Resolutions, Goals and Bucket Lists: What Works and What Doesn’t

New Years resolutions.  We have all made them and have all broken them.  Whether you want to lose weight or quit smoking, it can be tough to stick to a rigid timeline once the clock strikes midnight.  “I’ll start next Monday,” is a term many of us are very familiar with.  Almost one month into the new year, you may be discouraged if you have veered off track already; if you are, don’t be.

Surprisingly, I actually did follow through with one resolution that I made.  In 2012, I vowed to walk two miles during my lunch break at least four times a week.  Having a very routined lifestyle and 9-5 job at the time, this was fairly simple to maintain.  Plus, I hated sitting in the corporate cafeteria making small talk about daily drama with co-workers, you feel me?  Anyway, I ended up clocking over 300 miles on my work-day walks, but in the subsequent years, my “resolutions” failed just as they did before.  Frustrated, I needed to find another way to measure my yearly successes.

I have always been one for lists.  Organization is one of my strengths and I get serious satisfaction from physically crossing off tasks with a pen, whether it be at work or in my personal life.  A couple years ago, I started journaling.  Now this wasn’t the “Dear Diary,” type of thing, but it was a way to get out frustrations and jot down ideas that made me excited about the future.

At the beginning of last year, I wrote down about 10 action items that I could slowly work on.  I didn’t think of these items as resolutions, but more like projects.  Some of mine included taking 10,000+ steps 6 days out of the week, attending a yoga class once a week, making better choices when dining out, sending snail mail birthday cards to friends and thinking of a new blog name.  What this did for me was pretty eye-opening.  I wrote my list in the front cover of my planner (yes, I still use a paper planner), and gave it a look every month or so.  When I started to feel stressed out or frustrated, I would take a look at this list and it would help me assure myself that I was was making progress.   It gives me happiness to look back at the end of the year and see what I have achieved.  The great part about having a long list of goals is that you still find yourself satisfied even if you only tackle a few.

This year, in addition to my 2015 “action items,” I also created a bucket list.  This on-going list is comprised of places I want to visit and activities that I want to take part in.  The great thing about having one of these is that you can always add more and it gives you something tangible to strive for.

Is all of this talk about goals and lists stressing you out yet?  Don’t let it.  The purpose of this post is to share some practices that may help you feel as though you are moving through life in a direction that you are excited about.  Writing ideas and dreams down on paper has a way of making them seem more attainable.

What to walk away with: 

1) Unless you have had great success over the years, stop making New Years resolutions

2) Make a list of at least ten things you would like to accomplish for the year (it’s not too late and you can always add, nothing is too small!)

3) Periodically check in on your list.  You might be pleasantly surprised to find that you are accomplishing more than you thought you were

4) Create a life “bucket list” of exciting places you want to visit or long-term goals you want to execute.  Even if you stow this away and look at in once in awhile, it is a great tool that you can reference

Try it out; you might be pleasantly surprised at yourself for how much more you accomplish when you are giving it a little more thought.


After graduating from the University of New Hampshire, I ventured out to San Diego, CA where I started my professional career as an Executive Assistant, earned my Master’s in Organizational Management, started a blog and soaked up all the sun and sand that SoCal had to offer. After four years, I am now back in New England looking for new opportunities in Boston.  I enjoy the beach, hiking, traveling, volunteering, cooking, reading and learning/trying new things.

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