Blog | Dec 31, 2010 | 8 Comments

The anti-resolution

[a tough confession]

This is a revision (slight) of a blog I published at the end of 2010.  It’s interesting that my outlook hasn’t changed. It may explain while I’ll never be wildly successful, but it also explains why life is so interesting to me.

I don’t like resolutions. I don’t even like setting specific goals.

It’s difficult for me to admit this because it goes against the grain of our culture. In our business and personal lives, we are encouraged or even required to set firm goals and steer toward them in all of our actions. And to help us do this, the web is filled with helpful articles and ideas. Same for the bookstores and magazine racks. Everyone is trying to be inspirational and helpful, but I find them all to be a downer. I’m also just a little bit tired of other people trying to make a living by telling me how to manage my living.

My life has never been that straightforward.

I like staying continually open to new possibilities. I’ve needed that quality to weather the ups and downs in my life and career. Sometimes the mean voice in my head says that this is just lazy. “If you don’t have goals, how do you know if you’ve ‘won’?”

I try to be guided by values, rather than goals.

When faced with a new opportunity or with discontent and the need to make a change, I believe I can listen to my heart and my experience. I felt a lot better about this when I recently read a post by Leo Babuta, who writes a blog called zen habits, one of the top 25 blogs in the world. This post is entitled “the best goal is no goal.” He makes a good case against goal setting and explains why it’s NOT lazy.

These days, however, I live without goals, for the most part. It’s absolutely liberating, and contrary to what you might have been taught, it absolutely doesn’t mean you stop achieving things.

It means you stop letting yourself be limited by goals.

I’m sure a lot of you feel differently. Tell me what you think.

p.s. Although I don’t set goals, I am a rabid list-maker. I just think of my to-dos as reminders. And yes, I change them constantly.

Photo credit: Briar Press. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
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Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.


Claire- I have to agree that being fixed on a set of goals can blind you to opportunities, and put you on a “linear” path that might not be your optimal path. But I know that I can sometimes let myself buffeted by events and not take the time to think seriously about whether the direction I’m heading is where I want to go. As with everything else, it’s a balance. A good resolution might something like “Take time each month to evaluate what you’re doing and decide if it really makes sense for you.”


Claire Wagner Reply:

Jan, that is terrific advice. Whether or not we set concrete, detailed goals, regular evaluation is a great practice. Thanks!


Anne J


Claire, thanks for this confession and reminder! Goal setting is so complex! I am guessing that marketers (of things and values) are inclined to encourage us to plan, because then they can offer us something “useful” to plan for, and thus make “the sale”. I think our culture has picked up that natural bias.

Regardless of that natural inclination in the sales/marketing world, there is still face a “damned if you do/damned if you don’t” choice. If we do not set goals, we are in danger of not accomplishing that which is important to us. “To fail to plan is to plan to fail.” If we become goal-driven we hazard missing the moment. “Stop and smell the roses.”

I actually think this quandary is connected with an essential mystery of our lives. We are both being and becoming. When we emphasize being we are open to the wonder of our existence. When we emphasize becoming we are open to possibilities that have yet to be born. Both are part of the human experience of living in time. Were we living in an eternal frame, rather than a time frame, I think we would experience the two as one, and the paradox would collapse. That’s why those moments when we forget time are so precious — they put us in touch with the wonder of the unity of being and becoming, of deeply enjoying what is and passionately yearning for what could be. Those moments can also put us in touch with the reality that we are most able to change things when we accept (even love) them as they are.

When I remember that I think the eternal frame is more real, I go for the gusto and passionately enjoy the wide-open now and yearn for the even-better yet-to-come! When I forget, then I feel constrained to make a choice, and either plan or don’t, regretting my choice all along.

Here’s hoping that whether you plan or not, the wonder of being and becoming is alive for you!



Claire Wagner Reply:

“Being and becoming” is something I can really relate to. Bob, leave it to you to provide a spiritual and philosophical framework for this dilemma! I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to write this down for me and everyone else who comes across these comments.


Bob Miess


I’ll spare you a long winded display of my writing skills just to say:

So on the same page.


Claire Wagner Reply:

Thank you, my friend!




When I was a teenager, my goals were to be a CEO of a multinational company, to have several homes, and to be financially secure. If I define CGTripp Enterprises, Inc. as multinational (and I do – why not?), then I need to set higher goals. I was also lucky enough to find a soul mate and be able to take good care of my family. So now, I want to be a writer, but that’s harder than to implement than I ever imagined! Did you ever read “What Color is Your Parachute?” Or hear of “The Secret”? They all seem to say if you just want it bad enough, you can actualize it. What a load of crap – I am with you, Claire, incremental changes for the better every year are the New Year’s Resolutions that don’t eat away at self-esteem. Did I make the world a better place today? Hmmm, good question….


Claire Wagner Reply:

Dude, you make MY world a better place, so that counts. It’s interesting to think back on our goals when we were younger. I never had any! The only career ambition I remember is to NOT be a teacher like many of my other family members, and to work for a nonprofit. What does that tell you?


Catherine G. Tripp


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