling

Y’all remember this home gym we put into the Farnum house? I think this is the only time it ever got used. We didn’t have a routine or any habits in place to actually use this gym, so having workout space in the house didn’t make a difference.

So, for 2017 instead of goal-based resolutions, I’m coming up with habits that I want to develop in the new year. Here’s my list:

  • Write every day
  • Blog once a week
  • Complete daily PT exercises on a rotating circuit
  • Work from a Rule of 3 list (more info below)
  • Travel once a month for pleasure – plan 3 solo travel trips this year
  • Join a writing group and participate every month
  • Read at least one book per month (and join a book club – I know, nerd alert)

Notice anything about this list? It’s relatively non-specific.

I’m not committing to writing 5 novels this year or exercising for an hour every day to lose 10 lbs. I’m giving myself some latitude to accomplish my daily habits in whatever capacity I can each day. Kind of like the snowball method – completing small actions will, over time, result in bigger goals being accomplished – I’m hoping that doing something every day eventually adds up to a bigger result. Getting my first novel published this year, submitting to writing contests, or crossing off bits of my travel bucket list. Being able to hike all day, joining a sailing team and compete in a few regattas, and engaging with words instead of the television as a way to unwind.

There are some other activities that I want to incorporate into my weekly routine more frequently, like taking Daphne for longer, 2-3 mile walks (maybe with some light jogging involved), going to the beach a couple times per week, and participating in fitness activities like Barre, yoga on the beach, or a swimming fitness class. But those are things that I don’t need to put on a list because I already have those habits.


The Rule of 3 is a method for prioritizing productivity based on the items that are most important off of your to-do list. Each week, you choose 3 things to accomplish that week. And each day you choose 3 things to accomplish that day. By prioritizing only 3 items, you’re able to focus in on getting specific things done instead of sloshing around feeling unaccomplished against your to-do list.

Here are a few articles I’ve read lately that have really helped me focus on my plans for the new year. I hope they can help you too:

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