Why do we make resolutions?

As the end of the year rolls around and a new one begins, many people will start asking you about your New Year’s Resolutions. Either grudgingly or hopefully, you’ll share what your resolutions are, often being something like you’ll lose weight or you’ll read more. They’ll nod acceptingly and you’ve passed the unspoken test, despite both of you knowing that your resolutions will most likely fail and remain as empty words. We do this because we don’t want to receive upturned noses by saying we haven’t made any. It often goes unspoken, but we can see the judgment in their eyes from disappointing them. You haven’t made ANY resolutions? You don’t want to improve who you are? Darling, we know you’re far from perfect- can’t you at least try to be better? This often stems from a culture of overworking, one where if you’re not constantly doing something, you are deemed as lazy and less than. The reality is that rest is important and that we don’t have to be constantly improving to have value, but it can be hard to push against what society deems as “normal”. In the end, we’ll often choose something related to what we are unhappy about ourselves with and then feel ashamed that we didn’t meet our goals. But what if it didn’t have to be like this?

Where resolutions come from.

Making resolutions stems from historical religious reasons. You can read more over on History’s website, but basically, Babylonians, Romans, and early Christians used the change in the year to repent for past sins and to promise better behavior, and repay debt in the new year, so as to not be punished by their gods. Over time, making resolutions has morphed into a non-secular tradition, but it is still present in many societies. So what do resolutions mean to us? “Resolution” comes from the Latin ‘resolvere’, which means to loosen or release. It has shifted over time to include these additional definitions, according to Oxford Languages:

  • A firm decision to do or not to do something.
  • A formal expression of opinion or intention agreed on by a legislative body, committee, or another formal meeting, typically after taking a vote.
  • The quality of being determined or resolute.
  • The action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.
  • [Music] The passing of a discord into a concord during the course of changing harmony.
  • [Medicine] The disappearance of inflammation, or of any other symptom or condition.
  • [Chemistry] The process of reducing or separating something into its components.
  • The conversion of something abstract into another form.

These definitions of resolution basically all boil down to solving a problem. Is thinking up a problem so you can make a goal to resolve it actually worth it?

The difference between goals and resolutions.

Now, wanting to improve yourself is a great thing! Setting goals can be a great way to improve your overall quality of life, from your mental health to keeping your body healthy. The key word here, though, is ‘goals’. The difference between setting goals and resolutions, however, is that goals tend to focus on achievement. Resolutions focus on problems to overcome. ‘Resolutions’ draw to mind images of failed tasks and impossible targets, whereas ‘goals’ brings visions of continuous progress on your journey to success. Resolutions are linked to a single time of year and goals can be continuous. If you experience a setback or break in your resolution, many people give up, but that often isn’t the case with pursuing your goals. Take a moment to think about why you want to set out the task you want to achieve. Is it because it’s something you “should” or because it’s something you truly value? From there, frame it in your mind in a way that allows you to be successful!

Setting your goals so you can achieve them.

Simply changing what you call your desired outcome from a resolution to a goal won’t necessarily make you successful, but it is the first step toward achieving it. First, think of WHY you want to achieve a goal. Is it because someone has been on your case about it and you’re starting to stop their nagging, or it is something that you truly desire for yourself? If you’re trying to quit smoking because your doctor keeps warning you about the health benefits and your spouse keeps complaining about your breath, chances are that you won’t be very successful. However, if you are trying to quit smoking because you want to live to play with your grandkids, you are tired of wasting money on cigarettes, and you are willing to put in the hard work, your efforts will soon pay off.

Use the SMART method.

With goals, following the SMART method to create them is one of the most effective paths you can take. When designing your goals, make sure they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Instead of telling yourself to read more, set a goal to read a novel for 10 minutes every day for a month. This way, you can measure your success and have a definitive goal, rather than vaguely thinking you should read more. Lastly, reshape your goals to focus on the positive. Instead of telling yourself to lose weight, focus on getting yourself to the gym or regularly doing the exercise you like to do. Instead of trying to spend less time on social media, encourage yourself to do something else similarly rewarding when you reach for your phone, such as doodling, reading, or pausing to slow down and watch the world around you. If you would like to read additional ways to approach and succeed at accomplishing your goals, read more here.

Goal inspirations for the New Year.

Do you still want to set some goals for the New Year but aren’t sure of which ones to choose? Here are some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing!

  • Stretch 10 minutes every day for 30 days.
  • Read a chapter in your book before you go to sleep.
  • Do one small act of kindness a week that you don’t tell anyone about.
  • Make a point of going to bed at the same time for two weeks so that you get a full eight hours of sleep.
  • Only pack fruits, veggies, and nuts (that you like) for work snacks for a year.
  • Set a monthly date dedicated to spending one-on-one time with a special person, be it a spouse, a child, or a good friend.
  • Fill up a creative journal by the end of the year with stickers, doodles, quotes, and anything else you’d like to put in it.


New Year’s resolutions themselves aren’t truly worth it. That being said, setting goals to help you achieve the life you want, are. Let go of only being able to start new goals at the start of the new year, be specific with what you want, and be kind to yourself. This year will be your year if you believe in yourself! Any links included are for reference, additional information, or entertainment value only, without monetary compensation. Contact us on social media or at team@westretch.ca. Written by Kayla Willsey